Daily on Defense: Budget time bomb looms, hostage deal to free some Americans, US strikes Iran proxies, N. Korea launches spy satellite

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TICK, TICK, TICK…: This week, Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie took a swipe at Congress for congratulating itself for doing the absolute minimum requirement of its job, voting to keep the government funded for two more months, while a deadlock remains on major legislation, including 12 budget bills and emergency aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan.

"You look at Washington. These jokers take a victory lap for not closing the government and think, like, they deserve a big round of applause for that," Christie said at a town hall in New Hampshire Monday. "Congratulations, you didn't close the government you're supposed to be down there running."

The bill signed by President Joe Biden last week keeps the federal government fully funded until Jan. 19, with the Pentagon and various other agencies extended two additional weeks until Feb. 2. Even as the Pentagon heaved a sigh of relief, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin lamented that the constant parade of continuing resolutions was doing real harm to national security.

"As we have long made clear, operating under short-term continuing resolutions hamstrings the department's people and programs and undermines both our national security and competitiveness," Austin said in a statement.

LOOMING 1% CUT: Last week, the Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) that would have cut discretionary spending by 1%, but that could happen anyway in just six weeks.

Under terms of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the debt ceiling compromise passed and signed into law in June, if any discretionary budget account — defense or non-defense — is still funded under a continuing resolution as of Jan. 1, a mandatory 1% reduction will be imposed until regular Fiscal 2024 appropriations measures are enacted.

"What many people have maybe forgotten is that the budget deal agreed to this past spring said that once January 1st passes, January 1, 2024, there are automatic cuts that will go into place across the budget to include defense and return us to a lower level of spending, tens of billions of dollars lost," former Defense Secretary Mark Esper noted on CNN. "The Pentagon has been on a continuing resolution now for several months. And every month goes by, billions of dollars of lost spending ability are gone."

"It undermines our foreign policy, it undermines the United States military … and then, of course, it really impacts Ukraine, Israel, our friends in Taiwan," Esper said.

With Congress now facing two separate deadlines to pass full-year appropriations bills, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) has vowed not to allow another vote on a short-term CR.

'YOU JUST CAN'T BUY BACK TIME': At a breakfast session with the Defense Writers Group yesterday, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the years of CRs have taken a serious toll on Pentagon efforts to modernize and adapt the U.S. military to be ready to face new challenges posed by the changing nature of warfare.

"We've gotten used to getting by CR to CR, but it's with significant consequences," Hicks told reporters. "We estimate we've lost probably a total of about four years' worth of progress on our modernization efforts. In the … nearly 11 years that we've been dealing with CRs, that is a cost you can't buy back; you just can't buy back time."

Hicks said the Pentagon understands the challenges of passing military appropriations in a divided government and that DOD officials work hard to build trust with Congress. But trust, she said, "is a two-way street,"

"And we are really being challenged to trust that our partners in Congress can get done what they need to do for us to achieve those ends," she said. "We have to be able to have predictable, reliable, and appropriately strategically driven resources, and we have to be able to have the leadership in place … All of that really impacts our ability to meet our potential."


Good Wednesday 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: AWAITING RELEASE OF HOSTAGES: The last piece of the deal to secure the release of hostages abducted by numerous Hamas terrorists fell into place last night when Israel's War Cabinet approved a deal brokered in part by the U.S. to pause fighting for four days so that 50 women and children of the estimated 240 people held hostage in Gaza can be swapped for 150 Palestinian women and children in Israeli prisons.

"The Government of Israel is obligated to return home all of the hostages. Tonight, the Government has approved the outline of the first stage of achieving this goal, according to which at least 50 hostages – women and children – will be released over four days, during which a pause in the fighting will be held. The release of every additional ten hostages will result in one additional day in the pause," Israel said in a statement posted on social media.

Before the Cabinet vote accepting the terms of the deal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the campaign to wipe out Hamas will continue. "I would like to start with something that should be self-evident. There is a lot of nonsense out there to the effect that after the pause to return our hostages, we will stop the war. Then let me make it clear: We are at war – and will continue the war," he said. "We will continue the war until we achieve all of our war aims: To eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages and our missing, and ensure that there is no element in Gaza that threatens Israel."

The timing of the hostage-for-prisoner swap is expected to be announced later today.


