NO RESPONSE TO CALLS FOR APOLOGY: So far President Trump has ignored the many calls for him to apologize for appearing to downplay the seriousness of traumatic brain injuries to almost three dozen U.S. troops injured in this month’s Iranian missile attack on their base in Iraq.
Last week, in defending his initial statements in the hours immediately after the Jan. 8 strike, in which he said there were no significant U.S. casualties, Trump insisted the concussions reported by U.S. troops were not as serious as other more visible wounds, such as the loss of limbs from roadside bombs.
“I don’t consider them very serious injuries, relative to other injuries that I’ve seen,” Trump said in a news conference in Davos, Switzerland. “I’ve seen people with no legs and with no arms. I’ve seen people that were horribly, horribly injured … I consider them to be really bad injuries.”
“I heard that they had headaches, and a couple of other things.” he said. “But I would say, and I can report it is not very serious. Not very serious.”
THE NUMBER GROWS: On Friday the Pentagon said the number of U.S. troops who have been treated for concussions and traumatic brain injuries now totals 34.
Eight troops arrived back home last Friday for treatment either at Walter Reed or at their home bases in the U.S. Nine are still being treated at a U.S. military hospital in Germany. Sixteen were diagnosed and treated in Iraq and have already returned to duty. And one who went to Kuwait received treatment and has also returned to duty in Iraq.
“The goal is to be as transparent, accurate and to provide the American people and our service members with the best information about the tremendous sacrifices our warfighters make,” said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman, who said the delay in reporting the number of concussions was due to the nature of the injuries.
“What we saw is a number of people who were initially screened for concussion-like symptoms that showed up at one of the medical providers in the base saw their conditions improve rapidly. And then others, we saw their conditions didn’t improve. Some got worse, and some had severe enough symptoms that they were transported on for further treatment.” he said.
“Over the last two weeks, we have seen a persistent and dedicated effort by our medical professionals on the ground in Iraq, Kuwait and Germany to diagnose and treat any and all members who needed assistance.”
‘IT’S PLAIN WRONG’: “TBI is a serious matter. It is not a ‘headache,’ and it’s plain wrong for President Trump to diminish their wounds,” said Sen. Jack Reed, top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee after Friday’s Pentagon update. “He may not have meant to disrespect them, but President Trump’s comments were an insult to our troops. He owes them an apology.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars also requested an apology. “TBI is a serious injury and one that cannot be taken lightly,” said William “Doc” Schmitz, VFW national commander, in a statement. “The VFW expects an apology from the president to our service men and women for his misguided remarks … And, we ask that he and the White House join with us in our efforts to educate Americans of the dangers TBI has on these heroes as they protect our great nation in these trying times.”
Perhaps the most poignant request came from in the form of an open letter to President Trump from Frank Larkin the father of U.S. Navy SEAL Ryan Larkin, who took his life following a traumatic brain injury.
“My son had “invisible wounds”, just like so many other members of active service and our veteran population,” wrote Larkin.
“It is difficult to put into words the impact that your statement had on me and my family yesterday…it was a hard hit to the gut. An undeserved punch felt by every person suffering from a TBI, their shattered families, and supporting communities who struggle everyday with the consequences of insidious brain injuries,”
NO OFFENSE INTENDED: On CBS yesterday, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton defended Trump, arguing he was “describing their injuries… not dismissing their injuries.” Head injuries, he said, can be anywhere on a scale of being able to quickly return to duty up to having a severe traumatic, lasting injury.
“in fact, all these injuries are not serious, if they’re on the less serious side of the scale than the severe, traumatic side of the scale, the president is just describing what happened here. He was not dismissing them,” Cotton said on Face the Nation. And I think he’s describing, thankfully, what end of the scale that lies on.”
During a town hall on Fox yesterday, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was less charitable. “We’re talking about somebody who as a privileged son of a multi-millionaire faked an injury in order to avoid serving, goes on to become the president, and minimizes the real injuries of those who did,” he said.
Good Monday 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 Susan Katz Keating (@SKatzKeating). 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 us on Twitter: @dailyondefense.
