Daily on Defense: Milley denies advocating Iran attack, NASA releases UFO report, House defers defense budget bill, aftermath of Sevastopol strike

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BY JAMIE MCINTYRE

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'IT DIDN'T HAPPEN': Outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, who retires in two weeks, is doing a round of exit interviews with various media organizations, and in the latest with CNN, he flatly denies the suggestion that he ever pressed former President Donald Trump to attack Iran.

"As the chairman or any member of the joint chiefs, our job is to render advice. We have plans for all kinds of things. And when we render advice, typically we say course of action, one, two, or three. We talk about the costs and the risks, and we make recommendations. And I can assure you that not one time have I ever recommended to attack Iran," Milley told CNN's Fareed Zakaria in the interview, which airs in full on Sunday.

The allegation that Milley was pressuring Trump to attack Iran was first revealed in the Mar-a-Lago documents indictment, in which Trump is is heard on an audio record showing classified war plans to biographers for former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and claiming a senior military official (later identified as Milley) wanted him to attack "Country A" (later identified as Iran).

"Look. This was him. They presented me this," Trump said. "This is off the record, but they presented me this. This was him. This was the Defense Department and him … And you know, he said, "he wanted to attack [Country A]."

'I DON'T KNOW THE DOCUMENT THEY'RE TALKING ABOUT': The allegation was reinforced in Meadows's book, The Chief's Chief, in which Meadows claimed Milley repeatedly urged Trump to attack Iran while portraying Trump as the cooler head in the room.

"The president recalls a four-page report typed up by Mark Milley himself," Meadows wrote. "It contained the general's own plan to attack Iran, deploying massive numbers of troops, something he urged President Trump to do more than once during his presidency. President Trump denied those requests every time."

"That part of it didn't happen. And I'm not sure, I don't know the exact quotes that Mr. Meadows said, but I can assure you I know what I've done, and it's not to recommend an attack on Iran," Milley said. "I don't know the document they're talking about. I've never seen, you know, no one's presented me what it is they're talking about … But I can tell you with certainty that this chairman never recommended a wholesale attack on Iran."

"A military attack in Iran is a very, very serious undertaking. We have capabilities, we have plans that's not particularly unusual to comment on that," Milley said. "But I am not going to go further and discuss any of the details."

TURNER: 'I BELIEVE HIM': Appearing on CNN after the excerpt of the Milley interview aired, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he accepted Milley's version of events.

"Well, of course I believe him. I mean, he has great credibility, and I've been with him in meetings concerning Iran, and I've never seen any indication of his desire or willingness to make recommendations that would result in a military conflict," Turner said.

"You would expect that, of course, our military is looking at what options would be necessary in case there was a conflict that, you know, illuminates to us what capabilities we need, what capabilities they have," he said. "Those types of exercises or reviewing is what you would expect of your military for all of our adversaries, especially those self-declared and who are also antagonistic to our allies."

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Good Thursday 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: NASA will host a media briefing at 10 a.m. at the agency's headquarters in Washington to discuss the findings from a UFO study team it commissioned in 2022.

UFOs are now officially known as unidentified anomalous phenomena, or "UAPs," to more accurately describe "observations of events in the sky that cannot be identified as aircraft or known natural phenomena from a scientific perspective."

The report "aims to inform NASA on what possible data could be collected in the future to shed light on the nature and origin of UAP," NASA said while cautioning that the report is "not a review or assessment of previous unidentifiable observations."

"There are currently a limited number of high-quality observations of UAP, which make it impossible to draw firm scientific conclusions about their nature," the space agency said, noting the team's full report will be posted online about 30 minutes before the briefing.

NASA TO UNVEIL UFO REPORT THURSDAY

ALSO TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meets with Bahrain's Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa at the Pentagon at 11 a.m.

And the Senate Armed Services Committee is considering the nomination of Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be chief of naval operations at 9:30 a.m.

NOT A GOOD SIGN: The House meets at 10 a.m., and in the noon hour, was scheduled to resume consideration of the defense appropriations bill for the 2024 fiscal year, but now it's unclear when the House might take up the measure.

