With Eleanor Mueller and Connor O’Brien
TODAY: Trump meets with wary European allies; Pentagon special ops official testifies; NDAA conference committee meets in closed session.
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BULLETINS: Syrian troops on the move; New wave of violence in Afghanistan; Saudis report another Houthi missile shot down.
FROM POLITICO: Estonia
girds for Russian invasion;
VA nominee gets out of committee; Soldiers to get freeze-dried plasma.
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NATO SUMMIT REPORT — NEW DEFENSE SPENDING ‘NOT NEARLY ENOUGH,’ President Donald Trump said today of increased contributions to defense by European members of NATO, via Reuters.
Trump made the remarks ahead of a breakfast with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg this morning before participating in a meeting of the North Atlantic Council. Stoltenberg had hailed new NATO spending estimates released Tuesday that showed another eight member countries would hit the 2 percent of gross domestic product benchmark by the end of the year.
Nonetheless, “Over the last year, about $40 billion more has been given by other countries to help NATO but that’s not nearly enough,” Trump said.
And he went after Germany as well, asserting the country is “totally controlled” by Russia over a pipeline project, via POLITICO's David M. Herszenhorn.
The full summit agenda is here and watch
Stoltenberg’s opening remarks here.
— TRUMP VS. TUSK: “There’s nothing like a little Twitter war among allies to get warmed up for the NATO summit,” writes Herszenhorn.
“As he prepared to leave Washington for this week’s leaders’ summit in Brussels, U.S. President Donald Trump unleashed a brief barrage, reiterating his attacks on Europe over defense spending and trade...
“This time, Trump’s volley was met with return fire from European Council President Donald Tusk, who used his brief prepared remarks at a signing ceremony of a new NATO-EU cooperation statement to speak the truth to American hard power, and to urge Trump to remember who his friends are.”
But Trump’s neglect of Europe goes beyond angry tweets, adds Herszenhorn.
His attacks on NATO raise questions about its future, writes the AP.
And military planners worry about Trump’s “2 percent” obsession, writes The Washington Post.
Yet Senate Armed Services Committee Republicans Jim Inhofe, David Perdue and Tom Cotton introduced a resolution Tuesday to reinforce the need for greater defense spending in NATO. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republican James Lankford also signed onto the measure, which could provide the president some domestic political cover as he continues to badger long standing allies.
House Democrats, led by Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith and House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Eliot Engel took a different track. Smith and Engel led 44 Democrats warning Trump ahead of the summit not to suspend joint exercises in Europe or weaken U.S. forward military presence.
“The signals regarding potential outcomes that are coming from this administration in advance of the President’s upcoming trip to Europe are deeply concerning,” they said.
Macedonia also wants in to join with an invitation to join NATO after a decade of waiting, writes Reuters.
Top GOP senator warns Trump on upcoming summit with Putin. Trump will also be meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin next Monday in Helsinki. And Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) - who last week led a Republican congressional delegation to Moscow - offered some advice Tuesday.
“Be careful, you’re dealing with a tough man, a smart man,” the Senate Appropriations Committee chairman said of the Russian leader. “I think the president should listen to his security council…and our NATO allies on anything of substance with our U.S. military.”
“Concede nothing, see what they want done,” he added, noting the president’s recent summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had “a lot of optics and not a lot of substance.”
For one NATO member on the Russian frontier the stakes couldn’t be higher, reports POLITICO Magazine.
POLITICO ON THE BEAT — HASC PANEL EYES DoD’s ROLE IN FOREIGN ASSISTANCE: The House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee today hears from Mark Mitchell, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict, on a panel about the department’s role in foreign assistance.
The committee plans to examine challenges the Defense Department encounters working with outside groups, according to a HASC background memo obtained by Morning D. The fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act also required the department to develop guidance on working with those groups.
“With strategic competitors China and Russia investing across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, reinforcing a network of government and non-government partners at the state, sub-state, and transregional levels through [humanitarian assistance/disaster relief] and stabilization missions will bolster U.S. efforts to counter coercion and retain access and influence,” the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Melissa Dalton, who is also scheduled to testify, plans to say in prepared remarks she shared with Morning D.
— SHELBY AIMS FOR DEFENSE MINIBUS: Shelby told reporters Tuesday he hoped to bring his committee’s Defense appropriations bill, S.3159 (115) to the Senate floor before the end of the month. That bill could be paired with the Labor-HHS spending measure as part of a “minibus,” he added.
“I would like to see us work Defense and HHS together,” Shelby said. “If we could marry those two, that would take care of about 70 percent of appropriations.”
