No-shutdown deal?; Army Strykers hacked; No new money for AI; UK plans drone swarms; And a bit more.

By Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson

February 12, 2019

Lawmakers say they have a tentative deal to avoid a new shutdown, the Washington Post reports. Known-knowns: “The deal includes $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fences along the border, compared with $5.7 billion Trump had sought for more than 200 miles of walls. The deal omits a strict new cap Democrats had sought on immigrants detained within the United States — as opposed to at the border.”

Described as an agreement only “in principle” so far, the deal would also limit the number of detention beds maintained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. More, here.

In a Monday rally in El Paso, Texas, President Trump misled the audience about the city's crime rate in an apparent effort to build support for more border barriers. Find a full transcript of his remarks, here

California just pulled most of its National Guard troops from the U.S.-Mexico border. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order on Monday to withdraw about 260 of his state’s 360 Guardsman sent to the border last year by his predecessor, who was responding to a Trump administration request. The Associated Press has more, here.


From Defense One

Lawmakers Say They Have an Agreement to Avoid a 2nd Shutdown // GovExec’s Eric Katz: They offered no details on the deal "in principle," but said they hoped to finalize it quickly.

Two Ideas That Might Stop a Post-INF Arms Race, and One That Won’t // Daryl G. Kimball: Discard the pipe dream of INF-plus-China. Focus instead on keeping new missiles too far away to strike.

How a Forever War Ends // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: Trump might well wrap up the war in Afghanistan, but only by giving up on America’s original goals.

DARPA Is Trying Bioelectric Implants to Help Heal Wounds // Frank Konkel, Nextgov: One of the Pentagon’s new research programs could see biosensors, actuators and even artificial intelligence implanted in soldiers to speed up the body’s healing processes.

Illegal Immigration Doesn’t Cause Crime // Tanvi Misra, CityLab: A review of the available evidence shows no link between illegal immigration — currently at a decade-long low — and crime.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born inside a one-room log cabin in central Kentucky.


Citizens of the world view the top threats as climate change, cyber attacks, ISIS and North Korea, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center. Interestingly, even South Koreans rank climate change and cyber attacks as greater threats than North Korea.
Some other interesting pullouts:

Related reading: the Annual Munich Security report, released just a few days ahead of this year’s Munich Security Conference.
One line from that report: “The entire liberal international order appears to be falling apart.” The International Crisis Group has a Twitter thread breaking down the report’s contents, if you don’t have time for all 102 pages, here.

Someone hacked into the Army’s upgunned Strykers.“Adversaries” — Russia? Friendly red-teamers? — “demonstrated the ability to degrade select capabilities of the ICV-D when operating in a contested cyber Environment. In most cases, the exploited vulnerabilities pre-date the integration of the lethality upgrades,” the Pentagon’s top testing office wrote in its most recent report.
No further details are available, reports The War Zone’s Joseph Trevethick, who spotted the intriguing item buried deep in the DOT&E document. He speculates, “It seems most likely that the attacks had an effect on the vehicle’s data-sharing, navigation, or digital communications capabilities. Disrupting any of these systems, or adding false or confusing information into the networks, can hamper or slow U.S. operations or create added risks for American forces.” Read a bit more, here.

The White House’s new AI initiative includes no new funding. As Defense One reported early Monday night, the Trump administration is telling federal departments to “prioritize AI investments.” Now that the executive order is signed, Nextgov offers some context. Here’s William Carter, deputy director of the Technology Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: “You can have this lofty document…but there’s a lot of legwork in making sure that actually translates into action on the ground,” Carter said. “In this White House, I don’t think [the Office of Science and Technology Policy] has the clout and the presidential support needed to push the agencies in a serious way.”
No new money? Carter said that “‘worries me a lot.’ Research funding and job retraining programs aren’t cheap, and many government leaders will likely resist attempts to reallocate funds from existing programs, he said.”

The British military will deploy squadrons of swarm drones, possibly as early as by the end of the year, the BBC reported Monday off Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson's remarks Monday at the Royal United Services Institute.
Also flagged: future plans involving two new "ships that could be deployed for crisis support as well as military operations," possibly "purchas[ing] and adapt[ing] cargo ships or ferries with existing hulls to create the new vessels," and reinforcing "the military's cyber capabilities…to defend and launch attacks."
BTW: The Brits only flattop is in the South China Sea right now along with its allies in the U.S. Navy.
Said Williamson of this deployment: Britain and its allies have to be ready "to use hard power to support our interests… We have to be ready to show the high price of aggressive behaviour. Ready to strengthen our resilience."
The BBC’s quick analysis of Williamson’s ship-drone-and-cyber plans: “There is already a growing black hole in the MoD's £180bn equipment plan. But instead of making cuts, Mr Williamson is adding more to his shopping list.” Read on, here.
Wanna hear more about all those plans and a bit more about the strategy behind it all? The MoD’s Will Jessett spoke with our own Marcus Weisgerber just a few weeks ago about the newest British military strategy. Find the episode, here.

FBI may shut down its war-crimes unit, Just Security reports, citing “officials familiar with the administration’s decision-making process.” This International Human Rights Unit “takes the lead on investigating individuals within the United States who have been accused of committing international crimes, including war crimes, torture, genocide, female genital mutilation, and the recruitment of child soldiers. It also investigates international crimes committed against or by U.S. citizens abroad and enforces immigration statutes that can be invoked against abusers who cannot be prosecuted for their underlying crimes for whatever reason.”
More Qs than As? “The rationale for suddenly scaling back the United States’ commitment to investigating and prosecuting war criminals is unclear.” Read on, here.

ICYMI on Monday, Apple announced a new medical records partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Kesling flagged for us on Twitter.
Also flagged by Kesling: His November report (with Tripp Mickle) on that partnership. Read all about it, here.

In other recent military medical-related news, The Tennessean’s Brett Kelman reported on “A Tennessee clinic [that] swindled the military out of $65M.” The clinic, "Choice MD prescribed needless medicinal cream, costing more than $14,000 per prescription" to Marines in California. Who paid the bill? U.S. taxpayers.
Bonus: Read the story behind the story — it is a wild one — via Kelman’s Twitter feed, here.

SpaceX’s certification to launch military satellites is suddenly under review. Bloomberg reports that the Pentagon’s inspector general has informed Air Force leaders that his office will be taking a look at the service’s 2015 decision to allow Elon Musk’s rocket company to break the monopoly on military space haulage then held by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.
Why? No word yet, and neither SpaceX nor the Air Force appear to be talking. Read, here.

For your eyes only: Here’s an unusual (to us, anyway) view of one of the U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships. The photo is for a story from Monday about an Alabama shipyard, Austal USA, in talks with the Navy for additional work with the LCS program. U.S. Naval Institute News has more on that, here.

Get to better know “the inner workings of Israeli private intelligence organizations” via two spies-in-America stories from this young week:

  1. "Undercover spy exposed in NYC was 1 of many," a short-read follow-up from the Associated Press’s Raphael Satter. This story involves allegations that a “company, the NSO Group, sold its spyware to governments with questionable human rights records.” And the story gets much uglier (and awkward) from there.
  2. And — the very long read — “Private Mossad for Hire” from the The New Yorker’s Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow.

And lastly today, NPR just launched a new podcast where they “go back in time to understand the present.” It’s called Throughline, and the first episode just posted last week. Episode 1’s focus: “How The CIA Overthrew Iran's Democracy In 4 Days.” It’s 38 minutes long, and you can get started reviewing that momentous episode, here.


By Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson // 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. // 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.

February 12, 2019

https://www.defenseone.com/news/2019/02/the-d-brief-february-12-2019/154809/