House Republicans failed to garner enough votes to adopt the rule for considering the bill on the floor, something that's usually done as a routine procedural matter. The derailment of what is typically a noncontroversial step in the legislative process underscores the deep division in the House, as hard-right members of the Freedom Caucus are demanding deeper cuts and an array of social policy amendments as a condition for averting a government shutdown at the end of the month.

Freedom Caucus members want to know what all 12 appropriations bills would total so they can tell if their demands for returning spending to 2022 levels are being met.

But House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) expressed frustration that "holdouts" in the caucus won't tell leadership what in the bill they actually opposed. "Welcome to my world," he told reporters.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, said everyone in the Republican conference wants to cut spending, but "we're not being able to balance the federal budget on discretionary spending."

"It's frustrating, I'm frustrated more than anybody," Calvert said. "You know, in my mind, the first obligation of the U.S. government is to defend the country, and we need to get the defense appropriation bill done. So every day we delay doing this sends the wrong message to our friends and our enemies."

MCCARTHY AND HIS ALLIES FRUSTRATED BY DEFENSE SPENDING BILL HOLDOUTS

'NOT A RANSOM': Under heavy fire from Republicans in Congress, the Biden administration continues to insist its Iran prisoner release deal, which frees up $6 billion in Iranian oil revenues, is not tantamount to a ransom payment.

"This is not a payment of any kind. It's not a ransom. These aren't U.S. taxpayer dollars. And we haven't lifted a single one of our sanctions on Iran. Iran will be getting no sanctions relief," said NSC spokesman John Kirby at yesterday's White House briefing.

"These funds will now be subject to more legal restrictions than they were when they were in Korea. They will be monitored by rigorous due diligence standards required by the U.S. Treasury Department. The U.S. will have visibility and will be able to engage in oversight about where the money was going and for what purpose," Kirby said. "If Iran tries to divert the funds, we'll take action, and we'll lock them up again."

Republicans aren't buying the argument.

"I am always glad when Americans are released from captivity," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in a post on X. "However, this agreement will entice rogue regimes, like Iran, to take even more Americans hostage. The ayatollah and his henchmen are terrorists and truly represent a terrorist state."

WHITE HOUSE INSISTS IRAN DEAL IS NOT 'RANSOM PAYMENT'

YESTERDAY'S SEVASTOPOL STRIKE: A day after explosions rocked the port at Sevastopol, Crimea, the main base of the Black Sea fleet, it appears Ukraine successfully used British Storm Shadow missiles to inflict an embarrassing loss on Vladimir Putin's navy.

The pre-dawn missile strikes damaged a Russian landing ship and a Kilo-class submarine beyond repair, according to an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War, which quoted a spokesman for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. "Andriy Yusov stated that the missiles struck the Russian state-owned ship repair facility Sevmorzavod, damaging repair facilities as well as a landing ship and a submarine, both of which he described as unrecoverable."

Russia claimed its air defenses shot down seven of 10 incoming missiles but acknowledged the two ships were damaged.

"The apparent destruction of the two vessels will likely render the dry dock inoperable until Russian forces can clear the debris, which may take a significant amount of time," the ISW said, adding, "Any damage to one of the Russian Black Sea Fleet's main repair facilities in occupied Crimea will likely have reverberating impacts in the event of further Ukrainian strikes on Russian naval assets."

"This counteroffensive is much more than a ground assault," wrote retired Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commanding general of the U.S Army Europe, on X. "It's a multi-domain operation. UKR Gen Staff is running rings around the Russian Gen Staff."

UKRAINE HAMMERS RUSSIAN SHIPS IN CRIMEA IN WAKE OF ELON MUSK'S ESCALATION FEARS

'HISTORY IS WATCHING': Hodges joined former Supreme NATO Commander retired Gen. Philip Breedlove in a letter to Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) urging the House speaker to expedite additional funding to help Ukraine's counteroffensive efforts.

"We respectfully ask you to move forward with both military and other aid for Ukraine to help this American ally win this battle in saving their sovereignty and protecting our U.S. national security. History is watching," the two generals wrote. "Ukrainians need our help. They need both military and non-lethal aid, and they needed it yesterday."