BIDEN 'IMPROVED DEAL': In his remarks, Netanyahu credited President Joe Biden for his efforts to close the deal. "I requested his intervention in order to improve the outline that will be presented to you," Netanyahu told his Cabinet before the vote. "Indeed, it has been improved to include more hostages and at a lower cost. These talks have been productive. President Biden joined in the effort, and I thank him for it."

In turn, Biden also gave credit to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al Thani of Qatar and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi for what he called "their critical leadership and partnership" in reaching the deal.

"I appreciate the commitment that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government have made in supporting an extended pause to ensure this deal can be fully carried out and to ensure the provision of additional humanitarian assistance to alleviate the suffering of innocent Palestinian families in Gaza," Biden said in a statement. "Today's deal should bring home additional American hostages, and I will not stop until they are all released."

BLINKEN CREDITS 'TIRELESS DIPLOMACY': In his statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also said the deal would secure the release of some American citizens who are among the 50 hostages to be freed.

"I cannot imagine the ordeal that each of these individuals has endured over the past few weeks, and I am thankful that they will be reunited with their loved ones soon," Blinken said. "Today's outcome is the result of tireless diplomacy and relentless effort across the Department and broader United States government."

"While this deal marks significant progress, we will not rest as long as Hamas continues to hold hostages in Gaza," he said. "We will continue our efforts to secure the release of every hostage and their swift reunification with their families."

US STRIKES IRANIAN PROXIES IN IRAQ: In two separate strikes over the past 24 hours, the U.S. military hit back at Iranian-backed proxy groups that have launched more than 65 attacks on U.S. troops in both Iraq and Syria since Oct. 17.

The U.S. was watching the militants Monday night (Tuesday morning Iraq time) with an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship when the crew observed a ballistic missile being fired on the al Asad Air Base in Iraq. The modified C-130, armed with a side-mounted 155 cannon, was able to take immediate action, according to Pentagon deputy spokeswoman Sabrina Singh.

"The militants were targeted because the AC-130 was able to determine the point of origin from where the close-range ballistic missile was being fired," Singh said. "They were able to take action because they saw the militants, they were able to keep an eye on the movement of these militants as they moved into their vehicles, and that's why they were able to respond."

"This self-defense strike resulted in some hostile fatalities," Singh said while adding the missile strike resulted in "several non-serious injuries and some minor damage to infrastructure" at the base where U.S. troops are stationed.

In the second strike, announced by the U.S. Central Command last night, the U.S. targeted two facilities in Iraq. The precision airstrikes hit a suspected operations center and a command and control node used by Kataib Hezbollah, according to a post by VOA reporter Carla Babb, who said sources told her at least six enemy forces were killed.


HAPPENING THIS MORNING: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will be hosting another meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group from the Pentagon. The virtual session begins at 8 a.m. with livestreamed opening remarks from Austin, who is just back from his visit to Kyiv.

In an interview recorded in Kyiv yesterday and aired on Fox News last night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that Israel's war against Hamas was diverting world attention away from Ukraine and that some in the U.S. are growing weary of providing financial support.

"It doesn't have good influence on Ukraine. It doesn't help us. But we understand that this is also a challenge for the world, the Middle East, the situation in the Middle East," Zelensky told Fox correspondent Benjamin Hall, who was seriously injured in the early months of covering the war and returned to Ukraine for the first time this week along with Fox CEO Lachlan Murdoch for a meeting with Zelensky.

Asked about polls that show waning support among the U.S. public for aid for Ukraine, Zelensky said, "If we are speaking about the Congress, about the unity around the help of Ukraine, of course, this much is the difficulties."

"We are fighting for common values. It's very important, but we are losing our people, not losing Europeans, Americans," Zelensky said. "It's very important. I hope that Congress will help us. And I hope that the help of the United States will be around Ukrainian people. And I hope that the United States will be with us against Russian terrorism."

N. KOREA'S NEW EYE IN THE SKY: North Korea claims to have successfully launched a spy satellite into Earth's orbit after two failed attempts earlier this year.

"The Democratic People's Republic of Korea successfully launched the new-type carrier rocket 'Chollima-1' loaded with the reconnaissance satellite 'Malligyong-1' at the Sohae Satellite Launching Ground in Cholsan County, North Phyongan Province, at 22:42:28 on November 21," North Korea's space agency said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.

The United States immediately condemned the launch as "a brazen violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions."

