Happy Budget Day; Carter heads to anti-ISIS confab; US troops head back to Helmand; Meet the Army’s robot cockroach; and a bit more.

It’s Budget Day at the Pentagon. The White House releases its defense budget talking points at 11 a.m., nearly two hours before Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva begin a marathon series of press briefings that run from 1:30 p.m. EST to late afternoon. Defense Secretary Ash Carter offered the broad strokes of the upcoming budget last week, and teased the department’s interest in some of the more snazzy tech like swarm bots, rail guns, “arsenal planes,” and the military’s need to crank up the production of smart bombs, which have taken a big dent since the start of the counter-Islamic State air campaign. Catch the full briefing line-up, here.

Obama wants a 35 percent spike in cybersecurity funding to bring the federal government closer in line with the private sector, the Washington Post reports. The request, which totals some $19 billion, also includes “the creation of a commission to make recommendations on actions to enhance national cybersecurity over the next decade. It calls for a campaign to urge more people to adopt anti-hacking techniques such as ‘two-factor’ authentication.”

But the bigger, more urgent asks include boosting Justice Department—and by extension, FBI—funding 23 percent “to help it better identify, disrupt and arrest hackers.” The White House also wants to create a new post, a federal chief information security officer, to help “establish a new commission that looks for ways to protect computer networks,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

The only problem with all these plans: “Republicans have already signaled that they are not going to consider many parts of the White House’s budget request this year, dimming the chances of any new cybersecurity funding being approved,” the Journal adds. That, here.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter is wheels-up to Brussels to talk the counter-ISIS fight with more than two dozen countries, including Iraq. The meeting comes at a tense moment in the broader war. Russia and Syria have made surprising gains to the north near Aleppo, triggering a new refugee outflow to the border with Turkey. An additional 1 million Syrians are reportedly living in besieged cities with no access to food or aid. It also follows Canada’s announcement that it will end its airstrikes but triple the number of special forces (aka “CANSOF”) arming and training Pesh fighters in Iraq’s north. That number jumps from 69 to 230, “bringing the total of Canadian soldiers deployed in the region from about 650 to about 830,” al-Jazeera reports.

Further: “Canada will also provide $CAD840m ($609m) in humanitarian assistance over three years, and has allocated  $270m to ‘build local capacity’ in Jordan and Lebanon, which are hosting more than two million Syrian refugees. While the country will pull its six CF-18 Hornet fighter jets from the bombing mission, it will keep its aircrew and support personnel for one CC-150 Polaris aerial refuelling aircraft and up to two CP-140 Aurora spy planes.”

Carter also has some particularly delicate offers to weigh with the defense ministers since at least two Middle Eastern nations—the UAE and Saudi Arabia—have signaled their readiness to send a ground force into Syria, if requested by coalition leaders.

But perhaps the biggest piece of the upcoming plan involves focusing the coalition’s participating nations to train, equip, and advise local armies in Iraq and Syria without shouldering the fight for them. For a bit more on the background behind the Brussels meet, the Associated Press has this.

Meanwhile in Yemen: Another day goes by, another missile is shot down by the Saudis. That makes two in two days. More here (and yesterday’s, here).

It’s back to Helmand for U.S. troops, although the in-country total — 9,800 in Afghanistan — will not change. “The battalion-size unit would number roughly 700-800 troops, with many of those likely to be engaged in force-protection duties for the train, advise and assist teams,” Stars and Stripes reports.

The context: “The latest reinforcements highlight the seriousness of the military situation in Helmand, a historic support region for the Taliban, where the insurgents have been on the attack since October. The fighting, which has left large parts of the countryside in Taliban hands, hasn’t let up even during the winter months, which in the past saw a sharp reduction in guerrilla activity. Sanqin, a major town and district where dozens of British and U.S. soldiers died before most NATO combat troops were withdrawn in 2014, has been reported to be on the brink of falling to the Taliban. Government forces are said to be in control of just a few square miles of the city.” More here.

Oh, by the way: If you never saw the 2011 documentary film “The Battle for Marjah,” now is as good a time as any to do yourself a favor and watch it here.

From Defense One

The Army has made a robot cockroach. Biologically inspired robot bugs could be the next big thing in intelligence collection, reports Tech Editor Patrick Tucker, here.

What North Korea’s latest missile test means for the U.S. and its allies. The Unha launch is hardly the basis for panic, but it is time to act to ensure security and stability, writes CSIS’s Thomas Karako, here.

Should we fear an AI arms race? No, say three RAND researchers, who offer five reasons the benefits of defense-related artificial intelligence research outweigh the risks—for now. From Andrew Lohn, Andrew Parasiliti, and William Welser IV, here.

Five ways to clarify and strengthen U.S. cybersecurity law. While most corporate counsels are still trying to figure out what the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 does for them, here are a few ways to improve on next year’s round of legislation from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Robert Knake. Find them here.

Coming up: The civilian workforce that supports U.S. warfighters is aging. How will the Pentagon attract and retain the next generation? Leaders from DOD, USAF, and DLA will lay out their plans and outlook on Tues., Feb. 23, in a livestreamed discussion with Defense One Deputy Editor Bradley Peniston. Register to watch today, here.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of the The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Help your friends; send them this subscription link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.

NATO defense chiefs are meeting in Brussels this morning, and the early takeaways include no combat role for alliance troops against ISIS in the coming months and increased pressure to crack down on refugee smuggling between Turkey and Greece.

The “Pew-Pew gap” is near. The U.S. pioneered the use of electromagnetic warfare, but today the Pentagon fears it’s falling behind. “Now, defense officials say they’re worried that the U.S. military’s ability to counter and wage electronic warfare has atrophied and is lagging behind countries such as Russia and China,” WaPo reports.

“We don’t have the gear,” Col. Jeffrey Church, the head of the Army’s electronic warfare division, said in a recent interview. “We’re working on getting it, [but] we’re talking years down the road, when our adversaries are doing this right now.”

The U.S. Army has one countermeasure up its sleeve, the Post writes: “Called the Integrated Electronic Warfare system, the three-piece program is meant to be a sort of one-stop shop for the Army’s electronic warfare division. The system is essentially a collection of software, sensors and devices that can be mounted to ground vehicles and drones and carried in troops’ rucksacks and will be able to jam, detect and identify enemy interference. The catch? It isn’t completely funded and has no set year when it will be completely ready, though one component of the system is slotted to be fielded by the end of 2016, with another due in 2023.” Read the rest, here.

The head of SOCOM Africa says it’s time to build up and provide more intelligence to regional forces working to counter violent extremist groups and their affiliates in northern Africa. “Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc spoke on the sidelines of Flintlock, the U.S. military’s annual counter-extremism training exercise based this year in Senegal,” AP reports, here.

(ICYMI: Read USSOCOM’s Gen. Votel on possible SOF roles in fractious Libya, here.)

Military drama in Tampa! Of the television kind, anyway. CBS has reportedly ordered a pilot episode of “Four Stars,” a new show to be set in the hometown of CENTCOM, SOCOM, MacDill AFB, and more. No details yet on themes, plot, characters; about all we know is the shooting location: Louisiana. That’s because the show’s producers are hoping for “incentives” — public funds — from state, county, or city, the Tampa Tribune reports, here.

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