House lawmakers draft resolution to condemn Chinese spy balloon

House lawmakers are prepping a bipartisan resolution to condemn China after the U.S. shot down a suspected Chinese spy balloon over the weekend, which ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Beijing.

Though Republicans have sharply criticized the Biden administration for waiting for days as the balloon traveled across the continental U.S. to South Carolina before shooting it down, the resolution is not expected to focus blame on President Biden.

“We want it to be a bipartisan resolution about China, not about us fighting each other,” Rep. Mike McCaul, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters Monday night. “Because it’s too important of an issue, you know. We want to stand strong together against China instead of having our internal fights.”

McCaul said he sent a draft resolution to Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the panel, who has “made his comments.” The two were set to meet Monday evening to “hash it out,” according to McCaul.

He said the resolution could be released as soon as this week.

“Clearly, we’re focused on condemning China for sending a spy balloon into United States territory. Obviously, we have a lot more questions about what happened, and when the administration knew it,” House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) said Monday.

“Those are separate questions going on, and we need to have a briefing on it. But in the meantime, we’re trying to get an agreement with” the committees working on the proposal, he added.

Talk of a resolution comes the same week Biden is set to deliver the State of the Union address. McCaul said that event factored into his thinking about whether to write the resolution with a partisan edge.

“My strong recommendation was to make it bipartisan because with the State of the Union, I just think it’s important that we focus on our adversary China, rather than our internal politics or divisions,” he said.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said he will get a “gang of eight” intelligence briefing — alongside bipartisan congressional leaders as well as the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence committees — on the Chinese balloon sometime this week. He is pushing for a briefing open to all House members.

McCarthy said his questions will include why the U.S. did not shoot down the balloon earlier, when it was detected, and inquiries about other balloons detected in the past that were only assessed to be balloons later.

Gen. Glen VanHerck, the head of U.S. Northern Command, said Monday that the Defense Department assessed the presence of previous balloons  in or near U.S. airspace during the Trump administration after the fact through other means of information collection.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Biden had authorized the military to take down the balloon last Wednesday, and officials waited to shoot it down over water so the debris would not harm any Americans.

McCarthy was not convinced that there was not a safe way to take down the balloon earlier.

“If you allow them to enter a sovereign nation of America in the airspace, what does that say? I would send a very clear message that you’re never going to enter,” McCarthy said.

“You could do it over Alaska without any problem. You could have done it over northern Idaho. You could have done it in Montana. These are not high populated areas that gave you a lot of opportunity.”

China last week denied that the balloon was spying on the U.S., claiming it was a weather balloon that went off course.

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Defense & National Security — Questions remain after Chinese balloon downed

As the U.S. government gathers the debris from a suspected Chinese spy balloon shot down off the South Carolina Coast, questions remain as to what intel the aerial object gathered and how often Beijing has sent similar balloons over U.S. airspace.  

We’ll share details of the clean-up efforts and what we know so far about previous instances of spy balloons over North America, plus lawmakers look to probe the Biden administration about the balloon and a warning from the United Nations secretary-general about the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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

US works to recover suspected China spy balloon

Navy vessels were off the coast of South Carolina on Monday to recover pieces of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon shot down this past weekend, though rough waters initially complicated the effort, according to the head of U.S. Northern Command.    

A Navy dock landing ship, the USS Carter Hall, is in the vicinity of where the balloon splashed down after President Biden on Saturday ordered the U.S. military to shoot down the aerial object that had spent days floating over the country, Gen. Glen VanHerck told reporters.   

Search area: The ship is currently collecting and categorizing debris while an oceanographic survey ship, USNS Pathfinder, is mapping out the balloon’s debris field, predicted at about 1,500 meters by 1,500 meters, or “more than 15 football fields by 15 football fields,” he said.   

