Daily on Defense: Biden’s red line, Austin meets German defense minister, the Space Force revolt, and claims of a tragic mistake in death of airman

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BIDEN'S RED LINE: In an interview that aired on CNN last night, President Joe Biden drew a stark red line in his dispute with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel's plans to launch a full-scale assault on Rafah to finish off Hamas.

Too many civilians have been killed in Gaza "as a consequence" of U.S.-supplied bombs "and other ways in which they go after population centers," Biden told CNN's Erin Burnett. "I have made it clear to Bibi and the war cabinet. They’re not going to get our support if, in fact, they’re going into these population centers."

"They haven’t gone into Rafah yet," Biden said. "If they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah. … It’s just wrong. We’re not going to supply the weapons and the artillery shells that have been used."

"We’re going to continue to make sure Israel is secure, in terms of Iron Dome and their ability to respond to attacks like came out of the Middle East recently," Biden said, indicating the flow of defensive weapons would be unaffected. "We’re not walking away from Israel’s security. We’re walking away from Israel’s ability to wage war in those areas."

Burnett asked Biden if he hears the message of "young Americans" opposed to Israel's war in Gaza, some of whom hold signs calling him “Genocide Joe."

"Absolutely, I hear the message," Biden said. "There’s a legitimate right to free speech and protest. There’s a legitimate right to do that. And they have a right to do that. There’s not a legitimate right to use hate speech. There’s not a legitimate right to threaten Jewish students. There’s not a legitimate right to block people’s access to class. That’s against the law."


AUSTIN: 'WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE THEM DO MORE PRECISE OPERATIONS': In an appearance before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faced sharp questions over how the administration could pause a shipment of 3,500 500- and 2,000-pound bombs to Israel after emergency aid to the "ironclad" ally, requested by the president, had just passed Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support.

"Many of us in this room worked hard to get aid included and passed by the House and Senate," Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS) pressed Austin. "Does this not send the wrong message to our ally Israel and embolden Iran and Iranian-backed groups? We should not be signaling to Iran’s enemies that our support is conditional."

"We’ve been very clear, senator, as you know, from the very beginning that Israel shouldn’t launch a major attack in Rafah without accounting for and protecting the civilians that are in that battle space," Austin replied. "We have assessed the situation. We paused one shipment of high-payload munitions. … I would highlight that this shipment doesn’t have anything to do with the supplemental appropriations that you just helped us get."

"We would also like to see them do more precise operations," Austin said. "We wanted to make sure that we saw a plan to move those civilians out of the battle space before executing any kind of ground combat operation."

The weapon shipment that was paused, Austin said, included some big bombs that were not suited for urban combat, where civilians are mixed in with enemy combatants. "A small diameter bomb, which is a precision weapon that’s very useful in a dense, built-up environment, but maybe not so much a 2,000-pound bomb that could create a lot of collateral damage," Austin said.

"I don’t doubt that they have some very good policies, and they do, but it’s important to make sure that we’re following the policies," Austin said. "And so we’ve been having conversations about this."

"An invasion of Rafah would leave untold death and destruction in its wake — including massive civilian casualties and devastating impacts on the delivery of humanitarian aid — while undermining efforts to release the hostages," Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) said in a statement of support for Biden's red line. "Today's commitment from the president makes clear that the United States will not be complicit in this suffering and follows through on his repeated warnings to the Netanyahu government. American support must be used in line with our interests and our values."


INSTANT OUTAGE, 'OBSCENE, ABSURD': Biden's ultimatum to Netanyahu sparked immediate outrage from Israel's staunchest supporters in Congress, with Republicans lining up to excoriate the president.

"President Biden has broken his 'ironclad' commitment," Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) said in a statement last night. "While his appeasement has failed to halt terrorist attacks in the Middle East, he has no right to withhold ammunition from our greatest ally in the region. There should be no wavering in U.S. support for Israel as they defend their right to exist and fight to bring Hamas-held hostages home."

A group of five senators, including Ernst and led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), is holding a news conference at noon today to announce a resolution condemning "any action by the Biden Administration to withhold or restrict weapons for Israel."

"You’re telling me you’re going to tell them how to fight the war and what they can and can’t use when everybody around them wants to kill all the Jews. And you’re telling me that if we withhold weapons in this fight, the existential fight for the life of the Jewish state, it won’t send the wrong signal," Graham railed at Austin in yesterday's hearing. "If we stop weapons necessary to destroy the enemies of the state of Israel at a time of great peril, we will pay a price. This is obscene. It is absurd. Give Israel what they need to fight the war. They can’t afford to lose."

