Space Force by 2020! Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday unveiled a plan to ask Congress for the authority and funds to set up the U.S. Space Force as a sixth branch of the armed forces, calling the proposal “an idea whose time has come,” Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reports.
Now, the Defense Department will kick into action a series of steps that it can take without Congress by the end of the year, including the creation of a new combatant command for space and new space war-fighting and weapons-buying units that will eventually become part of the Space Force.
What happens next: Trump will have to include his request for a full Space Force in the fiscal year 2020 budget request due to Congress in February, punting the real fight over a new service branch until late next year.
New job opening? Pence also announced a new civilian position — assistant secretary of defense of space — reporting to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to oversee the creation of the new branch. But no names have been given for that just yet. Read on, here.
Taliban fighters killed more than one dozen Afghan troops in a Friday assault on a provincial capital, the Associated Press reports from Kabul. The attackers reportedly hid inside people’s homes before slipping out in the dark of night to spark street battles with Afghan security forces.
“The attack first began around 2 a.m. with intense gunbattles raging and fires burning in several shops in the city’s residential areas,” AP writes. “By mid-afternoon, the Taliban had set the local TV building on fire.” Then the group destroyed a communications tower; then an Afghan security forces helicopter crash-landed in the street; only then did U.S. Apaches, jets and a drone show up to scare off the fighters. Read on, here.
Trump White House “has quietly started cutting scores of Pakistani officers from coveted training and educational programs that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations for more than a decade,” U.S. officials told Reuters in some quiet, but potentially quite big news from the Af-Pak region.
SecDef Mattis was reportedly a big fan of the program, too — known as the International Military Education and Training, or IMET, program — and for Pakistan, in particular.
For the record, these changes appear to mark “the first known impacts from Trump’s decision this year to suspend U.S. security assistance to Pakistan to compel it to crack down on Islamic militants,” according to the news agency.
Pentagon reax, officially: No comment. Pakistani military, too. But, Reuters notes, “officials from both countries privately criticized the move.”
For some context, “The U.S. military has traditionally sought to shield such educational programs from political tensions, arguing that the ties built by bringing foreign military officers to the United States pay long-term dividends.” Read on, here.
But over all that, and to put it mildly, Reuters writes “Pakistan and the United States have a complicated relationship, bound by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops in Afghanistan but plagued by accusations Islamabad is playing a double game.”
From Defense One
Pence Makes Hard Sell For Trump’s Space Force by 2020 // Katie Bo Williams: The administration wants a new military service branch, but space mission’s future in the Pentagon and Congress is far from certain.
Global Business Brief: Guess which CEOs dined with Trump?; Missile defense update; Navy seeks new tech; Bezos to keynote AFA; and a lot more from Marcus Weisgerber.
DIUx Drops the X, Becomes Permanent // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: Facing criticism, Pentagon signals to Silicon Valley the military isn’t going anywhere.
School-Security Companies Are Thriving in the Era of Mass Shootings // Mark Keierleber, The Atlantic: A multibillion-dollar industry is pushing an array of expensive technologies with the message that any campus could be next.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Kevin Baron. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day in 1921, the U.S. established the Bureau of Aeronautics under one Rear Adm. William Moffett.
This weekend: SecDef Mattis will travel south Sunday to ring in the White House-declared “Year of the Americas” with visits to a few allies. He first stops in Brazil, where he’ll speak at the country’s war college, Escola Superior de Guerra. Then it’s off to Argentina, Chile, and Colombia.
The U.S. Army stopped kicking out immigrant recruits, the Associated Press reported Thursday. “A memo shared with The Associated Press on Wednesday and dated July 20 spells out orders to high-ranking Army officials to stop processing discharges of men and women who enlisted in the special immigrant program, effective immediately. It was not clear how many recruits were impacted by the action, and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the memo.” Story, here.
The UN has called for an investigation into the bus attack in Yemen on Thursday that killed 50 people — including dozens of children. It’s a move the Houthi rebels this morning are rooting for as well, Reuters reports.
The Saudis said they also will launch their own investigation into the matter.
How many? There are roughly 6,000 Islamic State fighters across nine “cells” in Africa, according to a new report inside the latest West Point Combating Terrorism Center Sentinel.
For your ears only Listen to one of the report’s authors, Dr. Jason Warner, describe what these ISIS cells are, where they’re located, and what it means for the future of security in Africa in this week’s edition of Defense One Radio on Overcast or iTunes or Google Play.
Also in Africa: Russia’s mercenaries, and in the Central African Republic, to be precise. In case you’ve missed it, The New York Times has the story of “three Russian journalists ventured into the violent and rebel-plagued Central African Republic as part of a daring investigation into the Kremlin’s use of mercenaries to project power into Africa” — and the three journalists wound up dead instead.
The supposed cause of death: “shot by robbers on a road many others traveled that day without incident.” The Cold War-era intrigue continues, here.
Russia is warning of “economic war” with the U.S. if Washington imposes “new restrictions on [Moscow’s] economy and assets, including the rouble which has lost nearly six percent of its value this week on sanctions jitters,” Reuters reports.
For what it’s worth, “there is little Russia could do to hit back at the United States without damaging its own economy or depriving its consumers of sought after goods.”
Trump is escalating a trade war with NATO ally, Turkey, “imposing a 20 percent duty on aluminum and 50 percent one on steel, as tensions mount between the two NATO allies over Ankara’s detention of an evangelical pastor and other diplomatic issues,” Reuters reports off a Friday morning presidential tweet.
The tweet: “I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”
15 minutes before that, he was advocating for NFL players to “Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!”
About an hour before that, he was stewing about the “lack of evidence” in the Mueller probe. So pretty standard Friday for POTUS45.
And finally this week: Protestors are planning a rally in Washington, D.C., on Sunday — marking the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va.
Also marking the occasion: Frontline and ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson has a new documentary this airs this week called “Documenting Hate: Charlottesville.” Watch that online over here.
Or listen as Thompson tells us a bit about the lessons he’s learned — and the people he’s unmasked — in the year since Charlottesville and “both sides” burst onto U.S. and international headlines. Find that discussion at the 26:14 mark, here.
Have a safe weekend out there, gang. And we’ll catch you again on Monday!