Space Force about-face; Senate rebukes Trump on Yemen; Taliban’s complex attack; Biggest public-health threat; And a bit more.

Space Force about-face: Since March, when President Trump surprised Pentagon leaders by “enthusiastically ad-libbing his desire” for a sixth military branch to handle space operations, they have been working with increasing speed to lay the groundwork for the legislation that would be necessary to make it happen. But key lawmakers have been dubious all along, and the midterms will install Space Force-opponent Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., as House Armed Services Committee chair in January.

Looking for alternatives: So about a month ago, members of the Trump administration bowed to the inevitable. In an Oct. 26 memo, one member of the National Security Council and one of the National Space Council told the Pentagon to look at different options for something that could still be called “Space Force” but wouldn’t require a separate service branch. D1’s Marcus Weisgerber reports, here.

Senate finally gets mad about the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Last-minute pleas by Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could not dissuade senators from voting, 63-37, to formally open debate on a War Powers resolution on the U.S. involvement in Yemen Wednesday afternoon. 

The measure would give the administration 30 days to end its military involvement, yet allow counterterror operations against al Qaeda to continue. It was a dramatic reversal of a similar vote held in March that failed, 55-44,” reports D1’s Katie Bo Williams.

Why now? Several senators cited the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi — and the Trump administration’s apparent unwillingness to let CIA chief Gina Haspel come to Capitol Hill to explain why her agency concluded that the Saudi crown prince was intimately involved. More to the story, here.


From Defense One

White House Seeks Alternatives to Independent Space Force // Marcus Weisgerber: Pentagon leaders were dutifully double-timing toward a new military branch. Then they got new marching orders.

Senate Rebukes Trump in Historic Vote to Curtail Support for Saudi Campaign in Yemen // Katie Bo Williams: Lawmakers have tried for years to end U.S. involvement in Yemen. They just passed a big procedural hurdle, thanks to an empty chair at a Senate briefing.

Something We Can Agree On: Close Some Overseas Bases // Miriam Pemberton: A group of national security experts from left, right, and center says cutting some of America’s 800 far-flung outposts will save money and make us safer.

The Korean War is Ending — With or Without Denuclearization // Uri Friedman: Reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula is happening faster than denuclearization. The United States might not be willing to accept that.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! And if you find this stuff useful, consider sharing it with somebody you think might find it useful, too. Facing grenade, rifle and machine-gun fire on this day in 1943, U.S. Army Pvt. Shizuya Hayashi killed 20 Nazis before taking four others prisoner during a mountain assault near Cerasuolo, Italy. Hayashi, the Hawaii-born son of immigrants from Japan, was drafted into the Army nine months before the attacks on Pearl Harbor. It was not until June 2000 that he received the Medal of Honor for his actions on this day 75 years ago.


Taliban carry out complex attack in Kabul that leaves 10 dead, 19 injured. British security firm G4S was attacked on Wednesday when a car bomb exploded on the street, followed by gunmen who stormed the building, the BBC reports. “It came just hours after President Ashraf Ghani announced plans to form a team to seek a peace deal with the Taliban.
And not to be forgotten: “Just the previous day, three US service members were killed and three more were wounded in an explosion near Ghazni.” Speaking of which…

I got a name.” We now know the identities of the three American service members killed by an IED in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, on Tuesday:

  • Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Virginia.
  • Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington.
  • Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania.

Home units: The soldiers were assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The airman was assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. RIP, gentlemen.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas for a few thousand American troops on the U.S.-Mexico border. “President Trump is expected to extend the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border into January rather than withdrawing the personnel in the middle of December,” Pentagon officials told NPR on Wednesday.
According to Military Times, “there has been no request received from the Department of Homeland Security. DHS would have to request the additional force presence and what capabilities they require; then the Pentagon would resource the request.” A bit more here.

