With Lara Seligman, Jacqueline Feldscher and Connor O’Brien
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— President Donald Trump is accusing generals of being warmongers who are conspiring with defense contractors, as his rift with the military widens.
— The Pentagon is asking Congress for funding flexibility for submarines and nuclear weapons and wants separate books for Space Force spending.
— The Defense secretary and his deputy are headlining defense conferences this week.
HAPPY TUESDAY AND WELCOME BACK TO MORNING DEFENSE, where we’re always on the lookout for tips, pitches and feedback. Email us at [email protected], and follow on Twitter @bryandbender, @morningdefense and @politicopro.
CR WISH LIST: The Trump administration wants lawmakers to grant flexibility for funding the Navy’s new fleet of ballistic missile submarines and the Space Force as part of an upcoming stopgap funding bill, our colleague Connor O’Brien reports.
That’s according to a list of funding exceptions obtained by POLITICO for a planned continuing resolution to keep the government open.
Subs: The administration requested that a CR authorize the Navy to procure the first two Columbia-class ballistic missile subs simultaneously. The White House also wants authority to incrementally fund the subs.
Space Force accounting: The administration also wants lawmakers to transition funding for the Space Force into separate accounts from the Air Force, warning that carrying over the current accounts would create unnecessary red tape for the new service.
New warheads: The list also seeks to free up money for the development of the new W93 submarine-launched nuclear warhead.
Where things stand: The House and Senate are expected to pass a short-term continuing resolution this month to avoid another shutdown ahead of the election. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have tentatively agreed to a plan, but it’s unclear how long this CR would last.
The Senate returns today and the House comes back next week.
ARMY LEADERS OUT FRONT: Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville will participate in separate live-streamed events today: McConville in Defense One’s “State of the Army” event at 11 a.m, and McCarthy in a fireside chat hosted by the Ronald Reagan Institute on “the future of the U.S. Army” at noon.
THE UNMANNED FUTURE: The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International also kicks off its three-day virtual Defense Protection Security conference. Day one has a maritime theme, featuring Navy acquisition chief James Geurts, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations Vice Adm. James Kilby and other top military officials.
Up next: Wednesday’s “air day” will feature Mike Madsen, deputy director of the Defense Innovation Unit, and acting Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Peter Highnam, while Thursday’s “ground day” features Army acquisition chief Bruce Jette.
Related: Protecting against rogue drones, via the Congressional Research Service.
ESPER HEADLINES AI CONFERENCE: On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper is the luncheon speaker at the two-day DoD AI Symposium, which will also feature Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten.
Also: Michael Kratsios, the new acting undersecretary of Defense for research and engineering, will take part in a fireside chat on Wednesday. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper and Pentagon Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy are on tap for Thursday.
DEFENSE NEWS CONFERENCE: Also on Wednesday and Thursday, Defense News holds its annual conference featuring top Pentagon and NATO officials and defense industry CEOs.
The highlights: Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord and retiring Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) will participate in one-on-one interviews on Wednesday. Also set to speak are Space Force Maj. Gen. William Liquori, director of strategic requirements, architectures and analysis, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Plehn, deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command.
Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist is in the lineup for Thursday, along with acting Pentagon policy chief James Anderson; acting Deputy Undersecretary for Research and Engineering Mark Lewis; Army Futures Command chief Gen. John Murray; and Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. Jon Hill.
COMMANDERS’ CORNER: On Wednesday, Air Force Maj. Gen. Dagvin Anderson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, will take part in a webcast by the American Enterprise Institute on “Countering the rise of violent extremists and revisionist powers in Africa” at 9:15 a.m.
And on Thursday, Army Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, will participate in an online discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies at 9 a.m.
Related: Two French soldiers killed in Mali during counterterrorism mission, via The Wall Street Journal.
And: Images suggest North Korea preparing launch of submarine missile, via Reuters.
‘THEY WANT NOTHING BUT TO FIGHT WARS’: Trump on Monday launched a new broadside against his Pentagon brass, accusing them of being beholden to arms makers in resisting his efforts to wind down overseas conflicts, POLITICO’s Matthew Choi reports.
“I’m not saying the military’s in love with me — the soldiers are, the top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Some people don’t like to come home, some people like to continue to spend money. One cold-hearted globalist betrayal after another, that’s what it was.”
Trump’s lashing was the latest in a head-spinning series of developments in recent days that have rocketed the president’s increasingly tense relationship with the armed forces to the forefront of his reelection campaign.
Some of his right-wing allies, such as commentator Mike Cernovich, boosted the narrative that Trump is courageously taking on the “military industrial complex.” Meanwhile, left-wing activist and writer Glenn Greenwald sought to compare Trump to former president and World War II commander Dwight Eisenhower, who originally coined the sinister-sounding title in warning against “the potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power.” (A draft of Ike’s farewell address actually called it the “military-industrial-congressional complex.”)
