Pushback on 2020 budget; Slow walk into great-power era; 3,000 ISIS fighters surrender; US-Ukraine intel sharing; And a bit more.

By Bradley Peniston, Katie Bo Williams, Marcus Weisgerber, and Ben Watson

March 13, 2019

HASC chair: “bipartisan” opposition to Trump’s wall funds. One day after Budget Request 2020 went to Congress, the newish chairman of the House Armed Services Committee outlined a few of the ways the legislative branch will push back. No. 1: there is bipartisan agreement that the Pentagon budget should not cover Trump’s $9.2 billion “emergency request” to extend barriers on the southern border, said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. “Our bill will not fund that.” Smith spoke at Jim McAleese’s annual Credit Suisse conference in Washington, D.C., D1’s Marcus Weisgerber reports.

HASC ranking member concurs. “I’m for building a wall—physical barriers can contribute to border security—but I think it ought to be funded on its own,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said Tuesday. “So don’t take the wall money out of the minimum you need for defense, is where I am.”

Smith disses Space Force plan: “I cannot imagine what they propose is going to happen.…It’s going to be different from what the White House proposed,” Rep. Smith said. “Three more four-star generals are not going to make us stronger in space,” He was more positive about the Space Development Agency, which the Pentagon has proposed for buying new satellites: “That makes more sense.”

Thornberry: new space command won’t arrive quickly. In this year’s defense authorization act, “We want to remove or change” a provision from last year’s NDAA that put the proposed U.S. Space Command under U.S. Strategic Command. That would put Trump’s Space Command on ice for the better part of this year, D1’s Katie Bo Williams reports.

Watch, now: “Smith signals what I'm betting will be a big theme for Democrats during today's hearing with EUCOM commander Scaparrotti: He says in his opening statement that the ‘most pressing’ issue in EUCOM right now is ‘maintaining our ties with NATO,’” Williams wrote.

Scaparrotti on the threat from Russia: “I think your next step, Mr. Chairman — I’m concerned about the Balkans. We’ve seen increased malign influence there.” Follow @KatieBoWill for ongoing coverage.

Correction: an editing error originally mischaracterized Thornberry's plans regarding Space Command.


From Defense One

2020 Budget Request Reveals Slow Shift Toward Great Power War // Patrick Tucker and Marcus Weisgerber: It will take some years before various futuristic weapons even begin to arrive.

Lawmakers Question Pentagon’s Use of ‘Slush Fund’ to Skirt Budget Caps // Marcus Weisgerber and Katie Bo Williams: Almost one-quarter of the 2020 defense budget is in OCO. That's sure to come up when Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan testifies on Thursday.

Is the Pentagon Truly Committed to the National Defense Strategy? // CNAS’ Elbridge Colby and James Miller: Various warning signs say no. The 2020 budget will tell. Congress must scrutinize it carefully.

How the White House Is Spinning the North Korea Summit Collapse // Uri Friedman, The Atlantic: The administration no longer thinks Trump alone can reach a deal with Kim Jong Un.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 2002, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge unveiled the color-coded system that ranked the severity of terrorist threats. It lasted until 2011.


Some 3,000 jihadists surrendered Tuesday from ISIS-held Baghouz, Syria, Agence France-Presse reports this morning on location. The remaining fighters, however, are putting up a stiff resistance, including — as in Mosul’s last days — sending suicide bombers out to die one by one like some slow-motion Gallipoli. Worth the click for much better details from AFP’s Tony Gamal-Gabriel and Rouba El Husseini, here.
If you want imagery and video footage from Baghouz, the BBC’s Jewan Abdi has been delivering riveting scenes like this of the “women of the Islamic State” who remorselessly attack Abdi’s camera. See also Rodi Said’s great work for Reuters.
Iraq is about to get 20,000 exiled women and children from Baghouz, Reuters reports as officials grapple with how to deal with the 65,000 people in the al-Hol camp in northeastern Syria. The International Red Cross is trying to help, but it’s a bit of an organizational mess at the moment — a mess made more complicated by various nations’ refusal to accept ISIS fighters back to their country for trial or detention. More here.  

Back stateside, a Georgia woman was arrested Tuesday and charged with hacking on behalf of ISIS, the Department of Justice announced.
The woman’s various names include: “F@ng,” a.k.a. “SyxxZMC,” a.k.a. “Zozo,” a.k.a. “Miss.Bones,” a.k.a. “Sage Pi,” a.k.a. “Kitty Lee.” Her real name is Kim Anh Vo, and she is 20 years old. Full DOJ release, here.