Taking precautions: As the military is worried that material on the balloon could contain explosives or be hazardous, an explosive ordnance disposal team was on-site Monday morning. The forces deployed unmanned underwater vehicles with side-scan sonar to further locate sunken debris, VanHerck noted.   

He added that rough seas on Sunday curtailed some recovery operations such as underwater surveillance and said some debris may float to shore due to ocean currents. Should that happen, he asked the public to avoid contact with any debris and to contact local law enforcement if they find it.   

The lead up: The salvage operation concludes a bizarre series of days in which the suspected Chinese balloon floated through U.S. airspace. At some points, it was visible to those on the ground, and it was first spotted over Montana. Defense officials said it was a clear effort to spy on sensitive sites, though officials held off on shooting it down until it was over water due to fears falling debris could harm civilians. 

Awareness gap: VanHerck acknowledged that a “domain awareness gap” led to U.S. officials being unaware of the several previous surveillance balloons that flew over the country at that time.   

In this case, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which VanHerck also oversees, first detected the balloon north of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.   

It’s complicated: He described the balloon as up to 200 feet tall and carrying a device that was roughly the size of a regional jet that likely weighed about 1,000 pounds. That payload made shooting down the balloon complicated, he said.  

“From a safety standpoint, picture yourself with large debris weighing hundreds if not thousands of pounds falling out of the sky,” he explained.    

Before downing the balloon, the Pentagon worked with NASA to assess what a debris field might look like, with the agency predicting six or seven miles of wreckage. Officials also ensured that there was no air traffic nearby at the time of the operation.

Read more details here  

PENTAGON ‘DID NOT DETECT’ PREVIOUS SPY BALLOONS

A top U.S. general said that the Pentagon did not detect previous Chinese spy balloons as they were in the air, after former President Trump and members of his administration vehemently denied a claim from defense officials that such balloons had flown over the U.S. at least three times during his presidency. 

Gen. Glen VanHerck, the head of U.S. Northern Command, said Monday that the Defense Department “did not detect” the previous balloons, adding the intelligence community was made aware of them through other means of information collection. 

“We did not detect those threats,” VanHerck told reporters. “The intel community after the fact — I believe as has been briefed already — assessed those threats from additional means of collection and made us aware of those balloons that were previously approaching North America or transited North America.” 

Prior knowledge: After a senior defense official said  over the weekend that the U.S. was aware of at least three different times such balloons flew over the U.S. during the Trump administration, the former president and his intelligence officials came out to deny the claim

The clash between the Biden administration and Trump and his former officials prompted Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to call for a probe into why Trump was not made aware of the balloons during his presidency, if they were detected. 

Read more here  

GOP gears up to grill Biden officials over balloon

Lawmakers are planning to probe the Biden administration for what they are calling a failure to protect national security as a Chinese spy balloon flew over the U.S. for several days before it was shot down Saturday.  

While there has been no official announcement of an investigation yet, House Republicans are itching to grill the Biden administration for allowing a foreign adversary’s surveillance device to breach U.S. airspace, and letting it stay there for days. 

Tensions high: The incident has inflamed already fraught tensions with China, and GOP lawmakers have said it’s another sign of U.S. weakness in the face of rising threats from Beijing.  

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), said he was “deeply concerned by the Biden administration’s decision to allow the spy balloon to traverse the United States.” 

“The White House must provide answers about why they decided to allow a [Chinese Communist Party] spy balloon to cross the United States and what damage to our national security occurred from this decision,” he said in a Saturday statement . “The United States must project strength to deter China — this failure is another example of weakness by the Biden administration.” 

On the books: The HASC has already scheduled a hearing on Tuesday  morning to hear from non-governmental witnesses on the “pressing threat of the Chinese Communist Party to U.S. national defense.” 

Criticisms: Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also expressed concerns the Biden administration did not “take care” of the balloon before it became a “national security threat.” 

“I will be demanding answers and will hold the admin accountable for this embarrassing display of weakness,” McCaul said in a statement.  