The only problem is that Trump seems to want to have it both ways: The president has spent much of the last three years lauding his record on defense spending. And his campaign website highlights record defense budgets as one of his “promises kept.”
Trump eyeing VA chief for Pentagon? As further evidence of the strain, Trump is weighing whether to fire Esper, with whom he has clashed publicly in recent months, and replace him with Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie, NBC News reported on Monday.
“Two senior administration officials said Trump discussed the position directly with Wilkie at the White House last month,” the network reported. “Two other senior administration officials said Wilkie had senior-level discussions with the White House about becoming Trump’s next defense secretary.”
Former Pence aide moves up: Michael Cutrone, a former top aide to Vice President Mike Pence, is now the temporary head of international security policy at the Pentagon, the latest sign of churn in the policy shop, our colleague Lara Seligman reports.
Cutrone is performing the duties of the assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs. The position has not been filled by a permanent, Senate-confirmed official since Robert Karem left in late 2018.
Michael Ryan, who had been filling the international security affairs post for the past two months, has resumed his role as deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO.
More Pentagon picks: The White House announced Friday that Trump will nominate Matthew Shipley to be assistant secretary of Defense for readiness. Shipley, who is the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for force readiness, is a former Navy officer and military aide to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Trump is also set to tap retired Navy Rear Adm. Jon Kreitz to be assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs. Kreitz was most recently the deputy director of operations for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
‘LOSERGATE’: Meanwhile, the battle over Trump’s comments as reported in The Atlantic denigrating American troops and war dead as “losers” and “suckers” grew into a full-blown war over the holiday weekend, as more news outlets corroborated the claims, the president and his close allies launched an all-out counterattack and Joe Biden seized on it.
The Sunday talk shows offered a bevy of Trump officials, including two Cabinet secretaries, defending Trump’s record as commander in chief, POLITICO’s Nolan McCaskill reported.
They came to Trump’s defense after Esper on Friday issued a statement insisting that “President Trump has the highest respect and admiration for our nation’s military members, veterans and families,” Seligman also reports.
Pressure also grew on the anonymous sources quoted in The Atlantic’s article to come forward.
“If these guys who’ve said this — or allegedly said it — think it’s that important for the future of this country then they should show some courage and step forward as well,” former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, who served as secretary of Defense in the Obama administration, told ABC’s “This Week.”
Also central to The Atlantic’s report was an exchange between Trump and retired Marine Gen. John Kelly, then his Homeland Security secretary and later his chief of staff, while visiting Kelly’s son’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in 2017. That fueled speculation Kelly might have been a source for the story, including from Trump himself, who pilloried his former aide on Friday. And calls grew over the weekend for Kelly to set the record straight.
Another retired Marine general, former Joint Chiefs Chairman Joe Dunford, was present when Trump skipped a visit to a military cemetery in France in 2018 and reportedly made some of the most disparaging comments about the Marines buried there. But Dunford seems to be avoiding the political firestorm, as a profile published Sunday in his hometown paper, The Boston Globe, suggests.
Regardless, the controversy is unlikely to subside. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg told CNN on Sunday, “I would fully expect more reporting to come out about this and more confirmation and new pieces of information in the coming days and weeks.”
The Biden campaign also seized on the controversy. After the former vice president called the comments “disgusting” in a fiery rebuke on Friday, it aired a new ad featuring some of the most shocking quotes attributed to the commander in chief. And Biden holds a town hall today at noon with military families.
Related: Trump losing military and veterans, via Forbes.
PENTAGON UPHOLDS MICROSOFT’S JEDI DEAL: The Pentagon on Friday said Microsoft is still its choice to build the Defense Department’s multibillion-dollar cloud computing system, after a monthslong review process sparked by a court challenge from losing bidder Amazon, our colleague Steven Overly reports.
But Amazon on Friday promised to continue pursuing its lawsuit against the procurement process for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract and called the Pentagon’s review “nothing more than an attempt to validate a flawed, biased, and politically corrupted decision.”
Megan Milam, who served as director of the office of policy and strategic planning at the National Nuclear Security Administration, is now head of government relations for Anduril Industries, a military technology company founded in 2017.
— U.S. soldier wounded in Somalia truck bombing: The New York Times
— U.S. Navy searches for sailor in Arabian Sea: Bloomberg
— National Guard helicopters rescue 200 people trapped by wildfire: The Associated Press
— Ex-Marine wins Democratic primary for Joe Kennedy’s House seat: The Associated Press
— White House releases cybersecurity space policy: Space News
— Hundreds of U.S. troops arrive in Lithuania for exercise: Agence France-Presse
— German foreign minister says Russia has ‘few days’ to explain poisoning: POLITICO Europe
— How U.S. sanctions can cripple the Syrian regime: Foreign Affairs
— Do Russia’s sunken nuclear submarines pose environmental danger? Popular Mechanics
— ‘Beetle Bailey’ turns 70: Military Times
— BOOK REVIEW: “America in the World: A History of U.S. Diplomacy and Foreign Policy”: The Washington Post