Pending advice to the Defense Department: Dig in. U.S. military leaders are reportedly “planning for the possibility that the services could be contending with coronavirus until well into next year,” Military Times reports off a leaked draft Pentagon memo obtained by Task & Purpose on Tuesday. The memo was “authored for Secretary of Defense Mark Esper” by Kenneth Rapuano, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security. But SecDef Esper hasn’t actually signed it — yet.
Recall that SecDef Esper promised Friday at the White House, “Winning matters, and we will deliver, by the end of this year, a vaccine at scale to treat the American people and our partners abroad.”
“All indications suggest we will be operating in a globally-persistent COVID-19 environment in the months ahead,” the memo reads, according to T&P. And that includes the “real possibility” that a vaccine won’t be available until “at least the summer of 2021.” More from T&P, here.
The threat of radicalization is growing now that so many more folks are online for more hours, extremism researcher Colin Clarke told Canadian news on Tuesday. “We’re seeing kids as young as nine, 10, 11 years old that are engaging with white supremacists online. This is a huge concern,” he said. More here.
New Jersey state officials launched a website to debunk rumors and hoaxes, AP reports today after “a false text message of an impending national lockdown that circulated widely across the U.S.” And Jersey’s not alone. The states of Washington and Maryland have done so, too.
From Defense One
Senate Intel Panel Advances Ratcliffe Nomination In Party-Line Vote // Katie Bo Williams: The former Texas prosecutor is a deeply controversial pick for the nation’s top spy.
What Google’s New Contract Reveals About the Pentagon’s Evolving Clouds / Patrick Tucker: For one thing, it disproves fears that the massive JEDI contract meant one company would get all the work.
The Pandemic’s Geopolitical Aftershocks Are Coming // Tom McTague, The Atlantic: Western capitals aren’t just worried about the risk of a resurgence in coronavirus cases.
Trump Is Attacking the Final Safeguard Against Executive Abuses // David A. Graham, The Atlantic: The president has defied Congress, and gummed up cases in court. Now he’s firing the inspectors general.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1873, Bavarian-born merchant Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis of Reno, Nevada, patented blue jeans with copper rivets. No one could have predicted the outsized role these pants would play during the Cold War 100 years later. “Jeans are cheap to make, easy to clean, hard to ruin, and comfortable to wear,” economic historian Niall Ferguson wrote in 2011; so “Why could the Soviets not replicate Levi 501s the way they had replicated the atomic bomb?” Ferguson provides an answer, here; a similar, lengthier answer can be found, here, too.
Happening this morning: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds his first press conference since Inspector General Steve Linick was fired Friday night by the president, at Pompeo’s request. More at the State Department’s YouTube channel, here.
More drama around Pompeo: “Madison Dinners,” which — before the coronavirus put at least a temporary stop to them — were “elaborate, unpublicized affairs that Pompeo and his wife, Susan Pompeo, began in 2018 and held regularly in the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms on the government’s dime,” NBC News reported Tuesday evening.
Attendees included “the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Princess Reema bint Bandar; Raytheon CEO Thomas Kennedy; national security adviser Robert O’Brien; and Fox News host Brian Kilmeade,” as well as “country singer Reba McEntire, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.”
Said a nameless administration official of those gatherings, “If the president knew about any of this, he would have fired Pompeo months ago.” More here.
The U.S. just arrested a former Green Beret and his son for allegedly helping “smuggle auto titan Carlos Ghosn out of Japan inside a musical equipment box,” the Wall Street Journal reports this morning. The former Army special operator is Michael L. Taylor and his son is Peter Taylor. “In a cinema-worthy plot, Michael Taylor helped Mr. Ghosn sneak onto a private jet at an Osaka airport by hiding him in a large box normally used for musical equipment…Ghosn changed planes in Turkey and remains in Lebanon.” More from AP, here.
An F-35 crashed last night at Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base, Military.com’s Oriana Pawlyk reported Tuesday evening. According to the Air Force writing on Facebook, “An F-35A assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron crashed upon landing around 9:30 p.m. today. The pilot successfully ejected and was transported to the 96th Medical Group Hospital at Eglin for evaluation and monitoring.”
Fortunately, “There was no loss of life or damage to civilian property,” the service said in its statement.
Worth noting: “The F-35 mishap marks the second accident at Eglin in a week’s time,” Pawlyk writes. “An F-22 Raptor crashed last Friday morning during a routine training flight near Eglin.” Read on, here.
The U.S. Navy’s new rules at sea (looking at you, Iran). “The U.S. Navy on Tuesday issued a warning to mariners to stay 100 meters (yards) away from U.S. warships or risk being “interpreted as a threat and subject to lawful defensive measures,” Reuters reported Tuesday.
Remember in April that 11 Iranian boats pestered U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships in the Persian Gulf, with some coming as close as 9 meters from Coast Guard cutter Maui. Read on, here.
ICYMI: Israel reportedly cyberattacked an Iranian port on May 9, “presumably in retaliation for an earlier attempt to penetrate computers that operate rural water distribution systems in Israel,” the Washington Post reported Monday. “Computers that regulate the flow of vessels, trucks and goods all crashed at once, creating massive backups on waterways and roads leading to the facility.”
The future of Iran. Dive into a new #LongRead from the man who gave us “Forever War,” journalist Dexter Filkins. His latest feature in the New Yorker is all about what comes next for the leaders of Iran (h/t CNN’s Ryan Browne).
A $1.3 billion border wall contract just went to POTUS’s preferred construction company, the Washington Post’s Nick Miroff reported Tuesday evening — after the news was first reported by the Arizona Daily Star. The company is North Dakota-based Fisher Sand and Gravel, and the new deal covers 42 miles of fencing along Arizona’s border with Mexico.
POTUS has a record of trying to steer contracts to Fisher, “whose top executive is a GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News,” Miroff reported in May 2019. “The push for a specific company has alarmed military commanders and DHS officials.”
In an update to that behind-the-scenes drama, Miroff writes: “Fisher’s first and only other major border contract, for $400 million, is under review by the Defense Department inspector general after Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about improper White House influence on the procurement process. The inspector general’s office confirmed Tuesday that the audit is ongoing.”
For what it’s worth, “The Trump administration has allocated more than $15 billion for the project to date, but only about one-third of that has been appropriated by lawmakers,” according to the Post. “The White House has diverted most of the rest of the money from military construction projects and counternarcotics programs.” The Daily Star adds “So far, roughly $3.1 billion of Defense Department funds have been awarded for wall projects on the border near Tucson, according to figures provided by the Corps.” More from Arizona, here.
And finally today: An azimuth check on the U.S. military’s retention of female service members. The Government Accountability Office recently found that “DOD and the military services do not have guidance or plans for its efforts to recruit and retain women,” according to a new report, and so the agency “made five recommendations to better guide and monitor these efforts.”
Some of the additional findings:
- “Women were 28% more likely to leave the service than men”;
- “Attrition rates for female enlisted and commissioned officers were higher than for males,” though that “gap has narrowed” recently;
- And “officer promotion rates were higher for women, while “Promotion rates for enlisted were slightly lower for women than men.” Read on, here.