Pentagon defends use of COVID-19 funds to aid ailing defense contractors
SPENDING WAS ‘WHOLLY APPROPRIATE’: The Pentagon is flatly rejecting criticism in a Washington Post report suggesting that funds intended for supplies of medical equipment were improperly diverted to defense contractors.
At issue is $1 billion provided to the Pentagon under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which the Washington Post said was being used to make things such as jet engine parts, body armor, and dress uniforms instead of needed medical supplies “in a way that represented a major departure from Congress’s intent.”
“Under the Act, it is clear that funding for Defense Industrial Base uses would be appropriate as long as they addressed COVID-related impacts in the industrial base, even in that portion of the industrial base not producing medical supplies,” said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman in a statement posted on the DOD website. “The funds in this case have been used to support vital national security industries that were devastated by COVID.”
“As part of the efforts to mitigate economic damage, the Act allowed monies to be spent to support individuals and industries that had been impacted by COVID. This is exactly what DOD has done,” he said.
DOD ‘HAS BEEN WHOLLY TRANSPARENT’: The Washington Post report prompted two House members, Democrats Barbara Lee of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, to call for an investigation of the expenditures, but the Pentagon insists it has kept Congress fully informed.
“The Department has been wholly transparent on this effort,” said Hoffman. “Since April, contracts or disbursements have been announced publicly by the Department, and the appropriate congressional committees have been given notice before any announcement has been made.”
“Undersecretary [Ellen] Lord directly addressed this issue in her June 10 testimony to the House Armed Services Committee,” said Hoffman. “No objections were expressed by the Committee at that time or since until yesterday afternoon.”
‘WE DID BOTH’: The Pentagon says it used the authorities of the Defense Production Act to support the medical industry and medical production before then moving to shore up the industrial base, while the Department of Health of Human Services focused on continuing to support medical resources industries. “We did both,” Hoffman said. “We need to always remember that economic security and national security are very tightly interrelated and our industrial base is really the nexus of the two.”
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HAPPENING TODAY: Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and senior adviser Ramon “CZ” Colon-Lopez will take questions from military members, their families, and DOD civilians at a “virtual global town hall meeting” at the Pentagon at 10 a.m. https://www.defense.gov/Watch/Live
DITCH THE CAMO: Five Democrats in the Senate are pushing a bill that would prohibit federal law enforcement officers from wearing camouflage patterns, citing the recent testimony from Milley, who said that law enforcement officers wearing camouflage patterns could be confused for military personnel.
“You want a clear definition between that which is military and that which is police, in my view,” Milley testified at a House Armed Services Committee hearing in July.
“The Trump administration’s decision to deploy federal law enforcement officers outfitted in camouflage uniforms in response to those protesting the death of George Floyd and other Black Americans blurred the lines between military service members and law enforcement officers while causing even more fear and division,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth, one of the bill’s sponsors. “We must prevent this from happening again.”
The co-sponsors include Oregon’s Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Virginia’s Tim Kaine, and New Jersey’s Cory Booker.
“Citizens of a free society shouldn’t be constantly confused about who is military and who is law enforcement,” said Kaine. “Sadly, that has become a regular occurrence across the U.S. this year. This bill will clarify who is who amid protests, strengthening both our liberties and our security.”
The Clear Visual Distinction Between Military and Law Enforcement Act has exceptions for federal law enforcement officers who are engaged in “a discreet tactical operation.”
LUKASHENKO’S SECRET SWEARING-IN: The chairman and ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee are joining in a bipartisan condemnation of what they call the “abrupt, illegitimate inauguration” of Alexander Lukashenko as president of Belarus.
“A truly legitimate leader does not need to hold a secret swearing-in ceremony,” said Reps. Eliot Engel and Michael McCaul in a joint statement. “In the face of historic and peaceful protests against his dictatorial rule in Belarus, this ‘inauguration’ only reinforces just how unbelievable Alexander Lukashenko’s claims are that he won 80% of the vote in the fraudulent August 9 election.”
OUR MAN IN VILNIUS: Washington Examiner defense reporter Abraham Mahshie is on assignment in Lithuania, observing NATO exercises that include about 500 American troops.
He’s been talking to government officials, academics, as well as Belarusian exiles in the streets of the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, which is a scant 20 miles from the border with Belarus.
“Vilnius is the place for those who are suffering because of the oppression,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius told Mahshie on Wednesday in his Vilnius office, noting that Lithuania provides refuge for hundreds more opposition members who faced beatings and torture.