Vets to VA: WTF is this about our housing allowance? It’s been a tough few weeks for folks in public relations for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Back in October, NBC News helped sound the alarm about the VA not paying some vets’ housing allowances that are authorized under the post-9/11 GI Bill.
Here’s NBC News Wednesday evening with an unkind update: “[O]n Wednesday, the department told congressional staffers that it would not reimburse those veterans who were paid less than they were owed, two committee aides told NBC News. The news conflicts with a promise VA officials made to a House committee earlier this month that it would reimburse those veterans who received less than the full amount they were due.”
Why can’t the VA pay $ vets thought would be helping pay their rent while attending classes? “[B]ecause it would have to audit all its previous education claims prior to December 2019, meaning the VA would potentially have to inspect 2 million claims,” a Congressional aide told NBC.
What’s more, the VA reportedly believes it has “a legal justification that would allow them to move forward with this decision. They did not share that justification [with the Congressional aides or the public], however.”
Said one vet to The D Brief: “If these veterans were overpaid for their benefits, you better believe the VA would go after them for that money! I haven’t used my GI Bill in a few years, so it doesn’t personally affect me. I just don’t think this is how we should treat veterans.”
Said another: “I hope the deficiency is addressed. I can’t see how they justify their position.” Read the full story (so far) at NBC News, here.

Scam alert: Some 442 service members were apparently “catfished” out of more than $560,000, according to an investigation by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Very cynical scheming — involving prisoners no less — in the details of NCIS’s report posted online Wednesday, here.

“Biggest global health threat of the 21st century” is climate change, according to a new report published in The Lancet, the prestigious medical journal. (This via Mother Jones, here.) Aimed at the public-health community, the report notes several developments with concern:

  • Climate change will force scores of millions of people to migrate.
  • Even small changes in temperature and precipitation can result in large changes in the transmission of vector-borne and water-borne diseases.
  • 153 billion hours of global labor were lost due to heat last year, up more than 62 billion hours since 2000.
  • 30 countries produced less food in recent years.

Today in useful visualizations: The ruthless time squeeze to stay below 2 degrees Celcius global warming. “If we start today: 10% [reduction in carbon emissions per] year. If we wait 10 years: 30%/year. If we had started in 2000: 3%/year.” Via Svein Tveitdal, a former director of the United Nations Environmental Program.

This week in politicized intelligence, “The commander-in-chief said he could declassify FISA warrant applications and other documents from Robert Mueller’s probe — and predicted the disclosure would expose the FBI, the Justice Department and the Clinton campaign as being in cahoots to set him up,” the New York Post reported Wednesday of their exclusive interview, one of many given by POTUS45 to various news outlets this week.
Said Trump: “If they go down the presidential harassment track, if they want go and harass the president and the administration, I think that would be the best thing that would happen to me. I’m a counter-puncher and I will hit them so hard they’d never been hit like that… I think that would help my campaign. If they want to play tough, I will do it. They will see how devastating those pages are.”
Notes CNN: “It’s not clear what documents he is referring to… While it’s uncommon for most presidents to use, or threaten to use, declassification as a political tool, Trump has done so on multiple occasions in 2018.”

Trump/Russia watch: The president’s former lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty this morning to lying to Congress about the proposed Trump World Tower Moscow project. As late as summer 2016, when candidate Donald Trump was wrapping up GOP primary victories, Cohen was still working to move the project forward, according to texts and emails shown to Yahoo News.
Trump in January 2017: “I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia, because we’ve stayed away” (h/t Kate Brannen).
Donald Trump Jr. in 2008: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…we see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

And finally today: Bet you haven’t seen a Kalashnikov assault rifle used like this before. If you didn’t click that link, here’s what’s going on in the video: Children (apparently) in Yemen are playing soccer — nothing unusual about that, of course.
But the referee? He has no whistle, but rather an assault rifle, which he’ll aim upward, charge and then pop off a round if the ball goes out of bounds, or there’s an offside that he’s sure of, or — presumably — if someone rushes up to these kids with ill intent. Hat tip to freelance photographer Mikel Ayestaran (and NYTs C.J. Chivers).
Bonus proliferation trivia this week: Apparently Canadian-made North Eastern Arms PDW-CCS 7.5” 5.56x45mm PDWs are for sale in Iraq. As others noted in the tweet’s replies, it’s a weapon that’s apparently made its way to Kurdish PKK fighters as well.

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