Mattis visits border; Israeli DM quits over Gaza; More laser money, please; The coming nuclear debates; And a bit more.

By Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston

November 14, 2018

SecDef Mattis goes to the border. The U.S. Defense Secretary on Tuesday gave reporters about 18 hours' notice he would be heading to America’s southern border today. There, some 7,000 U.S. active duty troops are spread across Texas, Arizona and California helping “harden” river crossings and entry points along the U.S. border with Mexico.

What the SecDef may see today:

P.S. Somebody’s still calling it “Operation Faithful Patriot.” Background via Task & Purpose, here.

Caravan(s) latest: To the far west in Tijuana today, a group of nearly 400 “mostly LGBTQ” migrants arrived in a fleet of buses and “joined a smaller group of about 80 migrants who reached the border city on Sunday,” the BBC reports this morning. More on that group from NPR, here.

Some of the new arrivals began climbing the border walls at Tijuana but with apparently no success, Fox5 San Diego reports. "Several people scaled the fence and sat on top of it. A few jumped or crawled to openings in the fence onto U.S. soil but quickly ran back as Border Patrol agents approached. Several border agents were seen patrolling the area in trucks, 4-wheelers, a helicopter and on horses."

BTW: Caravan comms from the White House and Fox News have gone dark. It’s a point we noticed last week considering the president’s Twitter feed — used nearly 30 times from October 1 through November 6 to comment on either “caravan” or “border” or “migrant” things. It’s been used for the same purposes just once since those midterm elections.

As for Fox News, it spent more than 33 hours devoted to caravan coverage up through election day, the Associated Press reports. During the two days after Nov. 6, the network spent just four minutes and 57 seconds on the same topic, according to a study from Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog organization.

FWIW: The larger group of 5,000 or so migrants are still traveling north through south-central Mexico.


From Defense One

Pentagon Wants More Money for Lasers To Defend Against Missiles, Drone Swarms // Patrick Tucker: Directed-energy weapons are with a factor of two or three to being militarily useful, the Pentagon’s top scientist said.

Supersonic Bizjets May Attract Pentagon Interest // Paulina Glass: Three teams are pursuing latter-day SSTs. The U.S. military might have use for them.

The Tech Companies That Are Eager to Sell AI to the Pentagon // Dave Gershgorn and Justin Rohrlich, Quartz: The Pentagon’s AI shopping list is similar to a Silicon Valley company’s: fast data organization, predictive maintenance, and mitigation for threats.

Here are the FBI’s Warning Signs of a Mass Shooter // Heather Timmons, Quartz: A prior arrest. Unmarried. A history of abusive behavior. Oh, and 94% are men.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you find this stuff useful, consider sharing The D Brief with somebody you think might find it useful, too. And thanks for reading! On this day in 1846, the U.S. Navy’s Commodore David E. Conner’s forces captured the Mexican city of Tampico ahead of their naval assault on Vera Cruz — up to that point the largest marine assault in U.S. history — four months later.


Ceasefire called after two days of strikes across the Gaza border. Things seemed to be calming down last week, the fruit of various efforts between the Israeli government and Hamas leaders.
Then Israel slipped nearly a dozen commandos into Gaza on Sunday to gather intelligence covertly. Instead, they got into a firefight that left at least seven Palestinians dead and touched off two days of fighting: rocket and mortar fire from Gaza into Israel, airstrikes by Israeli warplanes in Gaza.
Missile-defense note: As of Tuesday evening, Israeli officials said, Iron Dome batteries had intercepted more than 100 of the 460-some rockets and mortars launched from Gaza. (Via Barbara Opall-Rome.)
Now there’s a new ceasefire — and Israel’s hawkish defense minister has resigned in protest of it. The New York Times has more, here.

Preview: next term’s nuclear debates in Congress. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., is speaking at a Ploughshares event this morning, and Council for a Livable World’s Alexandra Bell likes what she’s hearing from the next House Armed Services Committee chairman: “.@RepAdamSmith is laying out his plans for dealing with nuclear policy going forward and it’s [fire emoji]. Reduce needless spending, support for diplomacy, no mini-nukes. It’s gonna be a whole new ballgame in 2019.”

More laser money, please. The U.S. military will request more money to develop lasers, microwave beams, and other directed-energy defenses to fight off missiles and drone swarms, the Pentagon’s top weapons engineer said Tuesday. “You’re going to see, in upcoming budgets for missile defense, a renewed emphasis on laser scaling [meaning scaling up the power of lasers] across several technologies,” Michael Griffin, defense undersecretary for research and engineering, said at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic International Studies. “In units of ones or twos, we can roll out tens of kilowatts.
That is within a factor of two or three of being useful on a battlefield, airplane or ship” — for example, to take out enemy drone swarms, he said. “In my opinion, we are no more than a few years away from having laser weapons of military utility.” Read on, here.

New court filings reveal China’s efforts to bribe UN officials, and sway the world order. That’s from Yahoo News, reporting on the case of Patrick Ho, a former Hong Kong official arrested last year on charges related to bribing UN officials. “Records related to the case — including documents submitted by Ho’s own attorney — now connect Ho’s alleged payments to promotion of a major Beijing foreign policy push called the Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature venture advancing investment and infrastructure projects around the world. Belt and Road isn’t about only inking business deals; it offers a sweeping vision of a China-centric political and economic global order, one in which countries depend on China, not the West, for prosperity.” Read on, here.

The suicide rate among active-duty service members more than doubled between 2001 and 2016. Seven years ago, the Pentagon set up a nine-person office to “respond to the burgeoning suicide rate among active duty personnel and overhaul the way the military had historically addressed the problem,” as Mother Jones puts it. But that office has struggled to find its place and gain traction in the bureaucracy. Today, it is under the Office of Personnel and Readiness, whose top four civilian posts include three that are temporarily filled by acting directors because they are among the half of senior federal jobs that remain unfilled halfway through the Trump administration.
Bottom line: According to the most recent public figures, the suicide rate among active-duty service members “is now at 21.1 percent per 100,000 troops, two-and-a-half percentage points higher than it was in 2011, the year DSPO was founded.” Read Mother Jones’ deep dive into the troubled history of the office, here.

And finally today: The U.S. Army is working to develop a new remote-controlled land mine. The effort began two years ago; the central idea is that the munitions would only detonate when an American soldier tells them to. The New York Times runs down what we know about the program, 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 Military.com, 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 14, 2018

https://www.defenseone.com/news/2018/11/the-d-brief-november-14-2018/152818/