Trump invites N. Korean deal; Crackdown may boost Saudi arms industry; USAF failed to blacklist Texas shooter; DepSecDef pushes ‘elastic computing’; and just a bit more…

By Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston

November 7, 2017

Trump’s change of tone, sort of. President Trump offered perhaps his most substantial olive branch to the North Koreans yet in remarks from Seoul this morning during a visit the New York Times wrote “appeared choreographed to avoid potentially inflammatory moments that might alarm its close military ally.”

The scene: "Speaking on North Korea’s doorstep during a visit to Seoul, Trump said that while ‘we hope to God’ not to have to resort to the use of full U.S. military might, he was ready to do whatever was necessary to prevent the ‘North Korean dictator’ from threatening millions of lives," Reuters reports, calling Trump's words a "more conciliatory appeal than ever before."

The president said “he thought it made sense ‘for North Korea to come to the table and make a deal,’” the Times writes. “I do see certain movement, but let’s see what happens,” the president said.

Adds the Times: “When pressed by a reporter, Mr. Trump declined to say whether he still thought negotiations with North Korea were a waste of time, as he wrote last month on Twitter.”

Quote of the day: “Ultimately it will all work out. Because it always works out — has to work out,” the president said of a possible military confrontation with North Korea.

You may wonder: How are those three U.S. Navy carriers doing in the Pacific? They’re finally going to exercise together “in the coming days,” which would be the first time three carrier groups have done so in a decade, Reuters reports. However, “four officials who discussed the drill with Reuters spoke on condition of anonymity, and did not disclose the precise date or location of the exercise. The Pentagon and the Navy’s Pacific Fleet declined comment on future operations.” That, here.

Before we leave carriers: There are currently seven of them out on deployments or training missions simultaneously for the first time “in several years,” U.S. Naval Institute News reports.

The Pentagon is working on a plan for Japan to buy the ground-based version of the Aegis anti-missile system — even if it may not go into operation for another six years, Bloomberg reported Monday. “Aegis Ashore is a deckhouse that replicates the Aegis air and missile defense system on Navy vessels. A version has been operational in Romania since 2016. A second site will be built in Poland for operations starting next year… Japanese officials have expressed interest in buying two Aegis Ashore systems that would go into operation by 2023.” More here.

From Defense One

Saudi Arabia's New Strongman Wants the Kingdom to Become a Middle East Arms Powerhouse // Patrick Tucker: The crown prince's surprise arrests of rivals puts him in position to execute a sweeping diversification of the country's economy.

We Want You — to Get Us Into The Cloud Much Faster // Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan: We need the private sector's help to vault DOD into the world of elastic computing and machine learning.

It Took Comfort 39 Days to Get Pierside in Puerto Rico. That's a National-Security Problem. // Craig Hooper: The hospital ship's poor utilization suggests that the US military's biomedical support doctrine needs shoring up.

Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you don’t subscribe already, consider subscribing. It’s free. Happy birthday, Lise Meitner, who co-led the scientific team that discovered nuclear fission.

The U.S. Air Force is in hot water over a bureaucratic oversight involving the now-dead shooter in the Texas massacre on Sunday. “The Air Force said on Monday that it failed to record the Texas church shooter’s domestic violence conviction in a federal database that would have kept him from buying a gun,” the Huffington Post reported Monday. “That glaring oversight allowed Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, to pass multiple background checks and legally purchase firearms.”
The system omitted: the National Criminal Information Center database. “While military law does not classify crimes as felonies or misdemeanors, Kelley’s sentence was a functional felony conviction… How is the federal statute going to be effectively implemented if they aren’t reporting these convictions?” a former Army lawyer told the Washington Post — which added, “A separate law prohibits violent offenders from purchasing body armor, which Kelley was seen wearing during the rampage.”
Lawmakers want answers, too. That includes Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., WaPo writes.
How many others received similar treatment? Unclear, but the Air Force has opened an investigation into the matter, service officials announced Monday. According to the statement, “Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein directed the Air Force Inspector General in collaboration with the Defense Department Inspector General to conduct a complete review of the Kelley case and relevant policies and procedures.” Read more via Bloomberg, here; or the New York Times, here.  
One more thing: The shooter was a “criminal,” not a “veteran,” VA Secretary David Shulkin said Monday at the National Press Club in Washington. “He was convicted … and does not deserve to have the same title as the men and women who served this country honorably.” More from Military Times, here.  