"This space launch involved technologies that are directly related to the DPRK intercontinental ballistic missile program," said NSC spokeswoman Adrienne Watson in a statement. "The President and his national security team are assessing the situation in close coordination with our allies and partners. We urge all countries to condemn this launch and call on the DPRK to come to the table for serious negotiations."

"North Korea's missile launch highlights the Biden administration's failed North Korea policy and how the Kim regime uses its scarce resources for its prohibited nuclear weapons and missile programs," said Anthony Ruggiero, senior director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program. "Biden should use U.S. sanctions to target Pyongyang's revenue generation and sanctions evaders in China and Russia."

STI: THE STRATEGIC TURKEY INITIATIVE: The Defense Logistics Agency, the nation's combat logistics support agency, has been managing the U.S. military global supply chain for more than 60 years. But today, it has a singular mission: to ensure U.S. troops around the world can enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving feast tomorrow, no matter where they are deployed.

Here's a breakdown of the 360,000 pounds of food by the numbers:

  • 28,945 whole turkeys
  • 82,592 pounds of roasted turkeys
  • 145,760 pounds of beef
  • 70,957 pounds of ham
  • 40,534 pounds of shrimp
  • 5,007 pounds of sweet potatoes
  • 46,464 pies and cakes
  • 7,407 cans of eggnog

And they have to do it all again next month for Christmas.


The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Israel and Hamas agree to temporary ceasefire in exchange for release of 50 hostages

Washington Examiner: Hard-right Netanyahu ally condemns Israel-Hamas hostage deal: 'Idiocy'

Washington Examiner: Russia may provide air defense capability to Iran or Hezbollah, US warns

Washington Examiner: US military carries out deadly strike in Iraq after attack against US troops

Washington Examiner: US launches strikes targeting Iranian proxy facilities in Iraq following ballistic missile attack

Washington Examiner: Republicans raise alarm over 'sudden' reassignment of DOE intelligence official

Washington Examiner: US and Philippines begin joint patrols in response to 'dire' pressure from China

Washington Examiner: Pentagon has lost four years on modernization due to Congress's continuing resolutions

Washington Examiner: Pentagon faces backlash over $114 million budget request for DEI initiatives in 2024

Washington Examiner: US considers designating Houthis a terrorist organization after cargo ship hijacking

AP: Analysis: Iran-backed Yemen rebels' helicopter-borne attack on ship raises risks in crucial Red Sea

Reuters: Three Americans Expected To Be Included In Gaza Hostage Release-U.S. Official

Wall Street Journal: China Steps Up Support For Palestinian Cause In Challenge To U.S. Mideast Policy

Washington Post: A Growing Global Footprint For China's Space Program Worries Pentagon

Washington Times: Lawmakers Want New Western Alliance For AI To Counter China

AP: Nearly half of Americans think the US is spending too much on Ukraine aid, an AP-NORC poll says

Wall Street Journal: Ukraine's Counteroffensive Is Stalled, But Not At Sea

Washington Post: Biden yet again says Hamas beheaded babies. Has new evidence emerged?

Breaking Defense: How Israel's Shift to CENTCOM Is Paying Off During Gaza Conflict

Marine Corps Times: 'I'll Bounce Back,' Top Marine Vows In 1st Video Since Cardiac Arrest

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Group of Lawmakers Urge Kendall to Speed New F-16 Jets, Upgrades for Taiwan

Defense News: Upgraded F-35s Fly with Partial Software as DOD Hunts for Delivery Fix

Air & Space Forces Magazine: More F-35s Arrive in Okinawa, Bostering 5th-Gen Forces Near Taiwan

DefenseScoop: Pentagon About to Pick Systems for Replicator Initiative

Air & Space Forces Magazine: As Its Last Weather Satellites Age, DOD Works on Plans for a New Generation

Breaking Defense: Airbus Exploring Development of Future Tanker Based on A330neo

Air & Space Forces Magazine: 10 Airmen Make History as the First U-28 Crews to Receive Distinguished Flying Crosses

Air Force Times: Space Force Records First Suicides Since Service's Founding in 2019

Washington Post: Military Branches Have Struck NIL Deals. Service Academy Athletes Still Can't

Military.com: Texas Tried to Block an Air Force Spouse's Occupational License. She Sued and Won, Setting a Legal Precedent.

Hudson Institute: Three Things about the Israel-Hamas War

Forbes: Opinion: Why Using Nuclear Weapons In Ukraine Is A Real Option For Putin

The Cipher Brief: How Israeli and U.S Intelligence Have Rebounded Since Hamas Attack

The Cipher Brief: The U.S. is Still Sending Money for Afghanistan. What's the Strategy?

