SecDef shuffle; Russia’s anti-uprising force; US mute on S-400 delivery; Green Beret dies in combat; And a bit more.

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer’s big day…and Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s kinda big day. Spencer is expected to become Acting SecDef this afternoon when Esper’s nomination paperwork is sent to the Hill, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports this morning. As of Friday night, the Defense Department was planning to send out embargoed information on all this this morning — information that, as we hit send today, has not yet materialized. 

Esper’s expedited Senate confirmation hearing is slated for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s demand of Esper: “to clear any ethics cloud” from his seven years as Raytheon Co.’s top lobbyist, Bloomberg reports this morning. 

Upcoming payday: “Esper will receive $1 million to $5 million in deferred compensation from Raytheon starting in 2022, reflecting the broad ranges that officials must disclose for the value of their assets,” Bloomberg writes, citing Esper’s financial disclosure statement.

Said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman, in response: Esper “is fully committed to following his signed Ethics Agreement, all applicable ethics laws, and the President’s Ethics Pledge,” and Esper will “ensure that any particular matter involving his former employer is screened and referred to another appropriate official.” 

In other key personnel news, President Trump reportedly wants a new director of national intelligence, and maybe even to get rid of the post altogether now that he’s apparently lost interest in Dan Coats, Axios reported late last week, citing “five sources who have discussed the matter directly with the president.” 

Said one government source to Axios: “It’s time for a change. Dan’s a great guy but the president doesn’t listen to him anymore.”

One name POTUS has mentioned to replace Coats: Fred Fleitz. “Fleitz was previously a CIA analyst and a staff member of the House Intelligence Committee. He is currently the president of the Center for Security Policy… Fleitz has publicly criticized Coats and even called for Trump to fire Coats on Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business program after Coats’ Senate testimony. Fleitz accused Coats of undermining and ‘second-guessing’ the president.” More smart brevity on the matter, here

From Defense One

Russia Is Perfecting the Art of Crushing Uprisings Against Authoritarian Regimes // Patrick Tucker: A Russian military leader revealed the blueprint for using mercenaries, militias, and special operations forces to backup dictators from Venezuela to Africa.

Send Turkey’s F-35s to Eastern Europe // Peter Apps: If Putin is going to send S-400 air-defense systems to Ankara, NATO should send advanced fighter jets where they can deter Russia.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 48: Cyberwarfare, Part 1 // Defense One Staff: In the first of a three-part podcast series, we’re going to look at the contemporary risks of cyber warfare, from ransomware and extortion to online banking and culture wars.

Court Clears Pentagon to Award JEDI Lawsuit // Frank Konkel, Nextgov: The ruling against Oracle allows the government to award the contract in August to Microsoft or Amazon Web Services.

The Coming AI Metamorphosis // Henry A. Kissinger, Daniel Huttenlocher, and Eric Schmidt, The Atlantic: Artificial intelligence may destabilize everything from nuclear détente to human friendships. We need to think much harder about how to adapt.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not a D Brief subscriber, sign up here. On this day in 1918, the Second Battle of the Marne began, which was a final, futile push by Germany’s Erich Ludendorff that was thwarted, in part, by deceptive staffing in Allied trenches by France’s Philippe Petain. Petain’s decision coaxed the Germans into bombing and gassing largely empty trenches while the bulk of French and U.S. forces were untouched farther back. Two months later, Ludendorff would sneak out of Germany to Sweden, disguised in blue glasses with a fake beard and passport. He would stay there until after the war ended, when he was asked to leave by the Swedes in February 1919.

So far, the U.S. is mostly mute on Turkey’s S-400 delivery on Friday. Pentagon officials called a short-notice press conference on Friday morning to talk about Turkey’s declaration that it had begun receiving Russia’s advanced air-defense system — then pushed it to the afternoon, then cancelled it entirely, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports. 
Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper to pool reporters: “We are aware of Turkey taking delivery of the S-400. Our position regarding the F-35 has not changed.”
U.S. officials have repeatedly warned Ankara that buying the S-400 would cost it the right to buy F-35 fighter jets (and make parts for the giant international program). 

