The White House has nominated new leaders for the Army, Marine Corps, and Space Command, as well as the commander of the U.S. Air Force in Europe. The Pentagon announced a few of the selections — Space and USAF-Europe, e.g. — as Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan testified before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington. More on that testimony below.
Nominated for U.S. Space Command: Air Force Gen. John Raymond, who already leads Air Force Space Command. If approved by Congress, he’ll be another dual-hatted four-star general (like CYBERCOM/NSA’s Paul Nakasone, e.g.), and will lead USSPACECOM and Air Force Space Command — both located at Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base.
Nominated for USAF-Europe: Air Force Lt. General Jeffrey Harrigian, currently the deputy commander of USAF-Europe and U.S. Air Forces Africa. If approved, he will command both of those as well as Allied Air Command — and he would direct the Joint Air Power Competence Centre, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Nominated as Marine commandant: Trump’s pick to succeed Gen. Robert Neller is Lt. Gen. David Berger, who currently leads Marine Corps Combat Development Command in Quantico, Virginia. Military.com has more, here.
Oddly, word of the Army pick came via an inconspicuous tweet from a civilian organization, the Association of the United States Army, around 10 a.m. EST on Monday. The tweet: “News is that the President nominated GEN James McConville as the next @USArmy Chief of Staff last night #AUSAGlobal”
Who is McConville? He’s “a U.S. Military Academy graduate from Quincy, Massachusetts, and has been serving as the Army vice chief since June 2017,” Defense News reported. “He has had a long career as an Army aviator, having flown AH-64 Apaches, OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and AH-1 Cobras.” McConville also helped launch Army Futures Command in Austin last year.
For your ears only: Catch McConville and with Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy chatting about Futures Command with our own Patrick Tucker in a Defense One Radio segment recorded in Austin last August. Talk starts at the 37-minute mark, here.
Now, about that testimony on Capitol Hill… Acting SecDef Shanahan told House lawmakers that the $1 billion the Defense Department set aside Monday for counter-drug projects on the U.S.-Mexico border — that money came from the U.S. Army. The Army, Shanahan said, was sitting on a few extra dollars since it failed to reach its recruiting goals by about 6,500 troops last year. That’s the first tranche of funds the Pentagon wants to use to support DHS and CBP operations during President Trump’s emergency declaration for the ongoing alleged national security crisis on the southern border.
Also questioned: Gen. Mark Milley. The current Army chief — and Trump’s pick to lead the Joint Chiefs — was asked by senators Tuesday why that $1 billion was shifted away from the Army. Milley’s reply: “It is not for me to say one is important than the other relative to the whole national security of the United States.”
$1 billion denied? House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., rejected (PDF) the Pentagon’s request to spend that $1 billion on border security — referring to the reprogramming of Army money as a “violation of trust” for an “imaginary crisis.”
But blocking that $1 billion is virtually impossible at this political point, AEI’s Rick Berger told Military Times. To reject this money, “The House would have to work with the Republican-controlled Senate and quickly pass specific legislation blocking that specific use. Given the pace and political reality of Congress, that’s unlikely.” And furthermore, “DoD would [likely] have spent the funds before any such legislation could progress.”
Other matters from the Shanahan/Dunford testimony:
- “We need Turkey to buy the Patriot” missile defense system and not Russia’s S-400, Shanahan told HASC. But al-Monitor’s Jack Detsch flagged this Bloomberg report from early March, writing, “Turkey, for what it’s worth, has already reportedly rejected the Patriot delivery.”
- Shanahan was asked directly if climate change is a national security threat. His reply, as Breaking Defense’s Paul McCleary pointed out, was a refusal to acknowledge the Q. Said Shanahan in response: “I believe we need to address resilience in our operations and our designs in our facilities.”
Right after Shanahan’s time at HASC Tuesday, he spoke with Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, saying that “of course” he wants to remove the “acting” from his title and formally earn the job as Pentagon chief.
Said Shanahan: “I think I can serve the department well. I’ve spent nearly two years on the National Defense Strategy. I know the defense strategy, I know what it takes to see it though, and I think I can make a big impact in that area.”
Reminder from Weisgerber: Shanahan has now served longer than any of the two previous officials to hold the post in an acting capacity, which critics have argued skirts the Constitution’s stricture that Cabinet officials must be nominated “by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.”
What former colleagues say about Shanahan: “He tells truth to power regardless of the consequences, but he does it in a professional way according to the rules of the culture we were trained in, which is ‘you don’t embarrass the boss in public’.”
Said another: “If you see something wrong, stop talking about it, just go fix it.” Much more to Weisgerber’s profile of the Acting SecDef, here.
From Defense One
EXCLUSIVE: Patrick Shanahan Says ‘Of Course’ He Wants to Be Defense Secretary // Marcus Weisgerber & Katie Bo Williams: Under increasing scrutiny, the acting secretary — and his allies — make the case for President Trump to nominate him.
