Happy Monday 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: Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersBattle heats up over Pentagon spending plans On The Money: IRS plans to extend tax filing deadline to mid-May | Powell voices cautious optimism | Treasury has sent out 90 million stimulus payments House Republicans vote to support earmarks MORE (R-Ala.) sat down Monday for a (virtual) reporters’ roundtable for the first time since becoming the House Armed Services Committee’s ranking member.
During the conversation, Rogers said he would support creating a quick reaction force of National Guardsmen to respond to emergencies at the Capitol.
The idea of creating a dedicated quick reaction force, potentially composed of either National Guardsmen or law enforcement officers for Washington, D.C., was one of the recommendations made in a security review led by retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.
Rogers reiterated Monday that he think it’s time for the National Guard to leave the Capitol. But he also told reporters he would support Honoré’s recommendation for a quick reaction force stationed off the Capitol complex.
“One of the things they would like to see is a rapid response National Guard unit, which I’m fine with being remote from the campus. And I would support that, but that’s about as close as we need as having guardsmen around the Capitol,” Rogers said.
“So I’m going to be anxious to see where they land on this issue with the guardsmen for a more long-term solution,” he added. “I hope it’s with this rapid response force that I just described with a full time, D.C. contingent that is off campus that can be called on when needed, and they can be there in a matter of minutes. But we don’t need them standing around like they are right now toting rifles.”
On Afghanistan: Rogers also suggested that the fact President BidenJoe BidenAstraZeneca says COVID-19 vaccine found 79 percent effective in US trial with no safety concerns The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran This week: Senate works to confirm Biden picks ahead of break MORE has yet to make a decision on whether to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1 indicates he won’t follow that timeline.
“I’m of the opinion that physically, if they wanted to leave by May 1, It’s not possible now for us to leave and get out of there in a safe manner and bring the things home that we have over there,” he said. “So I think by inaction, they’ve made it clear they’re not going to be out [of] there by May 1.”
Still, he said there was no indication about which way the administration is leaning at a recent classified briefing.
“We got a briefing about a week ago, a classified briefing, on Afghanistan, and I don’t know where the administration is going to come down on this, and frankly they said they didn’t know either,” he said. “They’re still talking with the Taliban. And to their credit, they acknowledge the Taliban hadn’t held up their end of the bargain so far.”
On the budget: Rogers also reiterated his top priority on the committee right now is the administration’s upcoming budget request.
“That is my number one, number two and number three priority,” he said.
Rogers and other committee Republicans have been urging Biden to boost the defense funding by 3 to 5 percent amid expectations the president will request an essentially flat defense budget.
Rogers made the argument that if Democrats can support the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which he and every other Republican voted against, “they can afford a 3 to 5 percent increase in defense spending.”
On nukes: Rogers predicted that Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinThe Hill’s Morning Report – Biden: Back to the future on immigration, Afghanistan, Iran Pentagon chief lands in Afghanistan ahead of troop withdrawal deadline Biden’s Asian outreach reflects the power of demographics MORE would advise Biden to move forward with the Ground-based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, the intercontinental ballistic missile replacement program often targeted by Democrats looking to make nuclear cuts.
Rogers also predicted committee Chairman Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Capitol Police plans to scale back fencing | Flap over Tucker Carlson’s comments on women in military continues | US attempts to restart North Korea talks Pentagon takes heat for extending Guard’s time at Capitol National Guard mission at Capitol expected to cost 1 million MORE (D-Wash.) would again try to scrap the program, but would again fail.
“I know he won’t have any votes on our side,” Rogers said. “Most of the Democratic members are going to be with us on this, too, so I have confidence that the GBSD is going to move forward.”
Rogers further predicted Republicans would “hold the line” against Democratic efforts to kill a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile.
On Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBill Nelson’s nomination as NASA administrator is replete with irony OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Obama NOAA leader joins Biden White House in climate role | Study: Climate change could reduce more than 60 countries’ credit ratings | NASA climate official says agency has ‘renewed emphasis’ on practical science applications NASA climate official says agency has ‘renewed emphasis’ on practical science applications MORE: As a congressman, Rogers does not get a vote on Biden’s nominees. But he told reporters how he would vote on Biden’s choice to lead NASA, former Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), if he were a senator.
“I’m not a big fan of Bill Nelson, so if I was in the Senate, I wouldn’t confirm him,” Rogers said.
OVER THE WEEKEND — AUSTIN VISITS AFGHANISTAN
Speaking of that impending deadline in Afghanistan, Austin made an unannounced visit to the country over the weekend.
