Overnight Defense: Top GOP senators demand answers on extended Guard deployment, Capitol fencing | Guard costs estimated at $521M | House panel to take up 2002 war authorization repeal

Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense.  I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pent...



Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: A growing chorus of lawmakers is questioning the ongoing bulked-up security at the Capitol, including the extended National Guard deployment.

In the latest development, a group of top Republican senators sent a letter Friday to Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the Capitol Police, arguing the department has failed to justify keeping thousands of National Guardsmen and razor wire-topped fencing around the complex.

“Capitol Police has repeatedly failed to provide specific, credible threat intelligence to adequately justify the current Capitol security posture, which remains disproportionate to the available intelligence,” the five GOP senators wrote.

The letter was signed by Sens. James Inhofe (Okla.), Richard Shelby (Ala.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Roy Blunt (Mo.), the top Republicans on the Armed Services, Appropriations, Intelligence, Homeland Security and Rules committees, respectively.

What they want: The Republican senators are requesting a meeting with Pittman and included several questions in their letter to which they want answers by March 19, including what intelligence the Capitol Police had ahead of Jan. 6, the justification for current fencing, what changes have been made within Capitol Police and if surveillance could replace the National Guard troops.

“We strongly believe that the future of a secure and open Capitol complex lies with internal reform, creative thinking, and improvements made by the Capitol Police, in conjunction with other federal and local civilian law enforcement agencies,” they added.

Mounting costs: The National Guard also revealed its estimated price tag for extending the deployment to May 23, expected to be $521 million.

That includes $111 million for the additional two months and $410 million for the first three months of the mission from January to March.

The Pentagon had previously estimated the cost of the mission from January to March would be $482.8 million, but “due to an under-execution we have revised that estimated cost,” the National Guard Bureau said in a statement to The Hill on Friday. 

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on the cost estimates.

GROWING MOMENTUM FOR WAR AUTHORIZATION REPEAL

The House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider in the “coming weeks” a bill to repeal the 2002 war authorization, the committee’s chairman said Friday.

“Given that the 2002 AUMF is not needed for any ongoing military operations, there is no reason at all to leave it in place,” Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) said, referring to the authorization for the use of military force. “I intend to mark up legislation in the Foreign Affairs Committee in the coming weeks to repeal it.”

Repealing the 2002 AUMF, he added, “absolutely should not be a problem to pass.”

Meeks was speaking at a news conference alongside several other House Democrats urging congressional action to repeal yearsold war authorizations and craft a more narrow AUMF.

Reminder: The House voted last year to repeal the 2002 AUMF, but it was never taken up by the Senate, which at the time was controlled by Republicans.

What about 2001? More elusive than repealing the 2002 authorizations is replacing the 2001 AUMF, which authorized military action against the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks but has since been used to justify military action in several countries against disparate terrorist groups.

The White House last week signaled it was willing to work with Congress on crafting a more narrow war authorization.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who was the only lawmaker to vote against the 2001 AUMF, said Friday she has been in conversations with the White House on the issue.

“My sense is that they want to work collaboratively with us in Congress to help shape whatever decisions we make to move forward,” Lee said at the news conference. “No specifics in terms of the language or the form or the shape of any repeal measures. But they definitely have indicated that they would like to work with us to make sure that we’re all on the same page as we move forward, and they are committed to doing this.”

GOP REP WANTS ANSWERS ON TROOP VACCINATIONS

A top Republican congressman is demanding answers on the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccination plans after reports of delayed and canceled appointments for U.S. service members and families overseas.

“Our men and women serving their country — especially those who are serving abroad, away from their family and friends and, in many instances unable to come home for almost a year — should be a priority for the Department of Defense,” Rep. Michael McCaul (Texas), the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote in a letter Thursday to Gen. Gustave Perna, who is overseeing the federal vaccination effort.

“Especially when reports show a significant number of U.S. troops are hesitant to take the vaccine, it’s incredibly disappointing to hear those who desperately want the vaccine are having a hard time receiving it,” McCaul added.

The issue: McCaul’s letter comes after the military’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany posted on its Facebook page this week it may have to cancel some vaccination appointments next week because it was not expecting to receive more doses for the “next several weeks.”

“We understand that many of you are frustrated by the COVID-19 vaccination process. Unfortunately, recent shipment delays, lack of vaccines and confusion about the process have contributed to this frustration,” the post said.

A later update to the post added that “our leadership team is working hard to find a way to prevent us from having to cancel second-dose appointments, as previously announced.”

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

Maj. Gen. Richard “Ross” Coffman, director of the Army Futures Command’s Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV) Cross-Functional Team, will speak at a Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments webinar at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/3tc1Dg0

ICYMI

— The Hill: Japanese PM expected to be Biden’s first foreign visit at White House

— Associated Press: For Syrians, a decade of displacement with no end in sight

— Task and Purpose: Removed from command: A two-star general’s mental health disaster and fight to recover

— Military Times: Landlords may not be providing enough housing for military families with disabilities: senators

— Military.com: Army considers civilian control of criminal investigations in wake of Fort Hood report

— Stars and Stripes: Majority of wounded female veterans feel isolated, believe their service isn’t respected, WWP poll finds



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Newsrust - US Top News: Overnight Defense: Top GOP senators demand answers on extended Guard deployment, Capitol fencing | Guard costs estimated at $521M | House panel to take up 2002 war authorization repeal
Overnight Defense: Top GOP senators demand answers on extended Guard deployment, Capitol fencing | Guard costs estimated at $521M | House panel to take up 2002 war authorization repeal
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