The Cipher Brief: The Last Analog Spy



2:15 p.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW — American Enterprise Institute discussion: "Election Day in the Netherlands," with Netherlands Ambassador to the U.S. Birgitta Tazelaar; Arthur van Benthem, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania; Matthias Matthijs, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies; Constanze Stelzenmuller, director of the Brookings Institution's Center on the U.S. and Europe; Erik Voeten, professor at Georgetown University; and Stan Veuger, AEI senior fellow https://www.aei.org/events/election-day-in-the-netherlands


Federal holiday — No Daily on Defense


Thanksgiving weekend — No Daily on Defense


6 a.m. EST Brussels, Belgium — Press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events


5 a.m. EST Brussels, Belgium — "Doorstep statement" by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg as the meeting of foreign ministers at NATO Headquarters begins https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events

10 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave., NW — Hudson Institute in-person and virtual discussion: "How the U.S. Should Respond to China's Challenge to U.S. Geoeconomic Leadership," with Miles Yu, senior fellow and director, China Center; Thomas Duesterberg, Hudson senior fellow; Peter Hefele, policy director, Martens Centre for European Studies, Brussels; Leland Miller, co-founder and CEO, China Beige Book; and Craig Singleton, China program deputy director and senior fellow, Foundation for the Defense of Democracies https://www.hudson.org/events/how-us-should-respond-chinas-challenge

10:30 a.m. EST Brussels, Belgium — Press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the end of the first day of the meeting of NATO foreign ministers https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events

4 p.m. 1777 F St. NW — Council on Foreign Relations in-person discussion: "A Conversation about Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Reform," with Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL); Stewart Baker, Steptoe and Johnson LLP, former general counsel, National Security Agency; Glenn Gerstell, senior adviser, International Security Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies former general counsel, National Security Agency; and Karen Kornbluh, distinguished fellow, German Marshall Fund of the U.S. RSVP: Ann Healy ahealy@cfr.org


5:30 a.m. EST — Press conference by NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg at the conclusion of the two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/events

3 p.m. — Advanced Nuclear Weapons Alliance Deterrence Center virtual forum: "Understanding the Modernization of the Land-based Leg of the U.S. Strategic Nuclear Deterrent, LGM-35A Sentinel," with Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, and Air Force Brig. Gen. Colin Connor, director of ICBM Modernization https://www.eventbrite.com/e/us-strategic-nuclear-deterrence


8 a.m. 2401 M St., NW. — George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group in-person discussion: "Final Report of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States," with Madelyn Creedon, commission chairwoman; and Rebeccah Heinrichs, commission member https://nationalsecuritymedia.gwu.edu/events. RSVP: Thom Shanker at tshanker@email.gwu.edu

12 p.m. — SETA Foundation in Washington, D.C., virtual discussion: "Israel's War in Gaza: The Humanitarian Crisis and Prospects for Peace," with Khaled Elgindy, director, Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs, Middle East Institute; Trita Parsi, executive vice president, Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft; Randa Slim, director, Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program, Middle East Institute; Kadir Ustun, executive director, SETA Foundation; and Kilic Kanat, research director, SETA Foundation https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register


10:15 a.m. EST Simi Valley, California — Reagan National Defense Forum with members of Congress, senior leadership of the Department of Defense, former officials, scholars, defense industry leaders, and members of the press https://rndf2023virtual.rsvpify.com

9 a.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW — Hudson Institute in-person and virtual discussion: "U.S. National Security and Ukraine: A Bipartisan Conversation," with Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE); Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA); Luke Coffey, Hudson senior fellow; and Tamar Jacoby, director, Progressive Policy Institute's New Ukraine Project https://www.hudson.org/events/us-national-security-ukraine-bipartisan-conversation


10:15 a.m. EST Simi Valley, California — Reagan National Defense Forum with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. and Shannon Bream of Fox News Sunday https://rndf2023virtual.rsvpify.com


"There is a lot of nonsense out there to the effect that after the pause to return our hostages, we will stop the war. Then let me make it clear: We are at war – and will continue the war. We will continue the war until we achieve all of our war aims: To eliminate Hamas, return all of our hostages and our missing, and ensure that there is no element in Gaza that threatens Israel."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in remarks before his war Cabinet approved the deal for the release of 50 hostages held by Hamas.
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