Senate to take up Pentagon deputy pick

With Connor O’Brien and Jacqueline Feldscher

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Defense companies’ bottom lines have already taken a hit in anticipation of the Biden administration’s plans to review the country’s military portfolio.

FIRST LOOK: A new report calls on the administration to reverse the recent $23 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will take up the president’s pick for the Pentagon’s No. 2 as congressional defense committees take shape.

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SENATE ARMED SERVICES TO HEAR HICKS NOMINATION: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Tuesday for Kathleen Hicks to be deputy Defense secretary, our colleague Connor O’Brien reports.

If confirmed, Hicks, a think tank scholar who led President Joe Biden’s transition team at the Pentagon, will be the first woman to hold the post.

Senate power-sharing deal moves forward: The news of Hicks’ hearing comes as Democrats are poised to take control of Senate committees, now that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have agreed on power-sharing rules for the 50-50 Senate.

Ranking Democrat Jack Reed (D-R.I.) will take over as Senate Armed Services chair from Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.). The delay hasn’t slowed the consideration of Biden’s Pentagon team, according to Inhofe’s office.

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: The House Armed Services Committee will meet next Wednesday to adopt rules and organize for the new Congress, which must happen before the committee can hold hearings and votes. The panel had planned a public hearing with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last week, but couldn’t convene because full slates of members hadn’t been named yet.

New members: Freshman Democrat Marilyn Strickland of Washington state has been appointed to the Armed Services Committee. Strickland is the seventh Democrat named this month to fill vacancies on the committee.

PRESSING BIDEN: Inhofe urged the new administration to make countering China and Russia a key part of annual defense legislation in an op-ed out Tuesday. “China and Russia uniquely threaten our way of life,” the Oklahoma Republican warned, noting that opposing them is not a “partisan policy.” He also pushed for a reinstallment of $550 billion that was cut from the defense budget as a “down payment required to maintain our position against China and Russia over the next several decades.”

“Biden has chosen to prioritize diplomatic efforts — that’s clear from his nominations so far — but he would do well to remember that a strong military underwrites strong diplomacy,” he wrote.

BLINKEN CONFIRMED: The Senate on Tuesday confirmed Antony Blinken to lead Biden’s State Department, where he’ll take the reins of U.S. foreign policy amid major global challenges and following years of internal turmoil. Blinken won bipartisan approval and received a 78-22 vote, POLITICO’s Nahal Toosi reports.

POMPEO TO HUDSON: Blinken’s predecessor, Mike Pompeo, is also sticking around Washington and plans to join the conservative Hudson Institute, Axios scooped on Tuesday.

Hudson was founded in 1961 by Herman Kahn, one of the so-called “megadeath intellectuals” of the early Cold War. It’s also home to fellow Trump alum and hawk Tim Morrison, who oversaw the arms control and Russia portfolios at the National Security Council.

Related: Fight over Biden Mideast adviser becomes proxy war over Iran policy, via POLITICO’s Natasha Bertrand.

And: Mayorkas nomination moves forward, no word on confirmation yet, via POLITICO’s Sabrina Rodriguez.

#POLITICOSPACE IS LIVE: Join us today at 1 p.m. for a POLITICO Live event, sponsored by the nonprofit Aerospace Corp., on the Biden administration’s national security space policy. The event features Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel; Victoria Samson, Washington director for the Secure World Foundation, among others, and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Peter Garretson, senior fellow in defense studies at the American Foreign Policy Council.

Also, the Association of Old Crows hosts a virtual discussion with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown at 1 p.m.

And the Heritage Foundation hosts a conversation on the defense industrial base with Jerry McGinn, executive director of the Center for Government Contracting at George Mason University, at 2 p.m.

The Brookings Institution will also host a virtual event on air and missile threats at 2 p.m.

