GOP natsec pros denounce Trump; Partition for Syria?; Pentagon taps Google chief for advice; Army’s next helicopters get set to fly; and a bit more.

More than 50 Republican national security experts have “united in our opposition to a Donald Trump presidency.” In what the Washington Post calls “a last-ditch effort to stop Donald Trump’s likely nomination as the Republican Party’s candidate for president,” the letter’s signatories laid out their “core objections” to a Trump presidency including his “wild inconsistency,” “unmoored principles,” “advocacy for aggressively waging trade wars,” his admiration for Vladimir Putin, and—perhaps more than anything—his “fundamental dishonesty.”

It’s a short but very scathing read borne out of talks between Eliot Cohen, a former State Department official also under Bush and Bryan McGrath a one-time naval adviser to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, WaPo writes.

“I want to be on record saying that this man is not presidential material,” McGrath told the Post. “And this was the best way I could do it and bring some friends along.” Read the letter for yourself over at Ryan Evans’ War on the Rocks, here.

Partition is looking increasingly likely in Syria, reports the Wall Street Journal. Rebels are getting decimated by Russian and Syrian airstrikes; Syria’s Kurds have succeeded militarily in recent weeks, but have turned their guns on U.S. and Turkish-backed Sunni Arabs, while cozying up to Moscow and Damascus in a growing alliance of convenience; and the Islamic State is seemingly enjoying passive rebel compliance with their attacks on a key Syrian army supply line near Aleppo. Further, any moves by the Damascus-Hezbollah alliance into Sunni-dominated land held by ISIS “would just lead to a perpetuation of war,” the Journal writes.

Which is all to say: even if a cease-fire holds, a decisive attack against ISIS still appears to be a long, long way off. Read the rest, here.

And speaking of the cease-fire: the U.S. State Department set up a hotline to report violations—but when a reporter for the non-profit journalism organization Syria Direct tried calling in violations, the folks on the other end of the line spoke English initially—followed by some very spotty Arabic, Syria Direct reported Wednesday.

And all of Syria just lost electricity, state news agency SANA reported this morning. Nationwide power outages have been reported in the war-torn country since at least 2013; but even when the system is online, the country looks incredibly dark compared to 2011, when fighting began. The worst-hit region? Aleppo.

Ukraine says Russian-backed rebels are back at it with large-caliber weapons that were banned in the Minsk cease-fire. “Separatists deployed a Grad multiple-missile launcher against government troops early Thursday outside the rebel stronghold of Donetsk,” the Associated Press reports. The Grad attack, Kiev said, followed more than 60 cease-fire violations along the front line.

Worth noting: “More than 9,100 people have been killed since fighting broke out in April 2014.” More on all that, here.

In Russia, chants for “four more years” for President Vladimir Putin are at their highest level in… four years, a state-run pollster said this morning. Reuters breaks down the results, here.

From Defense One

Pentagon Googles “innovation,” taps Eric Schmidt. Google’s CEO…er, Alphabet’s executive chairman will lead a new advisory board that aims to help DoD be more like Silicon Valley. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker reports, here.

Welcome to the Thursday edition of the The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1863, Congress passed legislation that led to the nation’s first wartime draft. Register for The D Brief: Got news? Let us know:

Tantrum barrage: Just hours after UN-imposed sanctions took effect, North Korea fired a salvo of — what exactly? Artillery rockets? Short-range missiles? — up to 100 miles into the Sea of Japan. The latter would be “a clear contravention of U.N. resolutions and a sign that North Korea is spoiling for a fight,” reports the Washington Post. Designed to force Pyongyang to quit its nuclear program, the new sanctions “require cargo inspections for all goods going in and out of North Korea by land, sea or air, and choke off supplies of most aviation fuel for its armed forces. They also ban the sale of all small arms and conventional weapons to Pyongyang and prohibits transactions that raise hard cash for North Korea through sales of its natural resources.”

Will the sanctions work? Not unless they cause total economic collapse, experts tell the Wall Street Journal. “‘When [North Korean leaders] tighten their belts, the last thing they cut is the military,’ said John Delury, an assistant professor at Yonsei University in Seoul. Mr. Delury pointed to North Korea’s devastating famine in the mid-1990s when more than one million people died from starvation. ‘Did they cut their military then? No, they did not.’” Read on, here.

Meanwhile, 1,500 miles due south: Warships from Japan, India, and the United States will hold exercises off the northern Philippines Islands this year, sending a pointed message about the nearby South China Sea, Reuters reports. It’s not the first time the three navies have gotten together; last year, Japanese warships joined a U.S.-India exercise in the Sea of Bengal. More, here.

U.S. troops could get a new blueprint for dealing with alleged rapists in war zones. The plan comes from Iraq war vet and California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, in response to the U.S. Army’s decision to part ways with a Green Beret after he and his commander beat an Afghan policeman who admitted and laughed off repeatedly abusing a young boy in his home, Military Times reports.

“The legislation, officially the Mandating America’s Responsibility to Limit Abuse, Negligence and Depravity, or Martland Act, says that ‘human rights violations, including child abuse, shall not be conducted or condoned on any U.S. military installation’ in the U.S. and abroad — whether the perpetrator is American or foreign. It requires the Pentagon to submit to Congress ‘a comprehensive plan detailing the procedures by which the Secretary will implement the policy’ within 90 days of the bill’s passage into law.” Read the rest, here.

Next year should see the first flights of two competing Army helicopter prototypes under the Future Vertical Lift program. “The new aircraft are part of an Army-led effort, called Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator, aimed at paving the way toward ultimately engineering a new fleet of aircraft for all the services to take flight by 2030,” reported Wednesday. “The first flights of the demonstrator aircraft, slated for 2017, will include developmental helicopter/aircraft from two industry teams – Bell Helicopter and a Sikorsky-Boeing team.”

Bell is offering what’s called the “V-280 Valor,” an aircraft that “seeks to advance tilt-rotor technology, wherein a winged-aircraft with two rotor blades over each wing seeks to achieve airplane speeds and retain an ability to hover and maneuver like a helicopter.”

Sikorsky-Boeing, on the other hand, are offering what they call the “SB>1 Defiant,” which “uses a coaxial rotor system configuration. This is a design structure, referred to as a compound configuration, which relies upon two counter-rotating rotor blades on top of the aircraft and a thrusting mechanism in the rear.” There’s a lot more to read on both airframes, here.

Lastly today—what U.S. Army base has the worst housing conditions? Task & Purpose readers said Fort Bragg, N.C. Fort Sill comes in at second place; Bliss at third; and you can find the other two here. For what it’s worth, your D-Briefer will always think fondly of his time at Bragg, though perhaps not quite as as fondly as John Rambo in “First Blood.”

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