Happy Monday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.
THE TOPLINE: Lawmakers on Monday released the details of their fiscal 2020 spending deal after reaching an agreement last week.
Of note, lawmakers have agreed to include $1.375 billion for physical barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, The Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.
The agreement would effectively provide President Trump the same level of funding for the border wall as the fiscal 2019 bills. And the spending deal maintains Trump’s ability to transfer additional money to the border wall.
Lawmakers have until the end of Friday to pass the spending bills, expected to be divided into two packages, to prevent a government shutdown.
The Hill’s Niv Elis also has more details on what else is in the $1.4 trillion deal.
Defense connection: The defense and military construction spending bills got dragged into the border wall drama this year after Trump dipped into Pentagon funding to pay for the wall construction.
Trump then asked for an additional $3.6 billion for fiscal 2020 to backfill money shifted from military construction to the border wall.
Democrats, meanwhile, wanted to add new restrictions into the bill to limit the president’s authority, but Republicans warned they viewed that as a “poison pill” that would sink the overall chances for a deal.
As for the defense authorization: The defense policy bill, meanwhile, is almost at the finish line.
The Senate is taking a procedural vote Monday evening on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), setting up final passage for as early as Tuesday. After that, the bill goes to Trump’s desk, where he’s said he will sign it.
ANNOUNCEMENT ON AFGHAN DRAWDOWN REPORTEDLY IMMINENT: NBC News, followed by other outlets, reported over the weekend that Trump plans to announce a drawdown from Afghanistan as soon as this week.
The reports said Trump plans to announce a drawdown of about 4,000 troops.
The United States has about 12,000 to 13,000 troops in Afghanistan with two missions: to train, advise and assist Afghan troops in their fight against the Taliban and to conduct counterterrorism operations against groups such as al Qaeda and ISIS.
A drawdown at the number being reported would put U.S. troops in Afghanistan at about 8,000 to 9,000.
Speaking to reporters in Kabul, Graham, a leading GOP voice on defense issues who has become a key ally of Trump’s, said a reduction in U.S. forces in Afghanistan “this coming year is possible.”
“If President Trump decides in the next few weeks to reduce our forces below the 12,000 we have, I could support that,” Graham said.
Graham added that he has been “given” the number 8,600 and that Trump is “looking at trying to achieve that number.”
“With 8,600 American forces aligned in the right configuration, we would have a very lethal punch,” Graham said.
Pentagon unfazed by ‘Afghanistan Papers’: It’s been a week since the Washington Post published the “Afghanistan Papers” that showed U.S. officials lying about progress in the Afghanistan War to the public.
Over the weekend, The Hill’s Ellen Mitchell took a look at how Pentagon officials are brushing off questions about the report. Catch up on that here.
US ENVOY DISMISSES NORTH KOREA DEADLINE: With just weeks to go until North Korea’s year-end deadline for talks with the United States, special envoy Stephen Biegun is in South Korea to touch base with the U.S. ally.
Biegun, the Trump’s administration’s point man for North Korea talks, is also scheduled to travel to Japan this week.
While in Seoul on Monday, Biegun dismissed Pyongyang’s deadline.
“On this point, let me be absolutely clear: The United States does not have a deadline,” Biegun told reporters in Seoul. “We are fully aware of the strong potential for North Korea to conduct a major provocation in the days ahead. To say the least, such an action will be most unhelpful in achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
He also urged North Korea to come to the negotiating table.
“Let me speak directly to our counterparts in North Korea: It is time for us to do our jobs. Let’s get this done. We are here. And you know how to reach us,” he said.
Trump would be ‘disappointed’: Trump said Monday he would be “disappointed” if North Korea had something “in the works” with respect to its nuclear program.
“I would be disappointed if something would be in the works, and if it is we will take care of it,” Trump told reporters during a roundtable discussion with governors at the White House when asked whether he was concerned about potential developments.
“We’re watching it very closely,” Trump continued, adding that he’s watching “many places” very closely.
Washington braces for deadline: Over the weekend, your Overnight Defense correspondent took a look at how lawmakers are bracing for North Korea’s deadline.
Pyongyang hasn’t specified what they’ll do once the deadline passes, but experts expect a major provocation such as an intercontinental ballistic missile test or a nuclear test.
ON TAP FOR TOMORROW
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have a confirmation hearing for the nominees to be ambassadors to Brazil and Tanzania at 10 a.m. at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room 419. https://bit.ly/2tpXJqj
The House Oversight Committee’s national security subcommittee will hold a hearing on counterterrorism in Africa at 2 p.m. at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2154. https://bit.ly/34t9OYG
— The Hill: Trump feels like he’s having a good month despite impeachment
— The Hill: Vulnerable Democrats signal support for impeachment articles this week
— The Hill: Judiciary panel explains impeachment charges: ‘Trump has realized the Framers’ worst nightmare’
— The Hill: Opinion: Plan for the day that US and Israeli interests conflict over Iran
— Associated Press: Horse-trading Iran hawks seize on Pompeo’s Senate interest
— The Wall Street Journal: Why North Korea might wait things out with U.S.
— Military Times: Guardsmen deployed to southern US border will get credit toward GI Bill benefits