Joining Graham and Ernst at today's news conference will be Sens. Jim Risch (R-ID), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Roger Marshall (R-KS).


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 Stacey Dec. 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


HAPPENING TODAY: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin meets at the Pentagon at 10:30 a.m. with German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius

The visit comes as earlier this week German Chancellor Olaf Scholz proposed using the interest generated from frozen Russian assets to fund arms purchases to bolster Ukrainian defenses and amid reports that Germany is preparing to send Ukraine a prototype of a new artillery shell that can travel more than 60 miles, three times the range of a typical 155 mm round.

IRAN, NORTH KOREA, CHINA RESCUED RUSSIA: During yesterday's Senate subcommittee hearing, Austin conceded that were it not for the help Vladimir Putin has received in the last six months from its allies, Russia would be in dire straits.

"At one point, Russia had experienced significant losses because of the work that Ukraine and its forces was doing. They had inflicted significant casualties on the Russian forces, destroyed a significant amount of its equipment," Austin said. Then, "we saw Russia engage North Korea, who provided quite a bit of munitions and missiles. The drones provided by Iran really kind of helped begin to turn the tide there for Russia a bit and allow them to kind of get back up on their feet."

"Without the help from Iran, North Korea, and China, to your point, this probably would not have occurred to the degree that it has occurred," Austin said.

Despite reports Russia has been able to reinvigorate its industrial base, an analysis from the Institute for the Study of War concluded "Russia is currently sustaining its war effort largely by pulling from storage rather than by manufacturing new vehicles and certain weapons at scale."

Citing recent satellite imagery of depleted Russian military vehicle and weapon storage facilities, the ISW said Russia’s vehicle stores "have significantly decreased from pre-war levels by nearly 32%."

The ISW said a "social media source tracking Russian military depots" reported that about half of the remaining artillery systems at this base are likely unusable due to degradation while in storage and because many of the remaining systems are World War II era artillery systems incompatible with modern ammunition.

THE SPACE GUARD REVOLT: As the Washington Examiner's Mike Brest reported this week, 85 members of Congress from both parties are adamantly opposed to an Air Force plan to move some National Guard troops to the Space Force, effectively removing them from the authority of state governors.

"The original intent of the National Guard was to have a force ready to respond to the needs of their state and country. Because of this, authority was placed in the hands of each state's individual governor," the 29 senators and 56 representatives said in a letter obtained by the Washington Examiner. "We urge the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to reject the inclusion of Legislative Proposal 480 in the FY2025 NDAA."

Asked about the plan yesterday, Austin said it would involve only a "small number of people" but that the Air Force has a responsibility to engage with state governors to address their concerns.

"Most recently secretary of the Air Force has reached out and engaged the governors to talk about this issue and explain the rationale," Austin said. "As you know, when we stood up Space Force, we took on units and people that were focused on the space mission and incorporated those from the Air Force, from the Army, from the Navy, and incorporated those people and units into the Space Force."


A TRAGIC MISTAKE? The family of Roger Fortson, a 23-year-old active-duty senior airman who was fatally shot by a Florida sheriff's deputy last week, has retained high-profile attorney Ben Crump to pursue claims that Fortson was shot dead by an Okaloosa County sheriff's deputy, who was at the wrong address.

According to a press release posted on X, Crump said a witness was FaceTiming with Fortson when the deputy knocked on his door. The woman said Fortson got no response when he asked who was there.

"Concerned, he did what any other law-abiding citizen would do and retrieved his legally-owned gun," Crump said. "Police burst through the door" and shot him “six times." 

According to an unverified audio recording of a dispatch call posted on Facebook, police received a disturbance call related to a male and female and that it was called in by an apartment complex's leasing office. The recording refers to a black male who had been shot "multiple" times in the chest, the Air Force Times reported.