Saudi Arabia says Iran’s alleged rocket support to Houthis in Yemen constitutes “direct military aggression” that could be an act of war, Reuters reports this morning from Dubai. Iran does not share that position, of course. Human Rights Watch called the Saturday missile launch toward Riyadh “most likely a war crime” this morning, while in the same breath “urg[ing] Saudi Arabia against restricting aid access to Yemen, where the United Nations estimates nearly 900,000 people are infected with cholera.” More here.

Trump is okay with the Saudi crackdown — even though his State Department is still trying to parse it. Tweet, in Monday’s 6 p.m. hour (Washington time): “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing…” Bloomberg reports that this “effectively gave the crown prince the full weight of the U.S. backing despite serious questions remaining about Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the rule of law and its ability to guarantee financial transactions.”
But U.S. diplomats were still trying to figure out their own response:For example, the U.S. is largely pleased with much of what the young crown prince has pushed for, such as his desire to move away from radical Islam, the move to allow women to drive and his Vision 2030 reform plan. At the same time, the administration is disquieted by other policies, such as the continued military campaign in Yemen….” Read, here.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is keeping up his “fighting for every square inch of Syria” rhetoric, which could bring Syrian troops in contact with U.S. special operators and their Syrian Democratic Forces partners, Reuters reports.

Happening today: U.S. Army Chief, Gen. Mark Milley, speaks at 11:30 a.m. EST at the International Conference on Cyber Conflict, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.
Then at 1 p.m., Army Cyber Command’s Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone drops by the ISR & C2 Battle Management USA conference to speak at the Bethesda Marriott.

NATO says it will deploy more troops to Afghanistan — an increase of about 3,000 troops, which raises the total foreign troops presence to 16,000, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said this morning from Brussels.
How he pitched it: “We have decided to increase the number of troops … to help the Afghans break the stalemate.” According to the Associated Press, “the troops won't conduct combat operations but help to train and assist the Afghan security forces, notably to train special forces and build up the conflict-torn country's air force. Stoltenberg said around half the new troops would come from the United States, the rest from the other 28 NATO member nations.” More here.

A Trump foreign-policy advisor coordinated a 2016 Russia trip with top campaign officials, or so Carter Page, the advisor in question, told the House intelligence committee on Nov. 2. Lawmakers released a 243-page transcript of his testimony on Monday. Read more from NBC News, here.
Business Insider’s take on the transcript: “Page revealed that he had met with Russian government officials and a top official at a state-owned oil giant during a 2016 trip to Moscow.” More, here.

DOD blocks release of info about Afghanistan’s security forces, “even as it is asking for a big increase in troop levels and financial support for that war-torn country,” writes POGO: “Last week, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported to Congress that U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) has ‘classified or otherwise restricted’ metrics about the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (Afghan Forces), including casualties, personnel strength, attrition, and operational readiness.” POGO doesn’t buy officials’ rationale — they say the Afghans asked for the info to be classified — because 1) DOD tried something similar in 2015, only to relent; and 2) the data is historical, not current. Read, here.

A U.S. investigation into alleged civilian casualties in northern Afghanistan found the claims to be unsubstantiated, Reuters reports in a follow-up to an attack this weekend in Kunduz.

Lastly today: America’s next nuclear-armed submarine program is back on schedule — and even has a new, lower price tag for each new boomer, U.S. Naval Institute News reported Monday.

Wanna review what’s in store for the Columbia-class program? We got you covered in a six-minute explainer video, here.

By Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston // Ben Watson is news editor for Defense One. He previously worked for NPR's “All Things Considered” and “Here and Now” in Washington, D.C. Watson served for five years in the U.S. Army, where he was an award-winning combat cameraman and media advisor for southern Afghanistan's special operations command during the 2010-11 surge. // Bradley Peniston is deputy editor of Defense One. A national security journalist for two decades, he helped launch, served as managing editor of Defense News, and was editor of Armed Forces Journal. His books include No Higher Honor: Saving the USS Samuel B. Roberts in the Persian Gulf, now part of the Chief of Naval Operations' Professional Reading Program.

November 7, 2017