Fighting soldiers from the sky…” A Green Beret E-9 was killed in combat in Afghanistan this weekend, the Defense Department announced Saturday. 
“…Fearless men who jump and die…” His name is Sgt. Maj. James G. “Ryan” Sartor, age 40. He was born in Teague, Texas, (about an hour outside of Waco) and he was assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group out of Fort Carson, Colo. He passed from small arms fire “during combat in northern Afghanistan’s Faryab province, which borders Turkmenistan,” CNN reports
“…Men who mean just what they say…” “The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack,” according to ABC news, “saying it used an improvised explosive device, or IED, to target a U.S. vehicle in the Sayedabad District, a city in the Wardak Province.”
“…The brave men of the Green Beret.” Sartor joined the Army in June 2001, and completed the Special Forces qualification course four years later, Stars and Stripes writes. He deployed at least six times in the years since, including twice to Afghanistan — first in 2017 and then again this year, NBC adds
For the record, Sartor is the 12th service member to die in-country this year and the 10th killed by hostile fire, ABC writes. Before this weekend, “The most recent service member death in Afghanistan was on June 30, which came during a non-combat incident. He was identified as 31-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Elliott Robbins of Ogden, Utah.” And before that, “Two U.S. service members were killed on June 26 when attacked by the Taliban under small arms fire in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, the Pentagon said. They were identified as Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, from Heilbronn, Germany, and Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, from Trumansburg, New York.” 

Happening Wednesday in Niles, Mich., a short drive across the border from South Bend, Ind.: Vietnam veteran Wayne Wilson will be laid to rest. And Wilson is a man with no family to attend his funeral, just some thoughtful “friends and neighbors [who] reached out to the [local] funeral home to plan this graveside service,” Michigan’s WNDU reported Friday. 
The local funeral home’s request of the community: “Wilson was an American hero who deserves our respect, even after death. If we could just come out and show him that he is loved, even though he doesn’t have family… Being a veteran, he sacrificed years of his life, could’ve been his life for our country, and it’s the least we can do.”
So if you’re in the area, WNDU writes, “Wilson will be laid to rest on Wednesday, July 17, at 2 p.m. in Silverbrook Cemetery in Niles.” Read more, here

For the second time, “rumors of a large-scale immigration enforcement operation failed to come to fruition” this weekend, NPR reported Sunday night. Shortly before that, a trio of New York Times reporters, led by former NPR producer Caitlin Dickerson, reported “Only a handful of arrests appeared to take place, and they were reported in just a few cities. That was much different than the nationwide show of force that had originally been planned.” However, “authorities said that more arrests would follow through the week.”
So, what changed? “Plans for the operation” and “at the last minute because of news reports that had tipped off immigrant communities about what to expect, according to several current and former Department of Homeland Security officials,” the Times writes. “Instead of a large simultaneous sweep, the authorities created a secondary plan for a smaller and more diffuse scale of apprehensions to roll out over roughly a week.”
What lies ahead: Planned arrests “throughout the week in at least 10 cities,” including an identified “2,000 targets for the raids,” even though “Typically, only 20 to 30 percent of the targets of ICE enforcement are apprehended.” 
Worth noting: “[B]ecause agents cannot legally force their way in to the homes of their targets, they rely on the element of surprise to be successful — suggesting that the current, highly publicized raids could result in even fewer arrests than usual.” 
By the way, the American Civil Liberties Union “sued Thursday to block the raids,” NPR writes, “arguing that while the Trump administration claims the migrants have been given an opportunity to appear in court, many never received the paperwork because letters were sent to wrong addresses, or when they did arrive, the requests to appear did not contain specific dates and times.” More from the Times, here

France just created a military space command on Saturday, AFP reported amid Bastille Day national celebrations. “To assure the development and the reinforcement of our capacities in space, a high command for space will be created in September,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.
For the record: “France has a 2019-2025 military spending plan that allocates 3.6 billion euros ($4 billion) to defence in space,” AFP writes. “That includes the renewal of the France’s CSO observation and Syracuse communication satellites, the launch of three CERES electromagnetic-monitoring satellites, and the modernisation of a spatial radar surveillance system called GRAVES.”
Apropos of nothing: Your D Brief-er had to get a new phone after his recent trip to France, where using Parisian public wifi three times preceded endless app crashing and false battery readings. The old phone had been in use for about two years, so it’s possible compounding factors were involved in the malfunctions. (Your D Brief-er was also informed that major U.S. defense contractors do not allow their employees to bring personal phones or laptops when traveling to France, in particular.)