Washington Examiner: Biden refuses to supply bombs and artillery shells if Israel attacks Rafah

Washington Examiner: Biden blasted by allies and critics over reversal on sending weapons to Israel: 'Deeply disappointing' 

Washington Examiner: Graham tells Austin: Pausing weapons to Israel is 'obscene'

Washington Examiner: Biden has confidence in Burns in Israel-Hamas negotiation: White House

Washington Examiner: Israel-Hamas conflict: Where things stand on four burning issues

Washington Examiner: Israel downplays significance of Rafah while driving Hamas from Egyptian border

Washington Examiner: House committee confronts Havana Syndrome's Russia connection

Washington Examiner: The 43 House members who backed MTG’s effort to oust Speaker Mike Johnson

Reuters: Hamas Says It Will Not Compromise Further With Israel To Win Gaza Ceasefire

New York Times: Fighting In Rafah And Closure Of Gaza Crossings Threaten Aid Operation, U.N. Says

Breaking Defense: Key Senate Appropriators Signal Push for Higher FY25 Defense Topline

AP: Yemen's Houthi Rebels Claim 2 Attacks In Gulf Of Aden, Another Unreported In Indian Ocean

New York Times: Britain To Expel Russian Defense Attaché And Close Some Diplomatic Sites

Stars and Stripes: Top Army General In Pacific Says Asian Nations Moving Toward NATO-Like Cooperation To Counter China

CNN: Congressmen Demand Answers After CNN Report Contradicts Pentagon Investigations Into Deadly Kabul Airport Attack

Navy Times: Submarine Delays Push SEALs To Find New Underwater Approaches

Air & Space Forces Magazine: In F-16 Dogfight, AI and Human Pilots Are 'Roughly an Even Fight,' Says Kendall

Air & Space Forces Magazine: New Tech Helping Airmen Think Faster in Training, AETC Boss Says

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Drone Swarms Pose New Threat to US Bases, Official Says

Breaking Defense: Air Force Acquisition Czar Delays Key Milestone for Ground Moving Target Satellites

SpaceNews: National Space Council Will Explore Military Space and Intelligence Roles and Responsibilities

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Brown: Aircraft Age and Need for New Tech Driving Need for 'Doomsday' Replacement

Air & Space Forces Magazine: Hinds Nominated to Be New Deputy Commander at USAFE

The War Zone: Air Force's ULTRA Long-Endurance Glider-Like Drone Is Now Operating in the Middle East

Aviation Week: AFSOC Focuses On V-22 Replacement, Plans 'Marginal' Fixes

The War Zone: C-130 Floatplane Program Put 'On Pause' by Special Operations Command

DefenseScoop: Pentagon Issues New Guidance to Address Industry Gripes About ATO Process

Popular Science: Space Force Finds a Dead Cold War-Era Satellite Missing for 25 Years

Military.com: Police Who Shot Florida Airman 6 Times in His Home May Have Entered Wrong Apartment, Family Says



9 a.m. Tampa, Florida — Global Special Operations Forces Foundation "SOF Week," with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. delivering remarks on “The Power of Allies and Partners" and Christopher Maier, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict https://www.sofweek.org

10 a.m. — Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association virtual discussion: "The Army’s current strategies for improving software development and acquisition processes, and the anticipated impact on enhancing operational effectiveness and agility,” with Margaret Boatner, deputy assistant Army secretary for strategy and acquisition reform; Jennifer Swanson, deputy assistant Army secretary for data, engineering, and software; Army Chief Information Officer Leonel Garciga; and Bill Hepworth, program executive officer for enterprise information systems at the Army https://afceanova.swoogo.com/May24Lunch

12 p.m — Middle East Institute virtual discussion: “The Biden Administration’s National Cybersecurity Strategy: Opportunities and Challenges,” with John Hauser, partner at the EY Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Group; Niranjan Shankar, MEI nonresident scholar; Alicia Chavy, MEI nonresident scholar; and Mohammed Soliman, director of the MEI strategic Technologies and Cyber Security Program https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register

2 p.m. — Carnegie Endowment for International Peace virtual discussion: “The Israel-Hamas War,” with Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog https://carnegieendowment.org/2024/05/09/israel-hamas-war

2 p.m. — Government Executive Media Group virtual discussion: “Service Branch Spotlight: Space Force,” with Brian Kehl, deputy commanding general-support at the Space Force’s Space Operations Command, and Audrey Decker, air warfare reporter at Defense One https://events.defenseone.com/defense-one-service-branch-spotlight-space-force

FRIDAY | MAY 10 10 a.m. — Air and Space Forces Association virtual discussion with Chief Master Sgt. of the Space ForceJohn Bentivegnahttps://www.afa.org/events/air-space-warfighters-in-action

"I have made it clear to Bibi and the war cabinet they're not going to get our support if, in fact, they're going into these population centers. We're not walking away from Israel's security. We're walking away from Israel's ability to wage war in those areas."
President Joe Biden, in an interview with CNN, threatening to withhold offensive weapons if Benjamin Netanyahu launches a full-scale assault on Hamas in Rafah
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