Defense & National Security — Previous spy balloon incursions leave question mark

Speaking at a House Armed Services Committee, a retired Navy admiral raised the red flag about at least four previous Chinese spy balloons the Pentagon failed to detect, telling lawmakers it was “concerning.”

We’ve got all the details on the hearing and the latest on the downed Chinese spy balloon, including the Navy’s recovery efforts.

Tonight, we’re also going to discuss a man who breached the home base of Air Force One, as well as the Department of Homeland Security’s updated use-of-force policies.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Brad Dress.

Admiral worried about ability to detect spy balloons

Retired Navy Adm. Harry Harris Jr., who was the former commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told Congress he was concerned the Pentagon did not detect at least four previous Chinese spy balloon incursions.

Those previous balloon flyovers include three during the Trump administration and one other incident during the Biden administration that is separate from the Chinese spy balloon the Pentagon shot down on Saturday.

‘This ought to concern all of us’: Harris said there is a “disconnect in our ability to understand these balloons.”

“That ought to concern all of us,” Harris said.

The Navy admiral made the comments a day after Gen. Glen VanHerck, the head of U.S. Northern Command, told reporters the Pentagon failed to detect four previous Chinese balloon incursions.

  • Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.), a member of the Armed Services panel, told The Hill that Congress “absolutely” needs to look at the balloon flyovers in both the Trump and Biden administrations.
  • “The committee has a responsibility to look at all areas of national security,” Horsford said.

GOP fury: Republicans are irate about the Biden administration’s response to the Chinese surveillance device, which flew over the continental U.S. for several days.

“I would pay attention to the kinds of military sites the balloon flew over,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told The Hill. “Why did we wait four days to do it?”

The Pentagon, which first detected the balloon on Jan. 28 over the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, said it did take steps to ensure it was not collecting sensitive information.

  • Harris testified at the hearing that he believed the Pentagon responded appropriately to the balloon.
  • “I do think shooting it down over the Atlantic was the appropriate response,” he said. “If it was a threat to the United States, if it was collecting information that could not be blocked … then that’s a different issue.”

Recovery efforts: Sailors are now pulling up the debris from the downed balloon in the Atlantic Ocean, where it fell into roughly 47-foot water.

U.S. Fleet Forces posted images of the recovery efforts on Twitter, which began on Sunday after the surveillance device was shot down.

The 200-foot aerial object is roughly the size of a regional jet.

Read the full story about the House hearing and the Navy Admiral’s testimony.

Man arrested after he breaches Joint Base Andrews

A man was arrested on Monday after he breached Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, home to the nation’s presidential airplanes, including Air Force One.

While the intruder is in custody, law enforcement officials are still investigating the incident and gathering additional details.

Here’s what we know: Joint Base Andrews tweeted the man breached the base around 11:30 a.m. and gained access to the housing area before he was arrested.

  • A resident of the base opened fire at the man, and security officers arrived shortly after to arrest him.
  • It’s unclear at the moment exactly how the man breached the base and what his motive was.
  • There were no injuries or damaged property.

Not the first time: In February 2021, another man breached Joint Base Andrews through a security lapse.

The individual, wearing a “mouse ears” cap, passed a military checkpoint and made his way into a C-40, an aircraft that flies government officials.

He was arrested once an observant airman noticed he looked suspicious.

An inspector general report concluded there were three major failures that allowed the man to breach the base, including the failure of a security guard who allowed him to enter the base without proper credentials.

Read more here.

New rules limit no-knock warrants, ban chokeholds

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will now limit the use of no-knock warrants and ban chokeholds in new, updated policies for its government agents.

  • “Our ability to secure the homeland rests on public trust, which is built by accountability, transparency, and effectiveness in our law enforcement practices,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement.
  • “Today’s policy announcement is designed to advance those essential values,” Mayorkas added.

What this means: President Biden issued an executive order in May requiring DHS to meet or exceed the Department of Justice’s updated policies in 2021, which contain similar measures on no-knock warrants and chokeholds.

Both departments have updated their policies after intense scrutiny around use-of-force procedures for police officers.

The death of Breonna Taylor in March 2020 called attention to the use of no-knock warrants. Taylor was killed when a police unit investigating drug crimes barged into her apartment just after midnight while she was sleeping.

Chokeholds have also remained a serious concern after the death of unarmed Black men while under police restraint, including Eric Garner in 2014 and George Floyd in 2020. 

Don’t forget: The death of 29-year-old Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn., last month renewed calls for federal police reform legislation.

  • Nichols was killed when a police unit known as Scorpion pulled him over for a minor traffic violation.
  • A video of the incident showed the officers beating, kicking and punching Nichols.
  • “How many of these tragedies do we have to see on video before we say we have a problem, America?” asked Nichols’ family attorney and national civil rights lawyer Ben Crump.

Read the full DHS story here.


  • The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on the “State of the Industrial Base” at 11 a.m. ET. 
  • The HASC will also hold another hearing on “The Role of Special Operations Forces in Great Power Competition” at 3 p.m. ET.
  • The Association of the United States Army will chat with Gen. James Rainey of United States Army Futures Command at the Gordon R. Sullivan Conference and Events Center in Arlington, Va. Opening remarks begin around 7 a.m. ET and a livestream is available here.
  • The Atlantic Council will talk with Tánaiste Micheál Martin, the minister for foreign affairs and defense of Ireland, at 1 p.m. ET. A livestream is available here.



That’s it for today. Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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