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), a member of the HASC, took the issue a step further, calling on Biden and Vice President Harris to resign. 

“When the domestic attack occurs, Biden and Harris will not be able to adequately respond,” Wilson tweeted .

‘Demanding answers’: While Democrats have largely defended the Pentagon’s response, Montana’s Democratic Sen. Jon Tester said he was “demanding answers” from the Biden administration and announced he would hold a hearing as chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. 

Read that story here  

UN chief warns of ‘wider war’ one year after invasion

United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General António Guterres warned on Monday that the Russia-Ukraine conflict could eventually lead the world toward a “wider war.”   

Speaking to the U.N. General Assembly , Guterres noted several of his priorities for this year, including focusing on climate change, poverty, rising nuclear threats and ongoing conflicts around the world. 

“We have started 2023 staring down the barrel of a confluence of challenges unlike any other in our lifetimes,” Guterres said in his speech. “We need a course correction. The good news is that we know how to turn things around — on climate, on finance, on conflict resolution, on and on. And we know that the costs of inaction far exceed the costs of action.” 

A major worry: Guterres cited the Russia-Ukraine conflict as one of his major worries, saying that the “prospects for peace” between the two countries amid the nearly one-year conflict continue to diminish.  

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine is inflicting untold suffering on the Ukrainian people, with profound global implications. The prospects for peace keep diminishing. The chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing,” Guterres added. “I fear the world is not sleepwalking into a wider war. I fear it is doing so with its eyes wide open.” 

Timing: Guterres’s remarks come as Russia’s conflict against neighboring Ukraine is closing in on a full year, resulting in thousands of deaths on both sides and the displacement of some 8 million Ukrainian citizens. 

Read the full story here  

ON TAP TOMORROW

  • Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) will speak to media as part of the George Washington University Project for Media and National Security Defense Writers Group, at 8 a.m.  
  • The Wilson Center will host a virtual discussion on “Water and Conflict: Updates from the Russia-Ukraine War,” at 9:30 a.m.  
  • The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on “The Pressing Threat of the Chinese Communist Party to U.S. National Defense,” with former national security advisor Robert O’Brien and former U.S. Pacific Command head retired Adm. Harry Harris, at 10 a.m.
  • The Hudson Institute will host a discussion on “Impressions from the Lublin Triangle on the Ukraine War,” at 10 a.m.
  • Brookings Institution will hold a conversation on “The Russia-Ukraine war: Year two and strategic consequences,” at 2 p.m.
  • President Biden will delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m.
  • Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) will deliver the Republican response to the president’s State of the Union address at 10:15 p.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

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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On The Money — How a federal debt default could affect you

We take a look at the ways a debt ceiling default could hit your own finances. We’ll also look at how one big bank is preparing for a default and why the 1980s are haunting the Federal Reserve. 

🎬 But first, your favorite seat in the movie theater may get more expensive. 

Welcome to On The Money, your guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. For The Hill, we’re Sylvan Lane, Aris Folley and Karl Evers-Hillstrom.

5 ways a federal debt default could hurt Americans

Americans are getting a crash course on the country’s borrowing limit, as a high-stakes standoff on Capitol Hill dominates national attention.  

Extraordinary measures the Treasury Department is taking to temporarily stave off a default are expected to give Congress until at least June to reach a deal to raise the limit. 

Below are just a few of the reasons, experts say, the U.S. can’t afford to default. 

  • Recession is almost certain: Recession fears have already been on the rise for months, as economists and lawmakers have paid close attention to the Federal Reserve’s ongoing interest rate hikes in response to high inflation. 
  • Inflation could lower – but at a steep price: Experts say inflation could also lower, but not in the way most would hope. Some say prices would fall as a result of a slower economy in such circumstances as demand weakens, but not if they were already hindered by shortages. 
  • Stock market takes a tumble: Stock portfolios would take a serious hit if the nation defaulted on its debt, sapping retirement accounts and draining crucial sources of revenue for major companies. 