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HAPPENING TODAY: We’ll hear from Defense Secretary Mark Esper at approximately 11:45 a.m. when he takes questions from reporters in the Pentagon Briefing room alongside French Defense Minister Florence Parly. Esper welcomes Parly to the Pentagon with “an enhanced honor cordon” on the River Entrance steps at 10:30 a.m.
The joint news conference afterward will be streamed live at https://www.defense.gov
ALSO TODAY: Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein takes part in a fireside chat with the Center for a New American Security at 10:30 a.m..
NO APOLOGY HERE, EITHER: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo fired back at NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly, after Kelly complained that Pompeo privately berated her, using the F-word for asking about Ukraine in an interview that Pompeo insisted was supposed to be limited to the the subject of Iran.
Kelly tried nine times to get Pompeo to discuss whether he owed an apology to former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, which you can read here.
Pompeo issued a sharply worded statement accusing Kelly of violating the agreed up ground rules during and after the interview, a charge Kelly and NPR dispute.
“NPR reporter Mary Louise Kelly lied to me, twice. First, last month, in setting up our interview and, then again yesterday, in agreeing to have our post-interview conversation off the record,” Pompeo said. “It is shameful that this reporter chose to violate the basic rules of journalism and decency. This is another example of how unhinged the media has become in its quest to hurt President Trump and this Administration.”
AFGHAN PRESIDENT — TRUMP MADE RIGHT CALL: In an interview with the Washington Post at last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had high praise for President Trump, saying he made the right call scuttling a flawed withdrawal deal with the Taliban, and denying that the Afghan government has been cut out of the peace process.
Here’s an excerpt from the exchange between Ghani and the Post’s Lally Weymouth:
Q: What do you think about the fact that the Trump administration is talking to the Taliban without your government?
A: We’ve not been excluded. We’ve been briefed continuously. President Trump took a very principled step when he did not accept the draft agreement last fall.
Q: The agreement that was to be finalized at Camp David? President Trump pulled those plans at the last minute.
A: It was because the president had not been briefed before. When he was briefed, we were very happy with the decisions that he made. President Trump’s visit to Afghanistan during Thanksgiving was a very productive visit.
Q: If the proposed Camp David deal had gone through, President Trump would have reduced U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 14,000 to 8,600. Could you have lived with that?
A: Two things have happened. One: President Trump and the U.S. administration have invested considerably in technology so the numbers are no longer the key. Secondly, the Afghan forces are now doing the bulk of the fighting and managing the war.
Q: Could Afghan forces win the war without U.S. help?
A: We’re advancing. In 2014, when I became president, 100,000 NATO troops withdrew, and everyone was saying that we would collapse in moments. We didn’t. . . . The remaining U.S. troops are not for the defense of Afghanistan but for the prevention of attacks on the United States.
Q: So do you need a small number of U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan?
A: A small number is required in order to deal with the threat of terrorism and to support us because it’s an advise, assist and training mission — not a fighting mission.
CONTROVERSY OVER SPACE FORCE SEAL FLAMES OUT: The twitterverse was momentarily sizzling Friday with outraged Star Trek aficionados making a light-speed jump to the conclusion that the new U.S. Space Force seal, was a rip-off of the fictional Starfleet Academy logo.
Soon thereafter many on Twitter pointed out that the new seal was a reworking of the old U.S. Space Command design from the 1980s, and that in fact as one tweeter noted, “Deltas, swoops, and swooshes have been part of spaceflight symbology since the 1960’s.”
In a statement posted on Facebook the U.S. Space Force explained. “The delta symbol, the central design element in the seal, was first used as early as 1942 by the U.S. Army Air Forces; and was used in early Air Force space organization emblems dating back to 1961. Since then, the delta symbol has been a prominent feature in military space community emblems.”
That didn’t stop George Takei, the actor who played Sulu on the original Star Trek and a consistent critic of the president, from mocking the design in an op-ed. “Indeed, with the two logos placed side by side, the resemblance is so remarkable that I had to wonder whether Melania Trump was part of the design committee,” he wrote.