Seeing red. The U.S. is poised to bust through its debt ceiling in early September, CNBC reported Friday. And so the Treasury Department is now asking “Congress to increase the debt ceiling before lawmakers leave for a six-week recess.” Read the letter from Treasury’s Steven Mnuchin to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, here

U.S. tank engine maker Honeywell and private jet maker Gulfstream could face setbacks off news from China’s foreign ministry that “Chinese companies will cut business ties with US firms selling arms to Taiwan,” according to al-Jazeera this morning. 
Where this comes from: “China said on Friday it would sanction US companies selling weapons to Taiwan but did not elaborate. The latest deal involves $2.2bn worth of tanks, missiles and related equipment for Taiwan. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the arms sales were a violation of international law and harmed China’s sovereignty and national security.” A bit more, here

“Ok, Google: Why did one of your employees leak 1,000 voice recordings to a Belgian media outlet?” According to ArsTechnica reporting late last week, “VRT NWS, a news organization run by a public broadcaster in the Flemish region of Belgium, said it ‘was able to listen to more than a thousand [Google Assistant] recordings’ that it received from a Google subcontractor.”
What makes this particularly newsworthy: the lack of consent. “Google Home is supposed to record only when users say the ‘OK Google’ or ‘Hey Google’ trigger phrases. But VRT NWS said that 153 of the 1,000 recordings it listened to ‘were conversations that should never have been recorded and during which the command ‘OK Google’ was clearly not given.’”
The kinds of employees listened to included “bedroom conversations, conversations between parents and their children, but also blazing rows and professional phone calls containing lots of private information,” VRT reported.
Google’s response: What the—?! Oops? Or, according to a blog post from the company, with a first paragraph that basically reads like an ad for the service: “Language experts only review around 0.2 percent of all audio snippets… Our Security and Privacy Response teams have been activated on this issue, are investigating, and we will take action. We are conducting a full review of our safeguards in this space to prevent misconduct like this from happening again.” Read on at Ars, here

And finally today: Get to better know what cyberwarfare involves today — and how to protect yourself and your company — in the first of a three-part podcast we’ve produced on the topic for Defense One Radio
Our guests for the series include:

  • Dawn Thomas, Associate Director and Research Analyst on the Safety and Security team of CNA;
  • Paul Gagliardi, a former U.S. intelligence contractor and current threat intelligence analyst at SecurityScorecard;
  • information security researcher The Grugq;
  • Adam Segal, who directs the Digital and Cyberspace Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations; 
  • and Jen Miller-Osborn, deputy director of Threat Intelligence and Unit 42 at the cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks.

Some excerpts: 

  • “It is possible to bring down a democracy by just finding ways to have people lose faith in it. And those ways of losing faith in it are not as difficult as we once thought they might be,” Thomas said.
  • Social engineering attacks and exploitation of the human psyche will always remain,” said Paul Gagliardi.
  • Social engineers rely on our “emotional connection, that initial sense of panic, usually, to override people’s logical part of their brain: ‘Confirm this charge to your credit card. Your credentials were used in a different area. Confirm package delivery from UPS,’” said Jen Miller-Osborn.
  • “You can buy a marketing book and you’ve got everything you need to know about how to run an information warfare campaign online. So these skills are out there, they’re very, very well documented, and they’re very, very cheap. This is gonna spread,” predicted the Grugq.
  • And “Something like over 90 percent of the people who find a thumb drive in the parking lot or the bathroom will come back to their office and plug it back in,” said CFR’s Adam Segal.

Listen to this week’s episode on Google Play, iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Or find a transcript, here.

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