Now What? Congress Quiet after ISIS Territorial Defeat // Katie Bo Williams: The relative silence in Washington is a testament to the ambiguous nature of Saturday’s victory.
The US Military Is Creating the Future of Employee Monitoring // Patrick Tucker: A new AI-enabled pilot project aims to sense “micro changes” in the behavior of people with top-secret clearances. If it works, it could be the future of corporate HR.
UK Stands Fast, Won’t Ban Huawei 5G Gear Despite US Warnings // Paulina Glass: The Vice Chief of Defence Staff says a “sophisticated” approach can capture the benefits while reducing the risks of using Chinese next-gen telecoms gear.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1912, the first cherry blossom trees were planted in Washington, D.C., by First Lady Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador. The trees were a gift from Japan.
Happening Thursday (that’s tomorrow): Our second annual Genius Machines Summit at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City. Beginning at 8 a.m. EST, you’ll find government leaders, tech experts and researchers who are shaping the future of artificial intelligence.
Join us to learn about the newest technical advancements, the ethics behind AI, global threats, and how the most important technology of the 21st century will shape U.S. military strategy.
Speakers include the CIA’s Andrew Hallman; Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan of the Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center; IARPA’s John Beieler; the NSA’s Adam Cardinal-Stakenas, and more.
Find the day’s agenda here; or register for your spot here.
Speaking of genius machines, “The Army has chosen Palantir Technologies to deploy a complex battlefield intelligence system for soldiers,” the Washington Post’s Shane Harris reported Tuesday.
At issue: A system called “the Distributed Common Ground System (or DCGS-A, for Army), which lets users gather and analyze information about enemy movements, terrain and weather to create detailed maps and reports in real-time. The system is designed to be used by soldiers fighting in remote, harsh environments.”
Why this matters: The deal — worth about $800 million — marks “the first time that the government had tapped a Silicon Valley software company, as opposed to a traditional military contractor, to lead a defense program of record.”
Why it took so long: Read Patrick Tucker’s reporting from July 2016, “The War Over Soon-to-Be-Outdated Army Intelligence Systems,” or this from a few months later, “How Did One Small Defense Firm Get a Seat at Trump’s Tech Summit?”
Raytheon’s reax to the Palantir news: “We will wait for the Army’s de-brief to understand their decision.” Read on at WaPo, here.
The White House wants to know if electromagnetic pulse attacks can cripple U.S. tech or infrastructure. So President Trump signed an executive order instructing U.S. officials to look into the matter, Bloomberg reported Tuesday.
One place where this threat was popularized: the 1995 film “Goldeneye,” when Judi Dench’s M explained an EMP could come from a detonated nuclear weapon high in the atmosphere that sends “a radiation surge that destroys everything with an electronic circuit.”
ICYMI almost exactly two years ago, NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel investigated the matter with some help by Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Lewis’s bottom line: Worry about nuclear weapons, not EMPs — a position echoed in this diagram from C4ISRNet’s Kelsey Atherton.
A fourth country has now shot down a satellite. The Indian military just carried out its first-ever anti-satellite missile test, The Diplomat’s Ankit Panda reported Tuesday. “The test, codenamed ‘Mission Shakti,’ took three minutes and destroyed a target satellite at an altitude of 300 kilometers, in low-Earth orbit.” It also occurred two weeks before India’s national election.
India joins the United States, China, and Russia in the growing club of nations “with a demonstrated anti-satellite capability,” Panda writes. More here.
Tensions continue to rise in Kabul after U.S. officials walked out of a meeting with NATO envoys at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal and Afghanistan’s Tolo News reported.
Why walk out? Because Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib was there. And U.S. officials now do not like Mohib because he has spoken out against the White House’s Afghan talks envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, whom Mohib alleges has cut Kabul entirely out of talks with the Taliban. More from Tolo, here.
Bloomberg reports White House officials “devised a misleading explanation” to obscure Trump’s North Korean sanctions tweet last Friday.
What’s going on: “Trump stunned current and former government officials Friday afternoon with a tweet saying he had ‘ordered the withdrawal’ of ‘additional large scale sanctions’ against North Korea… Trump hadn’t signed off on the specific measures before they were announced but had given Treasury discretion to decide some sanctions as it saw fit, according to one person familiar with the matter.”
Said MIT’s Vipin Narang, on Twitter: “The ‘preempting huge Treasury sanctions package against NK’ was a straight up lie.”
And finally today: In unsurprising news from Moscow, “Russia manipulates global navigation systems by sending out false location data to civilian ships or other users on a vast scale, in an apparent attempt to prevent drones from approaching President Vladimir Putin or to safeguard sensitive sites at home and abroad,” NBC News’s Dan Deluce reported Tuesday.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece misstated where Defense One’s reporter interviewed the acting defense secretary.