F-35’s shrinking future; Marines’ new ride; Yemeni airport falls; What happens to stolen cyber weapons? And just a bit more…

Afghanistan’s likely new war commander, Lt. Gen. Scott Miller, spoke to senators Tuesday for his confirmation hearing to take over the job from U.S. Army Gen. John “Mick” Nicholson.

Military Times’ headline for Tuesday’s hearing: Despite 17 Years Of War, Next US Commander In Afghanistan Sees Progress.” Some highlights: (1) “I can’t guarantee you a timeline or an end date,” Miller told lawmakers. And (2) “[W]ith a precipitous and disorderly withdrawal, we would see negative effects on U.S. national security” due to the persistence of al-Qaeda and ISIS affiliates. A bit more, here — or via Bloomberg, here.  

Also in Afghanistan: U.S. airstrikes are up. Like way up, Military.com reported Tuesday.

For the record: There are 195 districts under government control in Afghanistan — and another 201 that are contested by either the Taliban or ISIS, according to the latest estimates from The Long War Journal. See all that, here.

FWIW: It’s hard to read that Military Times headline above and not recall a few others from the humor writers at The Onion and the Duffel Blog. Some of those from recent years:

From Defense One

Thanks To NATO Infighting, the Future of the F-35 Is Shrinking // Patrick Tucker: The U.S. Senate wants to revoke Turkey’s license to buy the jet, while other European governments are looking to get a competitor off the ground.

Marines to Buy New Amphibious Combat Vehicle from BAE Systems // Marcus Weisgerber: The armored personnel carrier will replace the four-decade-old Amphibious Assault Vehicle.

Cut the Red Tape That Is Slowing the Pentagon’s Race to Space // Mike Rogers: If the Air Force is to harness cheap satellites and reusable rockets, it must transform a risk-averse bureaucracy built for a different era.

On the Theft and Reuse of Advanced Offensive Cyber Weapons // Gil Baram, Council on Foreign Relations: Last year, North Korea and Russia used a vulnerability stolen from the U.S. government to conduct the WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. #OTD1944: A German V-2 rocket reaches an altitude of 176 kilometers, becoming the first man-made object in space.

The Saudi/UAE-led coalition in Yemen has taken the airport of Hodeida from the Houthis, Reuters reports this morning after nearly a week of slow advances from the south. “Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told Al Arabiya television that the alliance captured the airport on Wednesday and was now destroying nearby Houthi fortifications. He accused the group of placing tanks inside residential areas.”
Hodeida’s streets are virtually empty, residents told Reuters, as a majority fled for “Sanaa, Raymah and Wusab, in Houthi-controlled areas inland.” More — though not a lot — here.

The Syrian military is on the offensive in the southwest, frightening Jordan, as they pound “opposition-held” areas near the Golan Heights with mortars. Jordan is concerned over a possible “spillover of violence and has been engaged in stepped up diplomatic efforts to preserve the de-escalation zone which it also helped to broker last year.” A bit more, via Reuters, here.

ICYMI: What is the cost of “war games” with South Korea? At least $3.4 million, according to fresh Operational Cost Per Flying Hour data from the Pentagon, CBS News reported last week.
Where that number comes from: The three U.S. aircraft used in August’s (now cancelled) drills with RoK: the B-1B, at $95,758 per flight hour; the B-2A, $122,311 per hour; and the B-52H, $48,880 per hour. Multiply these figures against a 13-hour round trip to the wargames, and the cost comes to $3,470,337. For context, that is 0.0005 percent of the the Pentagon’s proposed $681.1 billion budget for 2019.
Worth noting: “If these flights were canceled in accordance to Mr. Trump’s decree, it is unclear if the money would actually be saved because the flights would likely just be redirected, rather than canceled,” CBS writes. A bit more, here.

What is the cost of putting migrant children in tent cities? Millions more than keeping them with their parents, NBC News reports, citing “an official at the Department of Health and Human Services.”
Tent city price per person: $775 a night.  
The other options: “It costs $256 per person per night to hold children in permanent HHS facilities like Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas. And keeping children with their parents in detention centers like the one run by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement in Dilley, Texas cost $298 per resident per night, according to an agency estimate when it awarded the contract for the facility in 2014.” The story remains the same, but you can parse more of the numbers, here.
This just in (from Heaven?): The Pope says President Trump’s family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border is “immoral,” Reuters reports.  

Only five cities remain in the running for the U.S. Army’s new Futures Command, the service announced Tuesday — with the final selection slated for later this month, and operations set to begin in July, led by a four-star general.  
In: Austin, Texas; Minneapolis, Minn.; Philadelphia; Boston; and Raleigh, N.C.
Out: New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles, Military.com reports.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has some ideas for Donald Trump — 30 of them, in fact. And they’re “recommendations on how to hard-wire economic security and defense-industrial base considerations into the government’s international arms sale decisions,” Defense News reports this morning.

China is not a fan of President Trump’s desired Space Force, saying it “opposes the placement of weapons and an arms race in outer space,” the Washington Examiner reported Tuesday — a day after the president repeated his desire for a new branch that Pentagon leaders have been reluctant to endorse.

Tehran not shooting for the stars. Iran is believed to have missiles that fly 2,000 km — some say as far as 2,500 km — but Tehran has no interest in extending that…for now, Revolutionary Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said Tuesday, according to state-run Tasnim news. Reuters has a bit more, here.

Don’t drink the water. George Air Force Base in California is a Superfund site, poisoned over the decades it was in operation. Military Times’ Tara Copp has a concerning story: “Nearly 300 women who lived at or served at George have connected over Facebook with similar health issues. Ovarian cycts. Uterine tumors. Birth defects in their kids. Hysterectomies. Based on an informal poll, [there were] 94 reported miscarriages among just the 300 who have responded. The stories span three decades, from women who were there in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s until the base closed. Now some of the women are questioning: Was it the water?” Read, here.

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