On the streets of Vilnius, Mahshie found about 50 protesters gathered at dusk waving traditional Belarusian flags and blasting Belarusian rock music. One sign read: “Lukashenko, you are not our president. You’re a rat.”
“The demand is clear — free and fair elections. That’s what the Belarusian people are asking,” Vilnius University professor and Belarus expert Vytis Jurkonis told the Washington Examiner. “Nobody’s greedy for power.”
LAST WORDS: Tuesday’s House Oversight subcommittee hearing on President Trump’s Afghanistan strategy ended with two distinctly different views of how the peace process is going and the wisdom of withdrawing all U.S. troops from the country by May of next year.
Here are the closing comments from New Jersey Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski, a former assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration; and Zalmay Khalilzad, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation.
Khalilzad: “We’re not counting on the words of the Talibs. The agreement is conditioned based on our management, if we are to implement the agreement with them to see behavior and just not words. And I also would like to say that among the alternatives that we face, this is the best available given the constraints and alternatives available.”
And with that, subcommittee Chairman Rep. Stephen Lynch thanked the witnesses and gaveled the hearing to a close.
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Time: Biden Wants to Keep Special Ops in the Mideast. That Doesn’t Mean More ‘Forever Wars,’ His Adviser Says
Air Force Magazine: Cyber Airmen Trained for a China-Taiwan Conflict That Unfolds Online
Air Force Magazine: PACAF: Chinese Propaganda Targeting Andersen AFB is an Attempt to Intimidate
Washington Post: China Building Vast Prisonlike Centers In Uighur Region
Breaking Defense: New Ships In Navy Plan = No ‘Slaughter Across The Beach’ For Marines
Marine Corps Times: ‘Reshape From Within’: How Berger Plans To Transform The Corps Without A Budget Increase
Washington Times: Marine Corps rolls out the M18, the first new service pistol since the Reagan era
Task & Purpose: Diversity Is About Saving Marines’ Lives, Not Political Correctness, Commandant Says
USNI News: Navy Learning From Past Attempts To Eliminate Bias In The Fleet
USNI News: VIDEO: Marine F-35Bs Underway On U.K. Aircraft Carrier
Navy Times: Iran Claims Its Drones Shadowed Nimitz Strike Group In Strait Of Hormuz
Reuters: Saudi King Salman Assails Iran In United Nations Debut
CNN: South Korea Official Shot Dead By North Korean Troops After Crossing Border: Seou
The Hill: Ex-NSC official alleges ‘unprecedented’ intervention by White House aides in Bolton book review
Washington Examiner: Opinion: New document shows Trump team essentially abused John Bolton’s rights
Defense News: Opinion: Great power competition heats up in the thawing Arctic, and the US must respond
Washington Examiner: Opinion: Why skepticism, not China, may be the greatest threat to US Pacific strategy
THURSDAY | SEPTEMBER 24
9 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies webcast: “The U.S.-ROK alliance, U.S. policy toward North Korea, COVID-19 challenges and much more,” with Rep. Ami Bera, D-Calif. https://www.csis.org/events/online-event
9:30 a.m. — Woodrow Wilson Center’s Africa Programconference call briefing: “U.S. Interests and Engagement in the Sahel: Current State, Key Issues, and the Way Ahead,” with State Department Special Envoy for the Sahel Region of Africa J. Peter Pham. https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event
9:30 a.m. — Atlantic Council webinar: “Security at the Maritime Edge,” with Transportation Maritime Administrator Rear Adm. Mark Buzby. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event
10 a.m. — Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, and the Chairman’s Senior Enlisted Advisor Ramón “CZ” Colón-López hold a virtual global town hall meeting at the Pentagon to answer questions from service members, their families and DOD civilians. Livestreamed on Defense.gov, DVIDS and the DOD Facebook page.
