Overnight Defense: Stopgap spending measure awaits Senate vote | Trump nominates former Nunes aide for intelligence community watchdog
Happy Wednesday 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 bill to keep the government open past next week is awaiting a vote in the Senate after easily passing the House on Tuesday night.
The House passed the continuing resolution (CR) in a 359-57 vote to fund the government through Dec. 11.
The situation previously looked iffy amid a disagreement between Democrats and Republicans on farm aid, but talks between the two sides that resumed Tuesday resulted in an agreement that includes the farm aid sought by Republicans in exchange for nutrition assistance sought by Democrats.
It’s unclear exactly when the Senate will take it up. The vote could slip into next week, though if it does, the Senate is not scheduled to start its week until Wednesday — also known as the last day of current government funding.
“We’ll see if there are objections to it,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters Wednesday when asked about timing. “As of this morning I hadn’t heard, but I think we’ll find out fairly quickly, whether or not we’re going to be here next week doing the CR, or whether we can wrap that up this week.”
Reminder: Of interest to defense watchers, the CR includes a so-called anomaly to allow the Navy to buy the first two Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.
The CR would also extend an authority that was granted in the coronavirus relief bill known as the CARES Act that allows the Pentagon to reimburse contractors for delays and other added costs due to the pandemic.
TRUMP NOMINATES IC IG: President Trump on Wednesday nominated Allen Souza, a former aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), to serve as the inspector general of the U.S. intelligence community, where he would replace an official that the president ousted in April.
Souza would permanently replace Michael Atkinson, who Trump fired over his handling of the whistleblower complaint that eventually triggered the president’s impeachment last year.
About Souza: Souza currently works on the White House National Security Council (NSC) as a principal deputy senior director for intelligence programs at NSC.
He served as staff director for Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, including during the House impeachment inquiry last fall, before moving to the White House in more recent months. Nunes is a loyal ally to Trump in the lower chamber.
Souza also previously worked as a lawyer at the National Security Agency.
Background: Trump notified Congress in a letter in April that he was firing Atkinson, saying he had lost confidence in him. The move prompted widespread outrage among Democrats.
Trump later told reporters that he believed Atkinson did a “terrible job” with respect to the handling of the whistleblower complaint about his phone call with Ukraine’s president.
TRUMP EXTENDS BAN ON RACIAL DISCRIMINATION TRAINING: Trump on Tuesday night extended his administration’s ban on training involving race- and sex-based discrimination to include the military, federal contractors and grant recipients, doubling down on an issue to appeal to his base, and white voters in particular.
The White House released an executive order that outlaws the teaching of “divisive concepts,” such as the idea that one race or sex is superior, that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist, that any individual should feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish” or physiological distress because of their race or sex or that an individual bears responsibility for past actions by others of the same race or sex.
“[T]raining like that discussed above perpetuates racial stereotypes and division and can use subtle coercive pressure to ensure conformity of viewpoint,” the order states. “Such ideas may be fashionable in the academy, but they have no place in programs and activities supported by Federal taxpayer dollars.”
For the military, the order said service members “shall face any penalty or discrimination on account of his or her refusal to support, believe, endorse, embrace, confess, act upon, or otherwise assent to these concepts.”
Context: The president announced the order via Twitter roughly three weeks after his administration ordered federal agencies to cancel programs that discuss “white privilege” or “critical race theory.” The latter concept teaches that racism and racial inequality are a result of systemic power structures.
Trump has in recent weeks turned his attention to rooting out concepts that he claims “indoctrinate” Americans and school children into believing the country is inherently racist in an attempt to stoke cultural issues that appeal to his base, and to white voters specifically.
Trump last week announced plans for a new commission to promote “patriotic education” in U.S. schools through what he called the “1776 Commission,” a swipe at The New York Times’ “1619 Project,” which focused on how the arrival of the first slave ships on the continent shaped American history.
The commission will be tasked with celebrating the upcoming 250th anniversary of the country’s founding and with encouraging educators to “teach our children about the miracle of American history.” Some critics mocked the program as a propaganda effort.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. policy in the Middle East with testimony from State Department officials at 9 a.m. https://bit.ly/2RQUAIT
Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón “CZ” Colón-López will host a virtual town hall at 10 a.m. defense.gov/live
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. DavidBerger will speak at Defense One’s “State of the Marines” event at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/2HkGWvG
— The Hill: Trump announces new sanctions on Cuba
— The Hill: House passes bill aimed at imports tied to Uyghur forced labor
— The Hill: Opinion: 3 steps to safeguard our national security supply chain
— Reuters: How Trump fell out of love with his generals, and why the feeling is mutual
— Bloomberg: The military is waging war on HIV-positive soldiers
— New York Times: Saudi king, in first UN speech, assails longtime nemesis Iran