There are lots of empty posts and acting secretaries at the Pentagon, maybe more than ever before, Foreign Policy’s Lara Seligman and Robbie Gramer reported Tuesday.
Among those: “two out of seven undersecretaries of defense and nearly half the assistant secretaries of defense—including the top civilian for international security affairs—are either acting or temporarily performing the job. Many deputy assistant secretary of defense slots also remain unfilled, as well as various other senior positions throughout the department.”
Worth noting: “about two-thirds of Senate-confirmed DoD positions are filled right now, which is ‘actually not that bad,’” according to Loren DeJonge Schulman. More on diminishing diversity inside the building as well as Pat Shanahan’s job prospects, here.
For the record: Across the wider U.S. government, 40 percent of “key senior posts” requiring Trump’s nomination and confirmation by the Senate still are not filled (that’s 429 of 712 posts), according to the Washington Post.

The more you know: deployed Army edition. “On any given day, we have about 180,000 soldiers deployed in more than 140 countries" and across six different continents, Army Budget Director Maj. Gen. Thomas Horlander said Tuesday. (h/t Voice of America’s Carla Babb)

A new first for U.S.-Ukraine surveillance coordination: “The US will start formally sharing intelligence with Ukraine that comes from the high-altitude surveillance drones frequently flown over the Donbas,” Bellingcat’s Aric Toler noticed Tuesday off this report from Radio Liberty.

And now for something completely different. You may recall masked gunmen broke into the North Korean embassy in Madrid mere days before the last Trump-Kim summit. Spain’s El Confidencial reported that the gunmen in Madrid put bags over the heads of embassy staff, slugged quite a few of the people inside, and interrogated others before leaving in a high-speed exit with a variety of electronic equipment. The raid that lasted about four hours, and it may have gone longer had it not been for “The screams of a woman, who managed to escape through a window on the second floor, alerted a neighbor, who warned the police,” according to Spain’s El Pais reporting this morning.
The new twist: Spanish police now allege the CIA was involved. El Pais: “After analyzing the recordings of the security cameras in the area, questioning the hostages and analyzing the diplomatic vehicles used in the flight, it has been possible to identify some of the assailants… Although the majority were Koreans, at least two of [the ten assailants] have been recognized by the Spanish information services for their links with the American CIA.”
Said Spanish police: “The operation was perfectly planned, as if it were a military command, and the assailants knew what they were looking for; No money or jewelry, only computer files and cell phones, which were taken… Spanish interlocutors have asked the CIA for their involvement in the case. The response has been negative, but ‘unconvincing’.” Read on, here.

The Navy and its industry partners are “under cyber siege” by Chinese hackers and others, The Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold and Dustin Volz reported Tuesday from data courtesy of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.

Recipe for another Benghazi? Trump’s plan to up the bill on America’s allies “could make it harder to protect diplomats and embassies throughout Africa,” al-Monitor reported Tuesday.
Alice Hunt Friend, a former senior Africa policy official in the Pentagon: “For Africa, the more locations you lose, the more flexibility you lose, and so the slower the response will be…The issue with Benghazi was the whole thing was over in a matter of a few hours. If you know instantly what’s going on, the minute it starts to happen you’re an eight-hour plane flight away. The logistics start to get very [constraining].” More, here.

Lastly today: Another aircraft carrier found on Pacific seafloor. If it seems like a lot of WWII warships are reappearing recently, you’re not imagining things. Among the final acts of Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen was the refurbishment of an oil-and-gas repair vessel as a spare-no-expense search-and-salvage ship. “In the two years since it became a dedicated wreck hunter, the Petrel has discovered, among many other ships, the remains of the U.S.S. Lexington and U.S.S. Juneau, as well as perhaps the most infamous American warship of all time, the U.S.S. Indianapolis, which sank with tremendous loss of life in 1945,” the New York Times reports.
Now the Petrel has found the Wasp, a unique warship “built to use up the remaining tonnage allowed to the U.S. for aircraft carriers under the treaties of the time” and sunk in 1942 by three Japanese torpedoes off Guadalcanal. Read the story of her finding, here.


By Bradley Peniston, Katie Bo Williams, Marcus Weisgerber, 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. // Katie Bo Williams is the senior national security correspondent for Defense One, where she writes about defense, counterterror, NATO, nukes, and more. She previously covered intelligence and cybersecurity for The Hill, including in-depth reporting on the Russia investigations and military detention issues. Before her journalism career, Katie Bo worked in thoroughbred horse racing, helping breed, sell, and prepare the next generation of Kentucky Derby winners. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia. A native of Goochland County, Virginia, she now lives in D.C. and can usually be found haunting one of the various bookstores on Capitol Hill. // Marcus Weisgerber is the global business editor for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of Inside the Air Force. He has reported from Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, and often travels with the defense secretary and other senior military officials. // 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.

March 13, 2019

https://www.defenseone.com/news/2019/03/the-d-brief-march-13-2019/155511/