Austin tacked on the stop Sunday after his trip in Asia. While in Afghanistan, Austin spoke with President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. Ambassador Ross Wilson and Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in the country.
Listen up: Speaking to reporters Sunday, Austin said the purpose of the trip was not to convey a message to Ghani, but rather to listen.
“I didn’t carry a message or convey a message to the president,” Austin said. “Again, I really wanted to listen to him and to understand what his concerns were, see the landscape through his eyes.”
He was also careful not to step on Biden’s toes, saying troop numbers and withdrawal dates are the “domain of my boss,” but he reiterated that violence remains too high.
“It’s obvious that the level of violence remains pretty high in the country,” Austin said. We’d really like to see that violence come down. And I think if it does come down, it can begin to set the conditions for, you know, some really fruitful diplomatic work.”
SAUDIS PROPOSE YEMEN CEASEFIRE
Saudi Arabia offered Yemen’s Houthi rebels a cease-fire Monday as part of a plan that would also allow a major airport to reopen in Yemen’s capital.
“The Kingdom calls on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to accept the initiative, which gives the Houthis the opportunity to stop the bloodshed in Yemen, address the humanitarian and economic conditions that the brotherly Yemeni people are suffering from, and gives them the opportunity to become partners in achieving peace,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday.
Under pressure: The new initiative comes amid stepped-up attacks by the Houthis against Saudi oil infrastructure, as well as increased pressure from the Biden administration on the Saudis to end what has become the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
After Saudi Arabia’s announcement Monday, the State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud about Yemen.
The pair spoke about support for efforts to “end the conflict in Yemen, starting with the need for all parties to commit to a cease-fire and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid,” according to a State Department statement on the call.
The but: It’s unclear whether the Saudi plan will gain any traction. A unilateral Saudi cease-fire last year collapsed.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government welcomed the Saudi proposal in a statement from its Foreign Ministry.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Adm. John Aquilino to become commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command at 9:30 a.m. https://bit.ly/315iiGb
A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on the U.S. standing in international organizations with testimony from outside experts at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/2Pj4ipH
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Samantha PowerSamantha PowerSenators call on Biden to officially recognize Armenian genocide What should happen after we declare a genocide is occurring? Biden sends nominations to Senate for key State posts MORE to be administration of the U.S. Agency for International Development at 10 a.m. https://bit.ly/3f6tIBQ
The House Rules Committee will hold a hearing on “Reforming the War Powers Resolution for the 21st Century” with testimony from outside experts at 11 a.m. https://bit.ly/3lFZyGx
The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on “Reclaiming Congressional War Powers” with testimony from outside experts at 1 p.m. https://bit.ly/3sdVxvF
The House Appropriation Committee’s defense subpanel will hold a hearing on future defense spending with testimony from outside experts at 2 p.m. https://bit.ly/3cSQPNk
And coming up next week: Former Defense Secretaries Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy Hagel15 former Defense officials back waiver for Austin to serve as Defense secretary The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden asks Congress to expand largest relief response in U.S. history John Kirby to reprise role as Pentagon press secretary under Biden MORE and Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence Avril HainesAvril HainesBiden’s Middle East policy cannot be anti-Trump or an Obama repeat To win the climate battle, we need the intelligence community The intelligence community must evolve with the information age MORE, Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthSunday shows – Biden administration grapples with border surge Duckworth: Atlanta shootings look ‘racially motivated’ Sunday shows preview: Biden administration grapples with border surge; US mourns Atlanta shooting victims MORE (D-Ill.), Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerMenendez rips Johnson as ‘racist’ over Capitol riot remark Ron Johnson: ‘No racism involved’ in comments about Capitol riot Former Fox News host considering running against GOP incumbent MORE (R-Ill.), Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville and Michèle Flournoy will participate in The Hill’s Future of Defense Summit at 12:30 p.m. March 29. RSVP today for event reminders. (https://futureofdefense.splashthat.com/)
— The Hill: Battle heats up over Pentagon spending plans
— The Hill: GAO to review decision to move Space Command to Alabama
— The Hill: Opinion: The best place to test cooperation with China is in Afghanistan
— The Hill: Opinion: Republicans should listen to Israel’s spies on the Iran nuclear deal
— New York Times: In Kabul’s streets, dogs rule the night
— Military Times: Some troops disappointed by check-the-block extremism stand-downs, others laud commanders
— Stars and Stripes: Army rolls out combat fitness test 3.0 with leg-tuck alternative, different scoring tiers for males, females
— Defense One: In Syria, US commanders hold the line — and wait for Biden