Northrop Grumman has been awarded a $13 million contract for a program designed to develop defenses against maneuverable hypersonic glide vehicles dubbed “Glide Breaker.” “This contract provides for the research, development and demonstration of a technology that is critical for enabling an advanced interceptor capable of engaging maneuvering hypersonic threats in the upper atmosphere,” the Pentagon said in an announcement Friday.
Work will be performed in Redondo Beach, California (73%); Mesa, Arizona (21%); Sacramento, California (4%); and Huntsville, Alabama (2%), with an estimated completion date of January 2021, according to the contract award announcement.
Lockheed Martin has announced former Joint Chiefs Chairman retired Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford to its board of directors effective Feb. 10.
“General Dunford’s service to the nation at the highest levels of military leadership will bring valuable insight to our board,” said Marillyn Hewson, chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin. “His experience in complex, global operations and risk management, including cybersecurity threats, is a tremendous asset and will enhance board oversight in key business areas.”
Boeing led the defense industry spending on lobbying last year, according to an analysis of year-end disclosures by Politico.
“The commercial and military aerospace giant disclosed $13.8 million spent on lobbying activities in 2019. That’s down from $15.1 million in 2018, when Boeing also placed first among defense contractors,” Politico reported last week.
The rounding out the top five, according to Politico:
Washington Examiner: Three rockets make ‘direct hit’ on US Embassy in Baghdad: Report
Washington Examiner: US soldier killed during vehicle ‘rollover accident’ in Syria
Washington Examiner: ‘A dirty word’: After tense exchange, Guantanamo judge says he’ll rule on whether 9/11 plotters were tortured
Washington Examiner: Iran says it has the ability to enrich uranium ‘at any percentage’
AP: The U.S. Is Committed To Syria Mission, Says Top American General In The Middle East
Military.com: The Navy Is Making Big Changes to the Way it Plans for Future Ships
Wall Street Journal: Pentagon Blocks Clampdown on Huawei Sales
Reuters: China Has World’s Second-Largest Arms Industry, Think Tank Estimates
AP: Fighting rages as Libya force pushes toward key western city
Reuters: North Korea Urges Citizens To ‘Break Through Barriers’ As Nuclear Standoff Continues
Air Force Magazine: Valkyrie Drone Completes Fourth Flight Test
Stars and Stripes: Navy Deploys Pair Of Tritons To Guam For Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’s Pacific Debut
Virginian Pilot: Now At Sea, USS Gerald R. Ford Enters A New Phase In Its Path To Deployment
USNI News: Navy MH-60S Helicopter Crashes in the Philippine Sea off Okinawa, Crew Rescued
Forbes: How Top Military Contractors Raytheon And BAE Systems Are Drawing Non-Traditional Suppliers Into Defense
MONDAY | JANUARY 27
10 a.m. 14th and F St. N.W. — Debra Tice, mother of detained journalist Austin Tice, holds a news conference with Mike Freedman, president of the National Press Club, to provide an update on the second annual Night Out for Austin Tice, a national awareness campaign to free the journalist held in Syria since August 2012. Streamed live at https://www.press.org/events/npc-press-briefing
10:30 a.m. Pentagon River Entrance — Defense Secretary Mark Esper welcomes French Defense Minister Florence Parly to the Pentagon, followed by a joint news conference in the Pentagon Briefing Room at approximately 11:45 a.m. Streamed live at https://www.defense.gov
10:30 a.m. 1177 15th St. N.W. — Center for a New American Security “Fireside Chat” with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, moderated by Susanna Blume, senior fellow and director, CNAS Defense Program. https://www.eventbrite.com
2 p.m. 101 Constitution Ave. N.W. — Intelligence and National Security Alliance seminar “Great Power Competition: Disinformation and Influence Operations,” with Shelby Pierson, intelligence community election threats executive in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; former National Security Agency Deputy Director Richard Ledgett, senior visiting fellow at the MITRE Corporation; Jane Holl Lute, president and CEO of SICPA North America; Aaron Brantly, cyber policy fellow at the Army Cyber Institute; Jennifer Mathieu, chief technologist for social analytics and integrity at MITRE; and Tom Warrick, nonresident senior fellow at Atlantic Council https://www.insaonline.org/event
TUESDAY | JANUARY 28
