Daily on Defense: The BLUF on SPACECOM, Milley retires, shutdown looms, NATO chief in Kyiv

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ROGERS: 'THIS IS INEXPLICABLE': House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) opened his oversight hearing into President Joe Biden's decision to strip Alabama of the permanent headquarters of the U.S. Space Command with an array of arguments worthy of a trial prosecutor.

Huntsville, Alabama, "Rocket City," won the competition fair and square, Rogers argued, only to have its win snatched away in a craven act of politics. "The Biden administration has chosen to play politics with our national security," Rogers fumed. "It is indefensible to turn the fifth-place finisher into the winner of a basing competition."

The decision to keep the headquarters at its current temporary location in Colorado Springs will cost the taxpayers $426 million more over the next 15 years, Rogers said, calling Biden's July 30 decision "political manipulation … just so the president can try to endear himself to a purple state prior to next year's election."

Rogers grilled Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall about his recommendation, rejected by Biden, that the headquarters be located in Huntsville while implying that SPACECOM commander Army Gen. James Dickinson changed his recommendation after pressure from the White House. "This idea that moving Space Command is going to affect operational readiness is just fabricated," Rogers said. "This is inexplicable."

DICKINSON: IT'S ABOUT THE WORKFORCE, NOT THE BUILDING: Dickinson, who in a private meeting with the Alabama congressional delegation this summer had indicated he saw no reason the permanent headquarters couldn't be in Huntsville, said his comments at the time were based on a misunderstanding of what he was being asked.

Dickinson and Kendall said the final decision was based on two factors: the cost of building a new headquarters building and the disruption that would eventually be caused by the move of the 1,400 SPACECOM workers.

"Sixty percent of the headquarters today is civilian. They're Department of the Air Force civilians doing great work for us. We know if we were to move, for example, that we believe about 88% percent of those folks would probably not move," Dickinson said. "Folks will start making decisions that they no longer want to work there and seek employment elsewhere given the predictability and their personal desire that they would not want to go to Huntsville."

Losing the highly-trained and experienced workforce was not worth the savings on construction costs, which is why Biden decided to accept Dickinson's ultimate recommendation that SPACECOM stay put. "The reason is one that the president has publicly stated: concerns about readiness," Dickinson testified. "The readiness manifests itself in the transition process of moving to another location, losing civilian workforce and then having to reestablish a trained workforce at the new location."

SMITH: NOT ABOUT POLITICS: Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the top Democrat and former chairman of the committee, argued that while the selection process was "just horribly messed up," he doesn't believe either former President Donald Trump or Biden injected politics into the decision.

"It's an unfortunate charge that both sides have thrown out there when the decision didn't go the way they wanted it to," Smith said. "I mean, I know a little bit about politics, and I just really can't imagine that some sort of election is going to be determined based on where one 1,400-person building is located, whether it's in Alabama or Colorado."

"It seemed to simply come down to where is the cheapest place to build a building, OK? And it is cheaper to build a building in Huntsville, Alabama, than it is in Colorado Springs, or, apparently, in five or six other places," he said. "Anyone could have told you within, like, 30 seconds, Huntsville's going to be cheaper than Colorado Springs.'

But cheaper is not necessarily better, Smith argued. "It is not just politics. The people at Space Command don't want to move, OK? They're in Colorado Springs. They've been there. They set it up. And they don't want to move."

"You have the Space Command folks, the people who are actually doing the job, wanting to stay in Colorado, that that was a balancing factor … Moving is a pain. And if you don't have to do it, you'd rather not. At the end of the day, I think that's what it comes down to."


Good Friday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre's Daily on Defense, written and compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre) and edited by Conrad Hoyt. Email here with tips, suggestions, calendar items, and anything else. Sign up or read current and back issues at DailyonDefense.com. If signing up doesn't work, shoot us an email and we'll add you to our list. And be sure to follow me on Threads and/or on X @jamiejmcintyre



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HAPPENING TODAY: There will be much pomp this morning at Summerall Field, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, as the military stages a full "farewell tribute" to Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be at the 10 a.m. event, which will make the transition to Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown, who, after a long delay, was confirmed to serve as the 21st chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

"I have the honor of overseeing the change of responsibilities of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States military from one genuine hero and patriot, Gen. Mark Milley, to another, General C. Q. Brown — both defining leaders of our time," Biden said yesterday at a speech in Arizona. "And yet, here is what you hear from MAGA extremists about the retiring patriot general honoring his oath to the Constitution: quote, he's 'a traitor,' end of quote. 'In times gone by, the punishment would've been death,' end of quote."