The conflict: GOP lawmakers have vowed not to vote to raise the debt ceiling without major spending cuts despite promising they would not let the U.S. default. Even so, Republicans have yet to unify behind any proposal to cut down the federal debt and are sparring over how much to cut defense spending, if at all. 

At the same time, Democrats have instead pressed for a clean bill to raise the debt limit without conditions, accusing Republicans of holding the economy hostage for their partisan goals. 

Aris delves further here

LEADING THE DAY

Why the 1980s recession haunts the Fed 

The ghost of the early 1980s recession is haunting the Federal Reserve. 

With inflation still near 40-year highs and the U.S. economy slowing, the Fed’s aggressive rate hikes have fueled concerns of a central bank-induced recession akin to the one triggered by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker during the 1980s. While Volcker’s rate shock ended two decades of rising inflation, it did so at the cost of a severe recession. 

  • Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has frequently praised Volcker’s refusal to back down and channeled that persistence into his own battle with inflation.  
  • But most economists believe Powell can wage a far less costly war against rising prices, given major shifts in the economy — and Fed policy — since the days of Volcker. 

“Inflation looks like it has already peaked and never got near the 14.5 percent peak reached in 1980, so the Fed will not have to raise rates as high as it did back then,” said Eric Swanson, an economics professor at the University of California, Irvine.

“We also benefit today from the experience that we gained back then: Everyone knows that inflation was high and was successfully brought down with high interest rates, so we know the Fed can do it again,” he said. 

Sylvan and Riley Gutierrez McDermid explain here

GET READY

Bank of America’s Moynihan says firm is preparing for US debt default 

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan on Monday said the firm is preparing for the U.S. to default on its debt after surpassing its borrowing limit last month.  

“We have to be prepared for that, not only in this country but in other countries around the world. You hope it doesn’t happen, but hope is not a strategy — so you prepare for it,” Moynihan told anchor Poppy Harlow on “CNN This Morning,” noting the company is preparing as it would “in a natural disaster.”  

Moynihan, who runs the nation’s second-largest bank, said there’s value in lawmakers debating across the aisle over what to do about the national debt but said “everybody has to” batten down for a potential default.   

Julia Mueller has more here

BAD TO BETTER

Americans’ views of US economy tick up: poll  

Americans’ positive views of the United States economy remains well below half, but have ticked up slightly over the past week, according to a new CBS poll.  

  • The new poll found that 33 percent of Americans think the condition of the economy is good, an increase from last week’s number of 28 percent.  
  • That comes after Friday’s blockbuster jobs report that showed the U.S. adding 517,000 jobs in December. 

As the nation’s debt limit remains in limbo, more than half of Americans say that Congress should not raise the debt ceiling while 45 percent saying that it should. But when presented with the prospect of a default, 67 percent said Congress should raise the debt limit. 

Lauren Sforza has more here

Good to Know

It is once again time to take your finances into account and perhaps pay up to Big Brother at the IRS.  

Thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the Internal Revenue Service was able to begin a free online program for those who qualify.  

Other items we’re keeping an eye on: 

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she sees the possibility of “significantly” easing inflation in the U.S. economy, even as the government deals with the ramifications of reaching its borrowing limit and as economists worry about a potential recession. 
  • Google on Monday unveiled a new artificial intelligence tool called Bard, its rival product to the increasingly popular ChatGPT tool. 
  • Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is facing renewed pressure from advocacy groups to prioritize antitrust bills targeting tech giants this Congress.  

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow. 

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Lawmakers gear up to grill Biden officials over Chinese spy balloon

Lawmakers are planning to probe the Biden administration for what they are calling a failure to protect national security as a Chinese spy balloon flew over the U.S. for several days before it was shot down Saturday. 

While there has been no official announcement of an investigation yet, House Republicans are itching to grill the Biden administration for allowing a foreign adversary’s surveillance device to breach U.S. airspace, and letting it stay there for days. 

