Defense Department

Updated at 6:18 p.m. ET

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday unveiled a policy change that effectively blocks the public display of the Confederate battle flag at all U.S. military installations without specifically naming that controversial banner.

Esper's announcement follows a lengthy internal debate as well as recent bans on displaying the flag by both the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Navy.

President Trump is escalating his fight with Congress over a broad bipartisan effort to rename military installations named for figures from the Confederacy, threatening to veto an annual defense bill if it includes the provision.

The Senate is debating the National Defense Authorization Act, which already includes the provision backed by most members of the Senate panel. Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of House lawmakers is looking to add the change as part of ongoing negotiations for its version of the defense legislation.

Updated at 9:51 p.m. ET

Members of Congress in both parties demanded answers on Monday about reported bounties paid by Russian operatives to Afghan insurgents for targeting American troops.

The stories appeared to have taken even the most senior lawmakers off guard, and they said they wanted briefings soon from the Defense Department and the intelligence community.

Retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis, who resigned as President Trump's defense secretary nearly a year and a half ago over policy differences, has issued an extraordinary critique of the White House's handling of nationwide unrest, saying Trump has sought to divide Americans and warning against "militarizing our response" to the protests.

Updated at 7 p.m. ET

In a move that possibly placed his job in peril, Defense Secretary Mark Esper publicly disagreed Wednesday with President Trump's threatened use of the 1807 Insurrection Act to quell widespread unrest over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck.

President Trump has removed the head of a group charged with overseeing the $2 trillion coronavirus package passed by Congress last month.

The coronavirus recovery law requires that an existing inspector general be selected by a council of inspectors general to oversee the response to the pandemic. That council picked Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general at the Department of Defense, to lead the newly formed Pandemic Response Accountability Committee.

Updated at 4:18 p.m. ET

President Trump ordered the border with Canada partly closed on Wednesday and the Pentagon said it would join the coronavirus pandemic response with hospital ships, field treatment centers and medical supplies.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has given the go-ahead to begin a drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan, despite reports that the Taliban is ending a partial ceasefire and has resumed attacks on Afghan forces.

Updated at 6:54 p.m. ET

The Trump administration has notified Congress that it plans to divert $3.8 billion from the Defense Department's budget to build the border wall.

This is in addition to more than $11 billion that's already been identified to construct more than 500 miles of new barriers along the southern U.S. border with Mexico. That includes money that Congress has appropriated and funding that was previously diverted from military construction and counternarcotic operations.

Mourners march during the funeral of Iran's top general Qassem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iran-backed militias in Iraq known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, in Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020.
Nasser Nasser / Associated Press

One Ohio professor has a front-row seat to the U.S. conflict with Iran.

Updated at 7:43 p.m. ET

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced on Monday that some forces are being repositioned inside Iraq, not leaving the country.

Two other U.S. officials told NPR that some are going to Kuwait temporarily.

When President Trump signed a $738 billion defense spending bill on Friday, he officially created the Space Force. It's the sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Services, and the first new military service since the Air Force was created in 1947.

"Space is the world's newest war-fighting domain," President Trump said during the signing ceremony. "Amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital. And we're leading, but we're not leading by enough. But very shortly we'll be leading by a lot."

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has removed himself from consideration to permanently lead the Defense Department.

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