10 a.m. Rayburn 2118 — House Armed Services Committee hearing: “Security Update on the Korean Peninsula,” with John Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy and Lt. Gen. David Allvin, joint staff director for strategy, plans and policy. https://armedservices.house.gov/hearings
8:15 a.m. 2121 Crystal Dr. Arl, —- National Defense Industrial Association meeting of the Electronics Division, with Daniel Goldin, CEO and founder of KnuEdge; Derek Tournear, director of the Space Development Agency; David Davis, systems engineering division chief of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center; and Patrick Murphy, strategic planning and integration director at NASA. https://www.ndia.org/events
9:30 a.m. 14th and F St. N.W. — National Press Club International Correspondents Committee discussion on “10 World Conflicts to Watch in 2020,” with former White House foreign affairs adviser Robert Malley, president and CEO of the International Crisis Group. https://www.press.org/events
11 a.m. Lockheed Martin webcasts fourth quarter and full year 2019 earnings results conference call, with Marillyn Hewson, chairman, president and chief executive officer; Ken Possenriede, executive vice president and chief financial officer; and Greg Gardner, vice president of investor relations. https://news.lockheedmartin.com
11 a.m. 1030 15th St. N.W. — Atlantic Council discussion on “Logistics: The Role of TRANSCOM in Great-Power Competition,” with Gen. Stephen Lyons, commander, U.S. Transportation command. https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/event
2 p.m. 529 14th St. N.W. — Arms Control Association event “The Case for Extending New START,” with retired Lt. Gen. Jack Weinstein, former Air Force deputy chief of staff for strategic deterrence and nuclear integration; Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb.; Madelyn Creedon, former principal deputy administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, Department of Energy; Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies, American Enterprise Institute; and Alexander Vershbow, former U.S. ambassador to Russia and NATO deputy secretary general. Register at https://docs.google.com/forms
2 p.m. 2301 Constitution Ave. N.W. — United States Institute of Peace discussion on “Healing Afghanistan Through Art,” with Roya Rahmani, Afghanistan ambassador to the U.S.; Kabir Mokamel, co-founder and creative director of ArtLords; District of Columbia Youth Poet Laureate Marjan Naderi; Hamidullah Natiq, artist and local peace activist; Omaid Sharifi, co-founder and president of ArtLords; Johnny Walsh, senior expert at USIP; and Nancy Lindborg, president and CEO of USIP http://www.usip.org
WEDNESDAY | JANUARY 29
7:30 a.m. 300 First St. S.E. — Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Air Force Gen. John Hyten speaks at the Air Force Association “Breakfast Series.” https://www.afa.org/events
9 a.m. — General Dynamics webcasts fourth quarter and full-year 2019 financial results conference. https://www.gd.com
10:30 a.m. — The Boeing Company releases financial results for the fourth quarter of 2019 in a conference call with President and CEO David Calhoun and Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President of Enterprise Performance & Strategy Greg Smith. Webcast at http://event.on24.com
11:30 a.m. 1667 K St. N.W. — Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment discussion of new report, “Taking Back the Seas: Transforming the U.S. Surface Fleet for Decision-Centric Warfare,” with Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. https://files.constantcontact.com
THURSDAY | JANUARY 30
7 a.m. — Raytheon Company releases 2019 fourth quarter and full-year results on its website, followed by a conference call at 9 a.m. Jan. 30, 2020. Audiocast www.raytheon.com/ir
9 a.m. G50 Dirkson. — Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Defense Authorization request for Fiscal Year 2021 and the Future Years Defense Program, with Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, U.S. Africa Commander; and Adm. Craig Faller, U.S. Southern Commander. https://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“Apparently, the new logo is just another iteration on the former Air Force Space Command logo, which also featured an upward pointing delta, but the final product with its concentric rings and swooping orbits looks so much like Starfleet’s, I fear it could easily confuse any Vulcans and Klingons who see it.”
Actor George Takei, who portrayed Sulu on the original Star Trek, and was the many who commented on the similarity between the new U.S. Space Force seal and the logo of a fictional Starfleet Command.