DEVELOPING: Two Marine helicopters collided off the Hawaii island of Oahu late last night, and the Coast Guard has zeroed in on a debris field, an empty life raft and fire on the water nearly two miles from the shore, CNN and CBS News report this morning.

“The aircraft were from the Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay. Both had six people on board,” CBS reports. “A Navy helicopter and Honolulu Fire Department chopper and rescue boat were also taking part in the search.”

Rough weather could complicate the day’s search and rescue efforts as “waves off Oahu’s north shore are expected to be 30-40 feet high beginning Friday, with the largest swells of the season rolling in,” according to CBS’ Honolulu affiliate, KGMB-TV.

Just so we’re clear: The American sailors briefly detained by Iran this week found themselves in Iranian waters thanks to a “navigational error of some kind,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday.

“This much is clear: There was a navigational error of some kind; all the contributing factors we don’t know yet; and we are still talking to those folks and will find out more what combination of factors led to that navigational error,” he said during a visit to U.S. Central Command in Florida. “They were clearly out of [the] position that they had intended to be in.”

Defense officials wouldn’t say more about the circumstances until the sailors completed their debriefing, which is still ongoing, reports the Wall Street Journal. But that didn’t keep outgoing CENTCOM chief Gen. Lloyd Austin from elaborating somewhat on the state of the equipment onboard the boats, saying so far there’s no evidence Iran kept anything. But Austin left a bit of a window open on this note, adding all that equipment “was largely there” after the boats returned to U.S. custody, adds Stars and Stripes’ Tara Copp.

And as D Brief readers have seen twice already, current SOCOM chief Gen. Joseph Votel is President Barack Obama’s new pick to lead CENTCOM, Defense News reported Thursday.

Said Carter of Votel: “His background in every domain of warfare — air, land and sea as well as special operations — gives him the perspective and knowledge needed to lead the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines operating in this command.” More here.

More SOF faces from different places? “The United States has asked more countries to send Special Operations troops to join the fight against the Islamic State, and not just typical partners like Britain and Australia,” the Washington Post reports, though exactly what nations Carter was talking about remains unclear just yet, and could possibly stay that way for some time.

See also this what-it-all-means Votel profile from The Daily Beast’s Kim Dozier, where she assesses Obama’s dependence on JSOC throughout key points in his presidency.

Get up to speed on the Obama administration’s new plan to defeat ISIS, which involves “a patchwork of local ground forces moving in large formations to isolate and ultimately invade Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria,” Military Times’ Andrew Tilghman reports in a snazzy feature complete with video, diagrams, maps with big arrows pointing at Mosul and more. Worth the weekend click, here.

In this, his final year in office—Obama’s legacy as commander-in-chief is beginning to crystalize. And it’s one of limited force and limited influence, raising some fairly dire questions about what America should be, writes Defense One’s Gayle Tzemach Lemmon.

For what it’s worth: Here’s one very busy map of attacks across the globe in 2015, brought to you by the folks at IHS Janes.

Check this out: The folks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Ideas Lab would like to remind us that Sunday marks 25 years of bombing Iraq—from the first Gulf War through to present day. And what better way to ring in the occasion than to watch this 4-minute video rolling up “the pros and cons of using airpower alone in dealing with threats in the Middle East.”

Retired Marine Corps Colonel and CSIS senior adviser Mark Cancian “asks tough questions of how far this policy has got the U.S. over the last 25 years.” And like their video on “The Past, Present and Future of War Funding” from June, this video is a thing of beauty that just so happens to include some ugly truths. Watch here.

Speaking of air power, Russia just ordered up 50 Su-35S ‘Flanker E’ multirole fighters from Sukhoi, IHS Janes reports.  

And Russia has clearance from Damascus to maintain an “open-ended” military presence in Syria, Agence France-Presse reports this morning after catching wind of an agreement sealed in August.


From Defense One

Pentagon sends Obama its plan to close Guantanamo and move detainees to a prison on U.S. soil. Hours after 10 percent of the remaining detainees leave Cuba, the defense secretary said he’s handed the president the long-awaited, much-delayed plan for “Gitmo North.” Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole has the scoop, here.

Indonesia blames ISIS for suicide bombs in Jakarta. Here’s an update on yesterday’s attacks on a Muslim country heretofore largely unaffected by the Islamic State. From Quartz, here.

The Army is testing robo-parachutes that don’t need GPS. The service wants its precision airdrop system to lose its dependence on ever-more-vulnerable satellite navigation. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker has the story, here.

Welcome to Friday’s edition of the The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Get your friends off on the right foot in 2016 by telling them to subscribe here: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Want to see something different this year? Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


“I hate to interrupt this episode of Court TV,” said GOP 2016 contender, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida while front-runner Donald Trump fought Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in some of the most heated back-and-forth of the debate season so far. But besides that line, Associated Press writes, “rising tensions between billionaire businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz left little space for any of the other candidates to make an impression.” More takeaways, here.

NSA: We’re pretty darn good at protecting folks’ privacy! Its first-ever transparency report under the USA Freedom Act “details how the agency fared across a total of eight different categories referred to as ‘fair information practice principles,’” writes the tech site Engadget. “Those principles include transparency, individual participation, purpose specification, data minimization, use limitation, data quality and integrity, security, and accountability and auditing. According to the report, the NSA ‘satisfies’ six of those eight principles, which two others are a little less clear.” Read the rest, here.

For your ears only: New America’s Peter Singer and CSM Passcode’s Sara Sorcher talk up what a future Cyber National Guard might look like, over at SoundCloud. They also review the cyber attack on Ukraine that knocked out a segment of its power grid in late December. That, here.

Lastly today—with the Benghazi flick “13 Hours” hitting theaters this weekend, check in on the “unchecked role private security contractors play in current U.S. government operations,” from U.S. News’ Paul Shinkman, here.

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