"Ukraine's efforts to expel the unprovoked Russian invaders is at a critical juncture. While their counteroffensive has made slower progress than many had hoped, the Ukrainians have the advantage, are pressing the offensive, and are resolute in emerging victorious," the two former commanders argue. "Continued U.S. and NATO aid can and will be the difference in whether or not the world stops Putin's dangerous aggression and genocide against a sovereign and peaceful nation and its people. Now is not the time to allow partisan politics to get in the way of supporting an ally that is fighting for freedom, as well as their own existence."

WHY UKRAINE'S ATTACK ON THE BLACK SEA FLEET IS A PROBLEM FOR RUSSIA

The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin meet, pledge expanded 'military technical cooperation'

Washington Examiner: Musk calls Taiwan a 'part of China' and blames US for blocking 'reunification effort'

Washington Examiner: Ukraine hammers Russian ships in Crimea in wake of Elon Musk's escalation fears

Washington Examiner: Why Ukraine's attack on the Black Sea fleet is a problem for Russia

Washington Examiner: China touts anti-corruption drive as high-level officials disappear

Washington Examiner: White House insists Iran deal is not 'ransom payment'

Washington Examiner: NASA to unveil UFO report Thursday

Washington Examiner: Military leaders remain confident in Osprey aircraft following deadly crash

Washington Examiner: Milley's retirement ratchets up pressure for all sides on Tuberville hold

Washington Examiner: Opinion: House committee leaders take hard China truths to Wall Street

ABC News: Didn't End The Way I Wanted': Gen. Mark Milley Looks Back At U.S. Exit From Afghanistan

The Hill: Tuberville Refuses to Budge on Military Promotions Despite Growing GOP Pressure

Washington Post: With Tensions Simmering, U.S. Lawmakers To Visit China

Reuters: Taiwan Reports 28 Chinese Air Force Planes in Its Air Defense Zone

USNI News: Chinese Aircraft Carrier, Warships Massing For Major Exercise Near The Philippines

Wall Street Journal: U.S. To Shift Egypt Aid To Taiwan

The War Zone: China's J-20 Isn't A 'Dominating Aircraft,' USAF General Says

Breaking Defense: South Korea Cleared to Buy $5B Worth of F-35s

Bloomberg: Northrop Set to Escape Millions in Construction Costs for Missile Silos

New York Times: Defying West, Russia Extends Missile Arsenal

Defense News: US Military Publishes New Joint Warfighting Doctrine

Defense News: Electronic Warfare in Ukraine Informing US Playbook

Stars and Stripes: Marine Reaper Drone Pilots Patrolling Iranian Activity In Strategic Waterways

Bloomberg: Microsoft's Tweaked Army Goggles Worked Well in New Test, US Says

Defense News: How a New, Mobile Package Keeps Reaper Drones Ready to Fight in Europe

Air & Space Forces Magazine: CMSAF Warns Airmen About 'Being Used' By Artificial Intelligence

Air & Space Forces Magazine: US Has Resumed Drone Operations Out of Niger, Top General Says

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Getting Agile in the Pacific: Clearing WWII Airfields, Adding More Vertical Lift

Air & Space Forces Magazine: First T-7A Red Hawk Trainer Ready for Air Force Delivery

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Allies Eager to Develop, Collaborate with US on New Space Programs

Air & Space Forces Magazine: B-21 Still on Track for First Flight This Year. But Are There Enough in the Pipeline?

Space News: Space Force to Release Guidelines for the Use of Commercial Satellite Services

Calendar

THURSDAY | SEPTEMBER 14

9:30 a.m. G-50 Dirksen — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the nomination of Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be chief of naval operations http://www.armed-services.senate.gov

10 a.m. HVC-210, U.S. Capitol — House Foreign Affairs Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia Subcommittee hearing: "Iran's Escalating Threats: Assessing U.S. Policy Toward Iran's Malign Activities," with testimony from Norman Roule, former national intelligence manager for Iran; Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Masih Alinejad, author and activist; and Suzanne Maloney, vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution http://foreignaffairs.house.gov

11 a.m. — National Endowment for Democracy virtual book discussion: Beijing Rules: How China Weaponized Its Economy to Confront the World, with author Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, China reporter at Axios https://www.ned.org/events/beijing-rules-with-bethany-allen/