President Biden reportedly decided to shoot down the balloon on Wednesday, but the military waited to carry out those orders until it had floated over the ocean. It’s unclear why the U.S. was confident it did not pose a safety or security threat in those intervening days. 

The incident has inflamed already fraught tensions with China, and GOP lawmakers have said it’s another sign of U.S. weakness in the face of rising threats from Beijing. 

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), said he was “deeply concerned by the Biden administration’s decision to allow the spy balloon to traverse the United States.”

“The White House must provide answers about why they decided to allow a [Chinese Communist Party] spy balloon to cross the United States and what damage to our national security occurred from this decision,” he said in a Saturday statement . “The United States must project strength to deter China — this failure is another example of weakness by the Biden administration.”

The HASC has already scheduled a hearing on Tuesday morning to hear from non-governmental witnesses on the “pressing threat of the Chinese Communist Party to U.S. national defense.”

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, also expressed concerns the Biden administration did not “take care” of the balloon before it became a “national security threat.”

“I will be demanding answers and will hold the admin accountable for this embarrassing display of weakness,” McCaul said in a statement.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), a member of the HASC, took the issue a step further, calling on Biden and Vice President Harris to resign.

“When the domestic attack occurs, Biden and Harris will not be able to adequately respond,” Wilson tweeted.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) first detected the balloon north of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska on Jan. 28. The U.S. military did not shoot it down then, as “it wasn’t time,” NORAD commander Gen. Glen VanHerck told reporters Monday. 

The Pentagon informed reporters about the balloon five days later, on Feb. 2, after reports of sightings over Montana, home to one of the nation’s three nuclear missile fields, sparking concerns that China may have collected potentially compromising national security information.

While Democrats have largely defended the Pentagon’s response, Montana’s Democratic Sen. Jon Tester said he was “demanding answers” from the Biden administration and announced he would hold a hearing as chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. 

“I will be pulling people before my committee to get real answers on how this happened, and how we can prevent it from ever happening again,” Tester said in a Friday statement.

Ian Johnson, a senior fellow for China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said there should be a “cooling off period” before any investigations, arguing the incident is a national security issue that shouldn’t be used for scoring political points.

Johnson added the Biden administration was in a “bind”: either wait, or shoot the balloon down over land and potentially injure people or damage structures on the ground, which would have caused its own scandal.

“I don’t think there are traitors in the Pentagon,” he said. “These allegations of an outrageous breach of our national security doesn’t make sense to me unless you’re accusing the Pentagon of gross incompetence, which I don’t think is the case.”

The Pentagon tracked the balloon, reportedly about 200 pounds and the size of three school buses, as it floated undisturbed all the way toward the Atlantic Ocean, where it was shot down by a fighter jet on Saturday off the coast of South Carolina. Recovery operations to salvage the equipment attached to the balloon are underway.

China is calling the balloon a civilian weather research airship and has expressed anger about the U.S. shooting it out of the sky. 

But the Pentagon is confident that it was a surveillance device, noting they have seen the spy balloons before, including in the Pacific near Hawaii and in other countries. A second spy balloon has been sighted in Latin America.

The Biden administration has said it brought the surveillance device down as as soon as it was safe to do so.

“Today’s deliberate and lawful action demonstrates that President Biden and his national security team will always put the safety and security of the American people first,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a Sunday statement , “while responding effectively to the [People’s Republic of China’s] unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

A senior defense official also said on Sunday there was value in tracking the balloon and they “took all necessary steps to protect against” the collection of sensitive information.

“We were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable,”  the official said, according to a Pentagon release. 

Several Republican senators have also called for investigations, including Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, on Sunday called Biden’s response a “dereliction of duty” for his delay in acknowledging the spy balloon in an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

But the questions now go beyond just the Pentagon’s response to the Chinese spy balloon that made headlines in recent days. 