10 a.m. 342 Dirksen — Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on “Threats to the Homeland.” http://www.hsgac.senate.gov
10 a.m. 2172 Rayburn — House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on “Oversight of the United States Agency for Global Media and U.S. International Broadcasting Efforts,” with Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media. http://foreignaffairs.house.gov
11 a.m. — Government Executive Media Group webcast: “State of the Marines,” with Marine Corps commandant Gen. David Berger, and Rep. Mike Gallagher. https://www.defenseone.com/feature/state-of-defense
11 a.m. — Center for Strategic and International Studies webcast: “Building an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-Ready Defense Partnership and Workforce,” with Mark Beall, chief of strategy and policy in the Office of the Department of Defense Chief Information Officer’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. https://www.csis.org/events/online-event
12 p.m. — Atlantic Council webcast: “UNGA 75: Reaffirming the World’s Commitment to Venezuela,” with Juan Guaidó, Interim President of Venezuela; Carrie Filipetti, deputy assistant secretary of state, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs; Julio Borges, special envoy for foreign affairs, Interim Government of Venezuela; James Dauris, U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office; John Barsa, acting administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Cristina Gallach, secretary of state for foreign affairs, Spain. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event/unga-75
12:30 p.m. — Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies webinar: “The New World Disorder: The Power Struggle Between China, the U.S. and Europe,” with former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb. https://sais.jhu.edu/campus-events
2 p.m. — Government Executive Media Group webcast: “ The Air Force Reskilling Revolution,” with Lt. Col. Paul Cooper, chief of the Air Force Business and Enterprise Systems Product Innovation Solutions Center; Sam Pena, vice president for North America presales at Pluralsight; and Daniela Fayer, vice president of strategic accounts at Defense One. https://www.govexec.com/feature
8 p.m. — Asia Society webinar on Korea’s response to COVID-19, with Republic of Korea Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha. https://asiasociety.org/new-york/events/webcast
FRIDAY | SEPTEMBER 25
9 a.m. — U.S. Institute of Peace webinar: “The Fallout of the War in Syria: Understanding the Conflict’s Regional Consequences,” Saroj Kumar Jha, regional director of the World Bank’s Mashreq1 Department; Harun Onder, senior economist at the World Bank; Randa Slim, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute; Natasha Hall, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; and Mona Yacoubian, senior adviser for Syria, Middle East and North Africa at USIP. https://www.usip.org/events/fallout-war-syria
10 a.m. — Brookings Institution webinar: “The Future of Defense Task Force’s Final Report: Reviewing the Nation’s Defense Assets and Capabilities,” with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass.; Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind.; and Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings senior fellow. https://www.brookings.edu/events
10 a.m. — “Hack at the Harbor” virtual security conference sponsored by Point3 Security, with speakers including Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Department of Homeland Security. https://hackattheharbor.com/
11:30 a.m. — Approximately 70 World War II aircraft will fly over the Washington Mall in two-minute intervals in historically sequenced warbird formations representing the major World War II battles. More than 20 different types of vintage military aircraft are scheduled to take part, including the P-40 Warhawk, P-39 Airacobra, P-38 Lightning, P-51 Mustang, P-47 Thunderbolt, F4U Corsair, B-25 Mitchell, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-29 Superfortress. https://ww2flyover.org/
2 p.m. — Brookings Institution webinar: “The Policy Needs of America’s Veterans,” with House Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif.; retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington, CEO of the Wounded Warrior Project; Jen Silvan, chief program officer at the Wounded Warrior Project; and Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings senior fellow. https://www.brookings.edu/events
MONDAY | SEPTEMBER 28
2:30 p.m. — Center for the National Interest webinar: “North Korean Military Modernization: How Should Washington Respond?” with Bruce Bennett, defense researcher at the RAND Corporation; Gordon Chang, author of Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World; James Holmes, chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College; and Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest.
WEDNESDAY | SEPTEMBER 30
10 a.m. — Heritage Foundation virtual event: “U.S. Navy Shipyards Are In Crisis – Understanding the Issue and Next Steps,” with Rep. Robert Wittman, ranking member, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces; Diana Maurer, director, defense capabilities and management team, Government Accountability Office; Maiya Clark, research assistant, Heritage Foundation Center for national defense; Brent Sadler, senior fellow for naval warfare and advanced technology, Heritage Foundation Center for National Defense. https://www.heritage.org/defense/event/virtual
11 a.m. — George Washington University Project on Media and National Security Defense Writers Group conversation with Dana Deasy, DOD chief information officer. https://nationalsecuritymedia.gwu.edu/
4 p.m. — Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library conversation with Matt Pottinger, assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser. https://www.reaganfoundation.org
THURSDAY | OCTOBER 1
9:15 a.m. SD-562, Dirksen — Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support hearing on “Supply Chain Integrity,” with Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“We’re all for peace. And I understand people want to leave. But I think what you’re selling us is not peace. It is a fairy tale to make us feel better about leaving Afghanistan.”
New Jersey Democrat Rep. Tom Malinowski to peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad at Tuesday’s House Oversight Subcommittee hearing on Afghanistan strategy