Biden was referring to a social media post by Donald Trump, in which the former president accused Milley of "dealing with China" in what he called a "treasonous act."

"Hardly any Republican called out such heinous statements," Biden said. "And although I don't believe a majority of Republicans think that, the silence is deafening."


NO WAY OUT, SHUTDOWN COMING: With hard-right conservatives digging against passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government funded past tomorrow and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) refusing to consider the lifeline extended by a Senate version of the stopgap measure, the odds of a government shutdown come Monday are overwhelming.

"There's only one clear way to avoid a shutdown, which is for whatever bipartisan bill comes out of the Senate, to put it on the House floor for an up or down vote," said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY).

The Senate could remain in session through Sunday, depending on what happens in the House today and tomorrow. It is preparing to send its bipartisan CR to the House as a last-ditch effort to avert a shutdown, but that would require McCarthy to put his speakership at risk since Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has vowed to initiate a vote to oust him if he works with Democrats.

"A small number of MAGA extremists — who don't care at all about governing, or about preserving democracy, or America's strength in the world — hold more sway in Speaker McCarthy's mind than the majority of his party and the vast majority of the House of Representatives," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in a post on Threads. "McCarthy is letting a small band of MAGA extreme members override everyone else."


NATO CHIEF IN KYIV: In a show of support as Ukraine's counteroffensive makes incremental gains against Russian forces, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian capital to pledge continued military assistance to the war effort, which is expected to continue into next year.

"Ukraine has strong backing from 31 NATO allies and many partners. In total, more than 50 nations support and supply you through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group," Stoltenberg said at a joint news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. "Your forces are moving forward. They face fierce fighting, but they are gradually gaining ground. Every meter that Ukrainian forces regain is a meter that Russia loses."

In a social media post earlier this week, Zelensky seemed to allude to his concern that support for Ukraine by its allies might be weakening. "Whatever happens in the world, whatever the external circumstances are, we in Ukraine must remember that only our own terms, our own internal attitude toward Ukraine, toward our freedom, and toward our goals define when we will achieve our aim," he said.


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: House passes defense appropriations after multiple failures

Washington Examiner: House approves bill providing $300 million in aid to Ukraine

Washington Examiner: House passes State Department spending bill just days ahead of government shutdown

Washington Examiner: Agriculture spending bill fails to pass House due to GOP defections

Washington Examiner: Alabama lawmaker intends to withhold funds for permanent Space Command HQ in Colorado

Washington Examiner: Mark Milley, a 'true strategic thinker,' to retire after more than four decades of military service

Washington Examiner: Pentagon's small, disposable 'Replicator' smart drones aim to overwhelm China

Washington Examiner: Russia selling oil to India at $20 above price cap set by Yellen and G-7

Washington Examiner: House Democrat asks State Department if Biden actually 'speaks for the administration' on Taiwan

Washington Examiner: Taiwan unveils 'Narwhal' submarine designed to bust China's blockade strategy

Washington Examiner: Mark Kelly takes exception to Tuberville claim of being the most pro-military

Washington Examiner: Watchdog agency splits along party lines over reforming surveillance law

Washington Examiner: Biden names Trump in protester-interrupted speech on democracy

Washington Examiner: American soldier Travis King back in the US after being expelled from North Korea

Washington Examiner: Opinion: China furiously defends its Hong Kong free speech fiction

Wall Street Journal: China Said To Invest Billions To Mislead The World

CNN: Taiwan Unveils First Domestically Built Submarine As China Threat Grows

Wall Street Journal: How A Tiny Crew Struck A Blow Against China With A Wooden Boat And A Knife