On Sunday, U.S. officials confirmed the Trump administration was apparently unaware of three previous incidents in which Chinese balloons flew over the continental U.S. under its watch.

Vanherck told reporters on Monday that intelligence analysts learned of those three balloon incursions only after the fact, which he called a “domain awareness gap that we have to figure out.”

Johnson, from the Council on Foreign Relations, said the bigger question right now should be why the Chinese are deploying surveillance balloons — and lawmakers should set aside politics to figure it out. 

“There’s so many question marks that need to be answered, there’s so many holes in the story, we just lack a lot of facts,” Johnson said. “In the Cold War, there was more bipartisan effort at solving and treating [threats] as a national security issue, rather than as a way to score points politically. The spirit of bipartisanship is lacking.”

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Rough seas complicate US efforts to recover suspected China spy balloon

Navy vessels were off the coast of South Carolina on Monday to recover pieces of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon shot down this past weekend, though rough waters initially complicated the effort, according to the head of U.S. Northern Command.   

A Navy dock landing ship, the USS Carter Hall, is in the vicinity of where the balloon splashed down after President Biden on Saturday ordered the U.S. military to shoot down the aerial object that had spent days floating over the country, Gen. Glen VanHerck told reporters.  

The ship is currently collecting and categorizing debris while an oceanographic survey ship, USNS Pathfinder, is mapping out the balloon’s debris field, predicted at about 1,500 meters by 1,500 meters, or “more than 15 football fields by 15 football fields,” he said.  

As the military is worried that material on the balloon could contain explosives or be hazardous, an explosive ordnance disposal team was on site Monday morning. The forces deployed unmanned underwater vehicles with side-scan sonar to further locate sunken debris, VanHerck noted.  

Federal Bureau of Investigation and Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents are also working with U.S. forces on the salvage operations, though VanHerck couldn’t say where the debris is going to go for a final analysis. 

He added that rough seas on Sunday curtailed some recovery operations such as underwater surveillance, and that due to ocean currents it’s possible that some debris may float to shore. Should that happen, he asked the public to avoid contact with any debris and to contact local law enforcement if they find it.  

Earlier on Monday, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters   that recovering the balloon will take time but “we can then exploit what we recover and learn even more than we have learned.” 

The salvage operation concludes a bizarre series of days in which the suspected Chinese balloon floated through U.S. airspace. At some points it was visible to those on the ground, and was first spotted over Montana. Defense officials said was a clear effort to spy on sensitive sites, though officials held off on shooting it down until it was over water over fears falling debris could harm civilians. 

President Biden has since faced intense criticism from Republicans, who said he acted too slowly to shoot down the balloon. News has also emerged of previous cases of Chinese surveillance balloons crossing over the U.S. at least three times during the Trump administration. 

VanHerck acknowledged that a “domain awareness gap” led to U.S. officials being unaware of the several previous surveillance balloons that flew over the country at that time.  

In this case, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which VanHerck also oversees, first detected the balloon north of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.  

The U.S. military did not shoot it down then as “it wasn’t time.”  

“It was my assessment that this balloon did not present a physical military threat to North America . . . and therefore, I could not take immediate action because it was not demonstrating hostile act or hostile intent,” he said.  

NORAD kept U.S. and Canadian officials in the loop on the balloon’s location as it floated further south and inland, with the militaries collecting information on the object before shooting it down.  

He described the balloon as up to 200 feet tall and carrying a device that was roughly the size of a regional jet that likely weighed about 1,000 pounds. That payload made shooting down the balloon complicated, he said. 

“From a safety standpoint, picture yourself with large debris weighing hundreds if not thousands of pounds falling out of the sky,” he explained.   

Before downing the balloon, the Pentagon worked with NASA to assess what a debris field might look like, with the agency predicting six or seven miles of wreckage. Officials also ensured that there was no air traffic nearby at the time of the operation.  

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