2 USSOF, KIA; Budget Day; China’s coronavirus coverup; Trump punishes impeachment witnesses; And a bit more.

Fiscal 2021 budget rollout. At 1:30 p.m. EST, the Defense Department will announce details of its $740.5 billion budget request for fiscal 2021. The spending plan is in line with a two-year budget deal struck by Congress and the Trump administration last year.

Why is it a big deal? It’s the final year of the decade-long federal spending caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (which makes Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber realize he’s been on this beat for a long time.) The law is blamed for costing money and hampering procurement, although Congress raised the caps every year except 2013 with short-term spending deals.

Make sure you visit Defense One later today and follow Marcus on Twitter.

Expect a cut to Navy shipbuilding, Bloomberg is reporting off a leaked 134-page overview of DOD’s 2021-25 plan. “The U.S. Navy is requesting about $4 billion less for new ships in President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2021 budget than it received in the current year, a move that’s likely to set off a battle with the service’s advocates in Congress from Mississippi to Maine,” Tony Capaccio writes.

Mullen pleads: Don’t cut funding for non-military international-affairs work. Former Joint Chiefs chairman Mike Mullen wrote Congressional leaders a Feb. 7 letter published under the auspices of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

And don’t overspend on the military, argue William Hartung and Ben Freeman of the Center for International Policy: “We spend far more on the military than the countries we most fear, while shorting the things that would actually help us compete.” Read that here.

From Defense One

How China Is Working to Quarantine the Truth About the Coronavirus  // Peter W. Singer, Peter Wood, Alex Stone: The authoritarian playbook — censor, distract, lie — is on full display.

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President // McKay Coppins, The Atlantic: How new technologies and techniques pioneered by dictators will shape America’s 2020 election.

How to Get the National Defense Strategy Out of Its Mideast Rut // Alia Awadallah: We need less talk about why we need to leave, and more about why we need to compete elsewhere.

Overspending on the Pentagon Won’t Make Us Safer // William D. Hartung and Ben Freeman: We spend far more on the military than the countries we most fear, while shorting the things that would actually help us compete.

US Army Wants to See Through Walls—and ID People on the Other Side // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: This sounds like science fiction. But for soldiers, it could soon be a reality.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1915, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson criticized the British for trying to trick the Germans by placing using the U.S. flag on merchant ships at sea. 

Two U.S. special forces soldiers died in eastern Afghanistan from an apparent insider attack, NBC News reported this weekend. An Afghan soldier (not the shooter) was also killed in the attack, which happened in Nangarhar Province, Reuters reports today. Both U.S. soldiers were assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), out of Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base. 
U.S. and Afghan forces were conducting a joint operation when an individual wearing an Afghan uniform opened fire on the service members using a machine gun,” Col. Sonny Leggett, spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan, told NBC News. Another six U.S. service members and three Afghan soldiers were also wounded in the violence, Reuters adds. 

  • Sgt. 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28, of San Antonio, Texas. “Gutierrez leaves behind his wife, Gabby, and four children who range in age from 2 to 7,” San Antonio’s Express News reports
  • Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, New Mexico. 

ICYMI in Afghanistan last week, an U.S. contractor was kidnapped from eastern Khost province, Newsweek reported Wednesday. Mark R. Frerichs of Lombard, Ill., age 57, “is a former U.S. Navy diver and the managing director for International Logistical Support.” 
He was reportedly captured on Jan. 31 “in the southeastern part of the country that borders the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, an underdeveloped region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Read on, here.
A Taliban spokesman says he has an American taken from Khost, Reuters reports today. But the group’s official spokesman says he’s unaware of the allegedly captured American. A bit more, here

Syrian regime troops killed five more Turkish soldiers in another flare-up of Turkish-Syrian tensions in Syria’s northern Idlib province. You may recall “Eight Turkish military and civilian personnel and 13 Syrian soldiers were killed in a similar clash in the province last week,” AP reports from Ankara. 
Today’s violent episode happened “even as a Russian delegation arrived in the Turkish capital of Ankara for a second round of talks to discuss the fighting in neighboring Syria.”
If you’re just catching up: “The fighting in [predominantly rebel-held] Idlib led to the collapse of a fragile cease-fire that was brokered by Turkey and Russia in 2018. Turkey supports the Syrian rebels, while Russia has heavily backed the Syrian government’s campaign to retake the area which is the last rebel stronghold in Syria.” AP reports today “The Syrian government’s campaign appears to be aimed at securing a strategic highway in rebel-controlled territory for now, rather than seizing the entire province and its the densely populated capital, Idlib.” More here

Trump punishes two officials who testified in impeachment probe. Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman was marched out of his National Security Council office on Friday. In November, he testified that Trump’s message to Ukrainian officials was clear: if they wanted the aid, they would need to launch investigations into a POTUS political rival. Trump also fired Vindman’s brother Yevgeny, an NSC ethics lawyer who did not testify. Read Vindman’s opening statement, here.
Also fired: Gordon Sondland, whose $1 million contribution to Trump’s inaugural committee won him the job of U.S. Ambassador to the European Union. Sondland “fell out of favor with the president after his testimony in November alleging that the president pursued an improper ‘quid pro quo’ tying military aid for Ukraine to political investigations,” the Washington Post reports.
Back in November, SecDef Mark Esper vowed to protect Vindman. DOD has protections for whistleblowers. They’re guaranteed law, and — and he should have no – shouldn’t have any fear of retaliation.  That’s DOD’s position.”
Schumer demands investigation: Politico: In the wake of the #FridayNightMassacre, “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is asking that every agency inspector general investigate retaliation against whistleblowers who report presidential misconduct…” More, here.
All the president’s purges. Just Security’s Joshua Geltzer and Ryan Goodman argue that POTUS’ attack on officials who displease him are part of a worrying pattern: “These recent purges of US officials are a direct extension of Trump’s three-year project of politicization of the executive branch, an early move generally taken by autocrats who seek to exploit their election by consolidating power.” Read on, here.

Lastly today: Iranian rocket fails to get satellite to orbit. “The launch happened at 7:15 p.m. local time [on Sunday] at Imam Khomeini Spaceport in Iran’s Semnan province, some 230 kilometers (145 miles) southeast of Iran’s capital, Tehran. A Simorgh, or ‘Phoenix,’ rocket couldn’t put the Zafar 1 communications satellite into orbit, however, due to a low speed,” Time reported off Iranian state television.

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