Overnight Defense & National Security – Presented by Boeing – Major weapons test in Russia stokes tensions

It’s Monday, welcome to Overnight Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, Capitol Hill and beyond. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

A major test of Russian anti-satellite weapons has created a potentially dangerous field of about 1,500 pieces of debris in space and has raised concerns in the United States.

We’ll share details of the Russian effort and the Biden administration’s response, as well as the Pentagon’s reaction to Oklahoma’s refusal to enforce its vaccination mandate for National Guard troops.

For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Email me with tips: [email protected].

Let’s go.

Russia hits satellite and creates space debris

A major test of Russian anti-satellite weapons earlier Monday created a potentially dangerous field of around 1,500 pieces of debris in space, US officials confirmed.

At risk : CNN was the first to report on a rare “debris-generating event,” which the State Department said endangered the International Space Station and all global systems and astronauts in space.

“Earlier today, the Russian Federation recklessly conducted a destructive satellite test of a direct anti-satellite missile against one of its own satellites,” State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. journalists during the daily press briefing.

“The test has so far generated more than 1,500 pieces of traceable and orbitable debris” as well as hundreds of thousands of smaller pieces of debris “which now threaten the interests of all nations,” he said. .

What did the missile hit? : Space analysts quickly tracked the missile target as Cosmos-1408, a now-defunct satellite launched by the Soviet Union in 1982.

Price said Washington would now work with allies and partners to respond to the “irresponsible act,” which involved launching a missile from the ground.

The Pentagon’s response: Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also confirmed the test and said that while the immediate concerns focus on space debris, “we are watching closely what kinds of capabilities Russia seems to want to develop.”

Such Kremlin capabilities could “pose a threat not only to our national security interests, but also to the security interests of other space nations.”

Kirby added that the United States wants to see the space “subject to international norms and rules” and that Washington was not informed of the test beforehand.

Growing tensions: Space has become a hotly contested field in recent years, with the United States, Russia and China all building up their arsenals of anti-satellite weapons, lasers and other weaponry to prevent each other from effectively using their satellites.

The incident is sure to raise already high tensions between Washington and Moscow, which are currently at odds over a Russian troop buildup near its border with Ukraine. The Kremlin has insisted that the military buildup is a reaction to NATO’s military activities.

Read the full story here.


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DOD: Oklahoma Guard must follow its mandate

The Pentagon may require members of the Oklahoma National Guard to be vaccinated against COVID-19, although the state’s top military official insists he will not require members to be vaccinated, the top defense ministry spokesman said Monday.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “has the authorities he needs to demand this vaccine across the force, including the National Guard,” press secretary John Kirby told reporters.

A “legal order”: “It’s a legal order for National Guardsmen to get the COVID vaccine. It’s a legal order,” Kirby later said. “Refusing to do so, in the absence of an approved exemption, puts them in the same potential [for punishment] as active members who refuse the vaccine.

Austin in mid-September required all uniformed personnel to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, although the timeframe for doing so varies by branch.

The dispute: Last week, however, the new commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, Army Brig. General Thomas Mancino wrote in a memo that no member of the Oklahoma National Guard will be required to be vaccinated.

Mancino further writes that “no negative administrative or judicial action will be taken” against guards who refuse to be vaccinated.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), who has strongly opposed vaccination mandates, said on Wednesday he had appointed Mancino to the post of adjutant general and commander of the state’s National Guard , although it has yet to be confirmed by the state senate.

Pending response: Kirby said Austin has not contacted Stitt but will “respond appropriately.”

Learn more here.


A judge on Friday dismissed former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell’s challenge to the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate.

The lawsuit in question: Powell’s Texas-based group, dubbed Defending the Republic, filed a lawsuit in October on behalf of 16 active duty service members “in support of their right to refuse” the COVID-19 vaccine.

The lawsuit named Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra, Acting Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Janet Woodcock, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth as defendants.

An unsuccessful argument: The plaintiffs argued that the vaccine’s mandate imposed “unconstitutional conditions by forcing plaintiffs to choose between violation of their constitutional rights or death sentences,” and argued that the FDA’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was unconstitutional.

They said the mandate for the vaccine was not valid because it had not been subject to the required “notice and comment regulations”.

The lawsuit specifically asked the court to prevent the Pentagon from implementing the warrant and to compel the FDA to withdraw its approval of the Pfizer vaccine.

The jugement : U.S. District Judge Allen Winsor, however, ruled on Friday that the plaintiffs’ lawsuit fell short of “the extraordinary burden of showing that the warrant lacked all rationality.”

He said there was a slim chance the service members’ claim about ‘regulation by notice and comment’ would stand because the mandate for the vaccine was announced a day after the FDA granted approval. complete with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

“On the merits, plaintiffs have failed to substantially demonstrate that the FDA acted without a reasonable scientific basis,” Winsor, a Trump appointee, wrote in the ruling. “The FDA is entitled to substantial deference because drug approval decisions involve” scientific determination[s]’ in the FDA’s ‘area of ​​special expertise’.

Read more about the lawsuit here.

Senate ‘likely’ to take over NDAA

Senate debate on President Biden’s social and climate spending bill looks likely to slide after the House failed to send the bill before the Veterans Day break.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (DN.Y.) had hoped to start the debate on the Build Back Better legislation this week. But in a letter sent to the Senate Democratic caucus on Sunday, he said the Senate was “likely” to pass the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a massive policy bill instead. defense.

“Due to the fact that the House has pushed back consideration of the BBBA to the week of November 15, it is likely that the Senate will consider the NDAA this week as we await House passage of the BBBA,” Schumer wrote. , referring to the Build Back Better Act. .

In limbo: Although the defense bill passed out of committee over the summer when it might arrive, the Senate floor has been in limbo as Democrats have tried to determine the timing of the bipartisan bill. on infrastructure, which was adopted by the Senate in August, and the social and climatic climate. expense bill.

The defense bill typically passes through a wide bipartisan margin, but attracts hundreds of potential changes, and it can take around two weeks for the bill to be introduced and put to a final vote.

Also on the program: Schumer, in his letter, noted that debate on the defense bill in the Senate will include a vote on repealing the 2002 Iraq war authorization. He is also considering adding legislation on competitiveness in China that passed the Senate earlier this year but has stalled in the House.

Read the full story here.


Boeing is helping the United States and its allies prepare for future combat with flexible, digitally advanced real-time mission support to win at today’s speed. Learn more.


  • Chatham House will hold a discussion on “Evolution of nuclear security and international armaments,” at 8 a.m.
  • The International Institute for Strategic Studies will host a conference on “Western Responses to China’s Belt and Road Initiative at 8:45 a.m.
  • National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will give a reading of the Biden-Xi virtual meeting at the Brookings Institution at 10 a.m.
  • A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on “Implications of climate change in the Arctic for national security,” at 10 o’clock
  • Former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), former Chairman of House Armed Services Committee, Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) will speak at a Center for Strategic and International Studies, discussion on “The constantly diminishing fighting force” at 12
  • The Hudson Institute will hold a conference on “Is a nuclear Iran inevitable?” at 12
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a closed intelligence briefing at 2:30 p.m.
  • The Center for a New American Security will hear from Air Force Lt. Gen. Clint Hinote, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Integration, and Requirements, on “Design Air Force America needs,” 15 hours
  • The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs will host a discussion on “What’s happening in Sudan?” at 4:30 p.m.


That’s all for today. Discover The Hill’s defense and national security pages for the last cover. See you on Tuesday. {mosades}