— HOUSE RULES PANEL MEETS ON INTEL AUTHORIZATION: The House Rules Committee is scheduled to meet this afternoon to set debate on the fiscal 2018 and 2019 Intelligence Authorization Act, H.R. 6237 (115).
— NDAA CONFERENCE KICKS OFF: Members of the conference committee appointed to negotiate a final National Defense Authorization Act meet today in closed session to formally begin the conference process and air their priorities and concerns with the two versions of the bill. The meeting will also feature a ceremonial passing of the conference committee gavel from House Armed Services to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Senate, meanwhile, voted 91-8 to go to conference and named its NDAA conferees Tuesday. In all, 29 conferees were named. All 27 members of the Senate Armed Services Committee will serve as conferees as well as for Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and ranking member Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
Senate endorses NATO, CFIUS instructions: Ahead of Trump's summit with NATO leaders in Brussels, and amid criticism by Trump of NATO member states for not spending enough on their own defense, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to instruct its conferees to support reaffirming U.S. support for the alliance.
Senators also voted to instruct conferees to support a Senate-backed overhaul of CFIUS, which was rolled into the NDAA. The House passed its own foreign investment crackdown bill, but didn't attach it to the NDAA. The instructions are non-binding on conferees.
And as conferees consider how to address proposals to reform CFIUS, the Government Accountability Office recommended Tuesday DoD should reassess the resources it needs to participate in the committee.
— SENATE PANEL SETS UP WILKIE’S VA VOTE, reports our colleague Arthur Allen: A Senate panel approved the nomination of Robert Wilkie as VA secretary Tuesday by voice vote, moving him closer to taking the reins of the troubled agency.
A full Senate vote on the confirmation is expected soon, but hasn't been scheduled. Sen. Bernie Sanders was the lone vote against Wilkie’s nomination today. No senator has ever voted against a VA nominee’s final confirmation.
— STATE APPROVES MISSILE SALE TO U.K.: The State Department on Tuesday approved the sale of up to 200 AIM-120D Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAMs) for an estimated cost of $650 million to the United Kingdom.
The department said the deal will “improve the security of a NATO ally which has been, and continues to be, an important partner on critical foreign policy and defense issues.”
INDUSTRY INTEL — THE BEST DEFENSE STOCK TO TRADE AHEAD OF THE SUMMIT, via The Street: “President Donald Trump will land in Brussels [Tuesday], one day ahead of the scheduled NATO summit, and just hours after naming Brett Kavanaugh as his nomination to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy at the nation's highest court. We already know that North Korea is trying to act tough again in order to extract concessions. Is that good? No. Is this potentially good for the defense and aerospace sector? Of course.”
WAR REPORT — FRESH VIOLENCE HITS AFGHANISTAN, reports The Washington Post: “At least 15 people were killed on Tuesday in two separate attacks by militants in Afghanistan as Islamic scholars gather in Saudi Arabia to discuss the legitimacy of the Taliban’s war against the U.S.-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani.”
Britain is planning to almost double its troops in Afghanistan in response to a request from the U.S., reports Reuters.
A surge of DoD civilian employees is needed in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Mattis says, via Stars and Stripes.
And the U.S. is preparing to undertake a review of its strategy there after a discouraging year, officials also tell Reuters.
— ASSAD, AIDED BY RUSSIA, POISED TO SEIZE ‘CRADLE’ OF REVOLT, reports Reuters: “President Bashar al-Assad is poised to snuff out the Syrian rebellion in the city where it began more than seven years ago, as rebels said on Tuesday they were seeking to withdraw with Russian guarantees.”
— SAUDI ARABIA SAYS IT INTERCEPTS ANOTHER HOUTHI MISSILE, reports Reuters: “Saudi Arabia’s air defense forces intercepted a missile launched toward the kingdom’s southwestern Jizan region by Yemen’s armed Houthi movement, state media said on Tuesday.”
— As the Army discharges immigrants, the Marine Corps is still allowing hundreds to enlist: Military.com
— The FDA signs off on freeze-dried plasma for soldiers: POLITICO Pro
— More cancer treatment options are opening to veterans thanks to a new partnership: Military Times
— How the Pentagon and EPA downplayed a growing toxic threat on U.S. military bases: Task and Purpose
— Georgia looks to build on the Army’s cyber investment: Fifth Domain
— Israel is “not ruling out” eventual ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad: Reuters
— The U.S. will consider requests for waivers from Iran oil sanctions, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says: Reuters
— South Korea plans to locally develop a missile for a homemade future jet: Defense News
— An Army anti-aircraft Stryker can kill tanks too: Breaking Defense
— Some highlights so far from RIMPAC 2018: Defense News
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