A ‘COMMON CONSTITUENCY’: We caught up on Tuesday with the new chief Pentagon spokesperson, John Kirby, who’s no stranger to the press corps — or for that matter, many of our readers. “There’s always been tension in the military-media relationship, and I think in most respects it is a healthy tension,” said Kirby, a retired Navy rear admiral who spent his career in public affairs and later was the top State Department flack. “We serve one single common constituency and that’s the American people.”

He plans to improve media relations, he said, “through rekindling the relationships that I used to have with the press that covers this building and building new ones with the fresh faces in the press corps. And making it apparent from a very early stage that we are going to be accessible, we are going to be transparent, most critically we are going to be honest … and to the degree I can’t be honest with you, I have an obligation to tell you why I can’t be honest.”

There is also some work to be done inside the military. “There has been over many years a growing reluctance by the many military leaders to engage with the media,” Kirby said. “That’s unfortunate because the constant engagement … of that relationship is very useful to providing the proper context when things are difficult to explain.

“Public affairs is just as important to the military mission as logistics or intelligence or maneuver,” he added. “Military conflicts have literally been determined and shaped by the information environment more than they have been by the bombs that were dropped or the shells that were fired.”

FIRST LOOK — NEW PLEA TO HALT UAE ARMS PACKAGE: The left-leaning Center for International Policy is out with a new report today calling on the Biden administration to reverse former President Donald Trump’s 11th-hour decision to sell $23 billion worth of fighter jets, transport planes and missile defense systems to the United Arab Emirates.

“This is no time to be offering a flood of new weaponry to the UAE, given its role in fueling the wars in Yemen and Libya, its diversion of past U.S.-supplied arms to extremist groups, and its record of internal repression,” said William Hartung, the author of the report and director of the think tank’s Arms and Security Program.

The report recommends that before the UAE should be eligible for such arms, it should end its support for militias in Yemen and “conduct credible, impartial and transparent investigations into alleged violations of the laws of war involving national armed forces in Yemen, and provide prompt and adequate redress for civilian victims and their families for deaths, injuries and property damage resulting from wrongful attacks.”

EARNINGS MIXED BAG: The first two major contractors to report their fourth quarter earnings proved that defense companies can experience the pandemic very differently based on who their primary customers are.

Lockheed Martin, which mostly works with the Pentagon, reported another successful quarter with $17 billion in sales and a 9 percent growth in sales in 2020 compared to the previous full year, our colleague Jacqueline Feldscher reports.

Raytheon Technologies, by contrast, had a rough quarter. The company’s Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace segments, which both do a lot of commercial business, saw doubt-digit sales drops in the fourth quarter because of the pandemic’s impact on travel, Feldscher also reports.

Raytheon is also bracing for the Biden administration to rein in some overseas arms deals. Company leaders said they have removed from the books a $519 million potential sale of an “offensive weapon system” to a “customer in the Middle East.” While the company did not identify the specific weapon, Defense One reported Raytheon was likely talking about the sale of 7,500 Paveway bombs to Saudi Arabia.

“We had assumed that we were going to get a license to provide these offensive weapon systems to our customer,” CEO Greg Hayes said in a call with investors. “With the change in administration, it becomes less likely that we’re going to be able to get a license for this

Boeing and General Dynamics — both of which typically do a significant amount of non-military sales — report their fourth quarter and full-year earnings today.

— D.C. National Guard deployment extended through end of March: POLITICO

Pentagon restricted commander of D.C. Guard ahead of Capitol riot: The Washington Post

— ‘We did not do enough’: Acting Capitol Police chief apologizes for security failure: POLITICO

From Navy SEAL to part of the angry mob outside the Capitol: The New York Times

Russia, U.S. extend arms pact, Kremlin says, as Biden, Putin talk: Reuters

— On first call with Putin, Biden raises election interference, bounties, Navalny poisoning: POLITICO

Pentagon to probe Middle East, special forces law of war violations amid Biden review: Newsweek

U.S. announces restoration of relations with Palestinians: The Associated Press

What happens to the Space Force now?: The Atlantic

— BOOK EXCERPT: 2034, Part I: Peril in the South China Sea