NK dismantling missile-test facility; FY19 authorization bill; China’s AI-powered robot subs; No-bid maintenance contract for new AF1s ; and just a bit more…

North Korea dismantling missile-development site. 38North says key facilities are being taken down at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, where Pyongyang tested the liquid-fueled engines that now power its ICBMs. The Stimson Center-affiliated site calls this “an important first step towards fulfilling a commitment made by Kim Jong Un at the June 12 Singapore Summit” — but notes that satellite photos show that so far, the buildings’ foundations remain intact. Read, here.


From Defense One

No-Bid Maintenance Contract Sweetens Air Force One Deal for Boeing // Marcus Weisgerber: Boeing’s deal to turn two 747s into flying White Houses is actually somewhat sweeter than its initial $3.9 billion price tag.

China’s Robot Subs Will Lean Heavily on AI: Report // Paulina Glass: The leader of the classified 912 Project gives a rare interview. The question, as always, is why.

This Stealthy Drone May Be The Future of Russian Fighter Jets // Patrick Tucker: Russian industry sources called this heavy armed stealth drone a prototype for their sixth-generation aircraft.

Computers Have Found a Better Way to Spot Emailed Malware, Researchers Say // Patrick Tucker: Somehow no one thought of applying machine learning to malicious email in exactly this way. But the results are big.

Trump, Iran, and the Dangers of Presidential Bluffing // Uri Friedman: Last year, the president’s threats targeted North Korea. The outcome holds lessons for a new round of threats.

Donald Trump’s Reckless Iran Tweet // Conor Friedersdorf: Why would the president threaten war over such relatively inconsequential words?

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief  by Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free.


House, Senate agree on FY19 authorization bill. Defense News: U.S. House and Senate negotiators reached agreement Monday on a $716 billion defense authorization bill which includes a sizable boost in military end strength, more ships and planes than the White House asked for, and a compromise on U.S. sanctions on Russia.” Details, here.

No F-35s for Turkey, temporarily: Bloomberg: “Turkish receipt of the fighter jets would be held back until the Pentagon submitted an assessment within 90 days of the measure’s enactment on U.S.-Turkish relations, the impact of Turkey’s planned acquisition of Russia’s advanced S-400 missile defense system and the ramifications for the U.S. industrial base if Turkey is dropped from the international F-35 program.

What’s that about? Here’s the background, from Selim Sazak, writing in Defense One last month.

Israel shoots down Syrian fighter jet. Israeli forces two Patriot missiles fired at Russian-made Sukhoi plane — either an Su-22 or -24, IDF officials said — that flew two kilometers into Israeli territory. The jet crashed in Syria, reports Haaretz.

Russian hackers have penetrated electrical-grid control rooms. No damage appears to have been done in hundreds of attacks on the control rooms of electrical utilities, U.S officials tell the Wall Street Journal, but they fear the hackers could have — and still might — cause blackouts. Read, here.

Air Force One deal gets sweeter for Boeing. In the wake of last week’s announcement that the Air Force will pay Boeing $3.9 billion to provide and prep two 747s for presidential service — a deal that Donald Trump hammered as costing too much before sitting down with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg in February — a contract document reveals that the Chicago-based aerospace giant will also get a no-bid contract to handle maintenance and logistics for the new planes for five years. The arrangement, likely worth hundreds of millions of dollars — is not particularly unusual; the service commonly gives aircraft manufacturers no-bid maintenance contracts. Read on for more details of the deal and the modifications, here.

Revoke their clearances! Washington Post: “President Donald Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of six former top national security officials who have been critical of his administration, a move that opponents and experts say would be an unprecedented politicization of the clearance process.”

Why? Presidential spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the White House was considering the step because the six former officials made “‘baseless accusations’ that the Trump administration had improper contact with Russia or was influenced by Russia.”

The six: former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey; former DNI James Clapper,; former CIA Director Michael Hayden; former national security adviser Susan Rice; and former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe. At least two and likely more don’t even have clearances anymore, having given them up when they left government service.

Yes, Trump can do that: The White House can revoke anyone’s security clearance, GovExec reports.

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