1 p.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual discussion: "The Ukrainian Counter-Offensive: Implications for U.S. Policy," with Dara Massicot, senior fellow at the CEIP Russia and Eurasia Program; Michael Kofman, senior fellow at the CEIP Russia and Eurasia Program; and Aaron David Miller, CEIP senior fellow https://carnegieendowment.org/2023/09/14/carnegie-connects

1:30 p.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion: "Integration of the U.S. Missile Defense Enterprise," with William Greenwalt, nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; and Roger Kodat, senior project director of the National Academy of Public Administration https://www.csis.org/events/integration-us-missile-defense-enterprise

2:30 p.m. — Foundation for Defense of Democracies virtual discussion: "Maximum Support for the People of Iran: Honoring Mahsa Amini One Year After Her Murder," with Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY); Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL); Mark Dubowitz, FDD chief executive; and Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD senior fellow https://www.fdd.org/events/2023/09/14/maximum-support-for-the-people-of-iran

FRIDAY | SEPTEMBER 15

9 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW — Brookings Institution discussion: "Ukraine, the West, and the World: Breaking Point or Transformational Moment?" https://www.brookings.edu/events/ukraine-the-west-and-the-world

9:30 a.m. 2401 M St., NW — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group conversation with Mieke Eoyang, deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy. RSVP: Thom Shanker tshanker@email.gwu.edu

11 a.m. — Center for a New American Security virtual fireside chat of CNAS report: "'Production is Deterrence': Investing in Precision-Guided Munitions to Meet Peer Challengers," with William LaPlante, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment; and moderator Stacie Pettyjohn, senior fellow and director of the CNAS Defense Program https://www.cnas.org/events/virtual-fireside-chat-the-honorable-dr-william-laplante

MONDAY | SEPTEMBER 18

10 a.m — American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research virtual discussion:: "Assessing the Past Year of Defending Taiwan," with Michael Beckley, nonresident senior fellow, AEI; Dan Blumenthal, senior fellow, AEI; Mackenzie Eaglen, senior fellow, AEI; and Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies, AEI https://www.aei.org/events/assessing-the-past-year-of-defending-taiwan

1 p.m. — Defense Priorities virtual discussion:: "Unraveling the GWOT (Global War on Terror) in Africa," with Elizabeth Shackelford, senior fellow, Chicago Council on Foreign Affairs; Tricia Bacon, associate professor, American University; William Walldorf, associate professor, Wake Forest University and visiting fellow, Defense Priorities; and moderator Jessica Trisko Darden, associate professor, Virginia Commonwealth University https://unravelingthegwotinafrica.splashthat.com/

TUESDAY | SEPTEMBER 19

TBA New York, NY — President Joe Biden addresses the 78th session of the U.N. General Assembly

8:30 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW — American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research virtual and in-person discussion: "The Future of Defense for the U.K. and Its Allies," with U.K. Shadow Defense Secretary John Healey; Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN); and Elisabeth Braw, senior fellow, AEI https://www.aei.org/events/the-future-of-defense-for-the-uk-and-its-allies

10 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW — Association of the U.S. Army and Center for Strategic and International Studies "Landpower Dialogue," with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth; and Army vice chief of staff Gen. Randy George https://www.csis.org/events/landpower-dialogue-conversation

10 a.m. — Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments Zoom webinar: "Webinar: The Future of the Russian Military and How It Reforms," with CSBA's Katherine Kjellström Elgin and Eric Edelman https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register

10:35 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee hearing: "Defense Cooperation with Taiwan," with testimony from Ely Ratner, assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs; and Mira Resnick, deputy assistant secretary of state for regional security http://www.armedservices.house.gov

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QUOTE OF THE DAY
"As the chairman or any member of the Joint Chiefs, our job is to render advice. We have plans for all kinds of things. And when we render advice, typically we say course of action, one, two, or three. We talk about the costs and the risks and we make recommendations. And I can assure you that not one time have I ever recommended to attack Iran."
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a CNN interview, denying allegations from former President Donald Trump and his White House chief of staff Mark Meadows that Milley repeatedly pressed Trump to attack Iran.
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