$675 billion defense approps bill advances; Why you think the Afghan war has gone on so long; Militarized policing doesn’t make people or police safer; New Afghan envoy expected soon; And a bit more.

This year’s defense appropriations bill is moving through Capitol Hill, Military Times reported Thursday after senators “advanced an $857 billion appropriations measure that includes full defense funding for fiscal 2019.” The bill sets aside $675 billion for military spending next year, “including nearly $68 billion in overseas contingency funds.”

Next there: “Lawmakers have until Sept. 30 to either pass new appropriations for federal agencies, pass a temporary budget extension into the fall, or trigger a partial government shutdown. Defense officials have repeatedly warned against either of the latter two.” Read on, here.  

Senators say the Pentagon isn’t doing enough to ward off cyber theft. That’s the gist of a July letter sent from the leaders of the Armed Services Committee and its cybersecurity subcommittee, Bloomberg revealed.

The letter said the committee “has gathered information that suggests DoD is simply not doing enough to protect controlled, unclassified information…We are concerned with existing regulations and best practices” not being followed in matters such as contracts lacking appropriate cybersecurity clauses, computer networks operating without multifactor authentication for access, strong remote user policies and “insufficient third-party verification of compliance with cybersecurity standards.” More, here.

Quick word of thanks, by the way, to everyone who wrote into us with your ideas on why the Afghanistan war has dragged on as long as it has. Dozens upon dozens of you shared your thoughts — and that alone is a great indicator that you’re both a considerate and informed audience.

Some of your answers:

  • “There can be no victory in in a fragmented medieval society, only an endless whackamole.”
  • “We should have never got started there in the first place and we have no STRATEGY to end it. Tactics, techniques, and policies change all the time and with no strategy they are doomed to failure. It is time to leave!”
  • “To win in Afghanistan the US and its allies and friendly locals would have had to fully driven out and destroyed all hostile actors, no matter what tribe or language group they were in and then embarked on a full scale nation building program. The US was not interested in this. We mistook early Special Forces victories over what were essentially foreign “actors with local support” for a final solution to the entire problem. What was needed was nation building, governmental capacity building and strong efforts to provide Civil Affairs assistance at all levels. I mean all levels… from the village all the way up to the Presidential office.”
  • “Because we haven’t put boots on the grounds of the headquarters of the Taliban in Pakistan.”
  • “I just do not think that any US President wants to say that we have been beaten, and we are leaving.”
  • “Afghanistan is Kabul and 40,000 villages.  I am reminded of the movie, ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai.’ The first train arrived to cross it as it was blown up.  In Afghanistan, the train has never left Kabul.”

Be sure and listen to our latest podcast this weekend — since we break down that Q about the Afghan war’s duration with a professor who has a multi-fold idea of her own about what’s going on in America. Catch that discussion at the 17:53 mark, here.  

From Defense One

China’s Growing Power Is Bringing Military Drills Center Stage in Asia // Steve Mollman, Quartz: Beijing will send troops, tanks, and aircraft to join Russia’s largest exercise in decades. That’s just one example.

What I Learned by Studying Militarized Policing // Jonathan Mummolo, The Atlantic: It doesn’t make the police or public any safer. But figuring that out exposed the dearth of useable data on law-enforcement practices.

Fund Meant to Protect US Elections May Be Too Little, Too Late // Ally J. Levine and Blake Paterson, ProPublica: $380 million may sound like a lot — but it was originally approved in 2003, and won’t be fully spent until 2023.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Will auto tariffs hurt Pentagon suppliers?; How to win Army contracts; UK F-35 trials; and more.

DHS Is Reshaping Federal Cybersecurity with a $1 Billion Contract // Joseph Marks, Nextgov: Booz Allen will protect six agencies in its largest-ever government job.

Welcome to this Friday 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. On this day in 1949, the North Atlantic Treaty went into effect.

The Taliban are attacking the approach to Ghazni City, “raid[ing] three villages on the outskirts… destroying some newly built checkpoints and cutting off power to some parts of the city,” Reuters reports today from the contested city — where the Taliban are reportedly “not giv[ing] up any ground during recent clashes” around the provincial capital.

ICYMI: The Trump administration’s State Department is not interested in Russia-brokered talks on Afghanistan’s future, the Associated Press reported Thursday. Those are supposed to happen on September 4 in Moscow “along with representatives of several neighboring countries,” marking “one of the insurgent group’s biggest diplomatic forays since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.”
Also not attending: Representatives from Kabul’s government, AP writes.

For your radar: the State Department is expected to make a key Afghan personnel announcement soon. The rumored change would see former U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad appointed as a special envoy on Afghanistan, CNN reported Thursday. “Khalilzad is a diplomatic veteran, having served as a US ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations.” Tiny bit more, here.

Digital South China Sea taunt from Vietnam. “A Vietnamese website, which only works when users correctly answer a quiz about disputed islands in the South China Sea, has infuriated scores of television fans in China desperate to catch the latest episode of a popular Chinese period drama,” Reuters reports this morning from Hanoi.  
The setup: “The first 56 episodes of the show are being aired for free on Chinese video streaming platform iQiyi, which holds exclusive rights to the drama. For a fee, iQiyi members can watch eight more episodes… which have not yet been broadcast in China.”
Clicking through to the site, users are then asked, “To which country do the Hoang Sa (Paracel Islands) belong? Vietnam, China, Philippines or Japan?” The only answer that works to actually view the videos, Reuters reports, is Vietnam — which happens to claim “sovereignty over the Paracels, which the Chinese military currently occupies.” Read a bit more from this proxy battle, here.

Duncan’s defiant stand. “The California Republican and his wife, Margaret” are “living paycheck to paycheck,” we learned Thursday from the AP as the former Marine pleaded not guilty at a court in San Diego to charges of illegally using his campaign account for personal expenses.
To review: “A 60-count indictment unsealed Tuesday charges the couple used more than $250,000 to finance family trips to Italy and Hawaii, golf outings, school tuition, theater tickets and even fast food purchases, and then attempted to conceal the illegal spending in federal records.”
Said Hunter’s lawyer: “The congressman has faced more difficult battles than this in Iraq and Afghanistan. He looks forward to his day in court.” Read a bit more from the San Diego Union-Tribune, here.

South Africa’s government says that an inflammatory Trump tweet this week was based on “false information” and it served “only to polarize debate on [a] sensitive and crucial matter,” the AP reports from Johannesburg.

And finally: a weekend puzzler for you. What mysterious aircraft can be seen in this footage at The Aviationist from California’s Palmdale and Edwards Air Force Bases? It could be either a B-2 (unlikely), an RQ-180, the new B-21 bomber — or perhaps something else entirely…

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll catch you again on Monday!

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