Reuters: Government Shutdown Doesn't Halt, But Hinders Pentagon Work

Defense News: Exemption Given For Navy To Build Nuclear Sub In Stopgap Funding Bill

Breaking Defense: Space Force Faces Disproportionate Impact From a Shutdown or CR

Bloomberg: Pentagon Can't Afford to Replace $5 Billion of Arms It Can Send Ukraine

Stars and Stripes: House Passes Pentagon Spending Bill Stripped Of Ukraine Aid And Full Of Controversial Social Provisions

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Ukrainian F-16 Pilots Arrive in the US for Initial Training

Military Times: No Timeline Exists to Confirm Top Leaders for Navy, Air Force

AP: Traveling with Milley: A reporter recalls how America's top soldier was most at home with his troops

Breaking Defense: For AUKUS to Work, US Needs to Drop the 'Arrogance' on Info Sharing with Allies: Wittman

USNI News: 5 Admirals, 7 Captains Punished For Red Hill Fuel Leaks

Politico: 'Unsafe and Unprofessional': US Chides Iran After American Helicopter Hit with Lasers

New York Times: North Korea Likely Expelled U.S. Soldier Over His 'Low Value,' Analysts Say

Task & Purpose: 'Hunt Forward' Cyber Teams Have Deployed to 24 Countries, Including Ukraine

The War Zone: F-15EX Fleet Too Small for What Commanders Want Out of It

Inside Defense: DOD Team Charged with Overseeing 'Replicator' Holds First Meeting

Air & Space Forces Magazine: DAF to Review Thousands of Discharges For Airmen With Mental Health Conditions or Trauma

Military.com: Pentagon Says It Will Not Restrict Gun Access to Prevent Suicide Despite Recommendations

Air & Space Forces Magazine: SPACECOM Nears FOC, But Fight Over Its Homebase Rages On

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Minihan: These 'Magic' Airmen Need More SOF-Like Capabilities

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Secretary Kendall on 'Accelerating Readiness for Great Power Competition'

Forbes: Pentagon Discloses Plan For Defending Space Systems

Military.com: Child Care Fees Plunge for Many Military Families



9 a.m. — Hudson Institute virtual discussion: "India's Role in a New Pacific Order," with Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar; Jayant Sinha, chairman of the Indian Parliament's Standing Committee on Finance; Stephen Biegun, senior vice president of Boeing; and retired Indian Vice Adm. Shekhar Sinha, chairman of the board of trustees of the India Foundation https://www.hudson.org/events/indias-role-new-pacific-order

10 a.m. Summerall Field, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia — Armed Forces Farewell Tribute in honor of retiring Army Gen. Mark Milley, 20th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff https://www.defense.gov/News/Live-Events

11 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Wilson Center book discussion: Catastrophes, Confrontations, and Constraints: How Disasters Shape the Dynamics of Armed Conflicts, with co-author Tobias Ide, associate professor at Murdoch University Perth; and co-author Marwa Daoudy, associate professor at Georgetown University https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/catastrophes-confrontations-and-constraints


2:30 p.m. 419 Dirksen — Senate Foreign Relations East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy Subcommittee hearing: "Security on the Korean Peninsula," with testimony from: Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia and Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Jenny Town, senior fellow and director of the Stimson Center's 38 North Program https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/security-on-the-korean-peninsula


8 a.m. 801 Mount Vernon Place NW — Association of the U.S. Army three-day Annual Meeting and Exposition, with the theme "Be All You Can Be." Speakers include: Army Secretary Christine Wormuth; Gen. Randy George, Army vice chief of staff and current Army chief of staff nominee; and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Weimer https://meetings.ausa.org/annual/index.cfm


7 a.m. Brussels, Belgium — NATO defense ministers meet for two days at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The meeting will be chaired by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/news


"I don't think it has much to do with preferring Colorado Springs over Huntsville, Alabama. Moving is a pain. And if you don't have to do it, you'd rather not. At the end of the day, I think that's what it comes down to … you have the Space Command folks, the people who are actually doing the job, wanting to stay in Colorado."
Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, on why he thinks President Joe Biden picked Colorado for the permanent headquarters for the U.S. Space Command.
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