COVID cases return to peak levels in US; DoD research chief quits; Trump 2020 took China-linked gifts; IC, disrupted; And a bit more.

New coronavirus cases are back to where they were at the peak of America’s outbreak, which was two months ago, the Associated Press reports this morning. 

On Tuesday, the U.S. added 34,700 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Arizona set a new record of 3,600 new infections; it is among the 27 states where daily new cases have been rising for at least two weeks.  

How we should all proceed: “Plan A, don’t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health to House lawmakers Tuesday.

Not enough testing, not enough contact tracers: Fauci and other experts told lawmakers that the United States is doing far too little testing and is hiring, training, and deploying far too few contact tracers to find and help isolate people who have come into contact with the virus, the New York Times reported.

Which means for the U.S.,

  • Half a million daily tests are “insufficient,” Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for public health, testified.
  • And the country’s current 28,000 contract tracers are far short of the needed 100,000, said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And of course COVID is surging elsewhere, too. Mexico and India have seen record new daily cases. South Korea, as well. 

China, meanwhile, “appears to have tamed a new outbreak of the virus in Beijing, once again demonstrating its ability to quickly mobilize vast resources by testing nearly 2.5 million people in 11 days.” Read on, here.

Europe is reportedly planning to reopen its borders — and Americans will not be invited, according to the European Union’s draft lists of nations whose citizens will still be blocked from entry because their countries are still wracked with COVID-19, the New York Times reports. “That prospect, which would lump American visitors in with Russians and Brazilians as unwelcome, is a stinging blow to American prestige in the world and a repudiation of President Trump’s handling of the virus in the United States, which has more than 2.3 million cases and upward of 120,000 deaths, more than any other country.”

For what it’s worth: The International Monetary Fund “sharply lowered its forecast for global growth this year because it envisions far more severe economic damage from the coronavirus than it did just two months ago,” AP reports. The IMF’s latest forecast: 4.9% contraction across the global economy. 


From Defense One

The Pentagon’s Research Chief and His Deputy Are Resigning // Marcus Weisgerber: Michael Griffin, defense undersecretary for research and engineering, and his deputy announced their July 10 departure in an email to staff.

The US Intel Community Is Being Disrupted // Zachery Tyson Brown: Intelligence agencies aren’t businesses, but they’d better learn from private-sector giants gone by.

Does the Pentagon’s Checkbook Diplomacy Actually Work? // Brian Blankenship and Renanah Miles Joyce: We know more about waste and corruption than about whether DoD’s preferential procurement produces the desired results.

DHS Expands Insider-Threat Program to Cover Everyone Who Accesses Its Info // Aaron Boyd, Nextgov: The Homeland Security Department will begin tracking all personnel—federal employees and contractors, with or without a security clearance—in the hunt for insider threats.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. 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 1779, the Great Siege of Gibraltar began — an ultimately failed effort that spanned more than three and a half years of Spain and France trying to capture Gibraltar from the Brits.


Milley’s graduation messaging. Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley keynoted a virtual U.S. Naval War College graduation ceremony this morning at 10:10 a.m. ET.
Some of what Milley relayed to the graduates:

  • Get ready for a “great power war” because many of the conditions for its return appear to be in place. 
  • “Cohesion is a force multiplier…eliminate anything that divides us.”
  • Warfare will become fully networked and dramatically more autonomous in the years ahead; this advance is going to happen under the watch of today’s graduates.

Catch Milley’s full remarks in reruns on DVIDS, here.

The Pentagon’s research chief and his deputy announced their resignation on Tuesday. Mike Griffin, defense undersecretary for research and engineering, and his deputy Lisa Porter, revealed the news in a Tuesday afternoon email, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reported.
The given reason: “A private-sector opportunity has presented itself to us, offering an opportunity we have decided to pursue together,” according to the letter.
For the record, Griffin is the Pentagon’s first research and engineering undersecretary, a position created in 2018 when Congress divided up the duties of the undersecretary of acquisition, technology and logistics. But he was also known to be a bit brash, reportedly boasting to a room of industry executives less than one month on the job: “I really only care about people who can overrule me.” Tiny bit more here.

Things are getting worse for SecDef Esper’s close aide, retired Army Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata. Tata was recently nominated by President Trump to fill the Pentagon’s top policy job. CNN has found still more wild conspiracy theories Tata spread across radio, TV and social media. The latest unearthed allegations involve former CIA Director John Brennan, who Tata alleged wanted to assassinate President Trump.
ICYMI: Three retired generals dropped their support for Tata last week after the first wave of crazy ideas emerged thanks to some digging by CNN 12 days ago, on June 12. The Wall Street Journal reported on the GOs — Army Gen. Joe Votel; Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula; Gen. Tony Thomas — dropping support on June 18.
But things are looking up for Michael Flynn. A Trump-appointed judge on Wednesday ordered the Justice Department to drop the case against Trump’s first, briefly-tenured national security adviser, who twice pleaded guilty of lying to federal agents about his contacts with Russia. A full appeals court could review the matter. NYT, here.

This afternoon in the Rose Garden, President Trump is slated to hold a joint press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Here are a few things Duda and Trump might chat about: “Poland is buying $15.6 billion worth of US weaponry, including F-35s and rocket artillery,” Breaking Defense’s Paul McCleary reminded folks on Twitter Tuesday. 
Here’s a glance at various previews:

De-escalation on the Korean peninsula? North Korea abruptly softened its position toward South Korea somewhat, announcing Tuesday that it “took stock of the prevailing situation and suspended the military action plans against the South.” That, anyway, is the result of a meeting of the ruling party’s Central Military Commission on Tuesday, Reuters reports.

Influence operations watch: China-linked donors and the White House. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that “soon after President Trump took office, people with ties to the Chinese state poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into his re-election bid to get close to and potentially influence the new president.”
Example: “After Trump won, David Tian Wang, a China-born green card holder, was approached by China’s Los Angeles consulate. He registered a lobbying firm, then donated $150,000 for POTUS45’s reelection, and argued U.S. deployments to the South China Sea were a waste of money.”
It doesn’t end there, the Journal reports. Wang later attended an invite-only RNC leadership meeting in 2017 and brought with him a researcher for China’s Ministry of Science and Technology. The researcher’s focus: national security and tech diplomacy. That guy has since been banned by the RNC from future events.
What’s more, “Another of the men at the RNC meeting was Tang Ben, a naturalized U.S. citizen who donated $300K to Trump and met the president at his hotel in D.C. in 2017.” Attending with Tang at that fundraiser: “Wu Guangsheng, chairman of a state-backed Chinese maker of military communications equipment who had just attended a Beijing meeting with the then-head of China’s United Front Work Department.” The intrigue continues, here

In space news, China just put the “last” satellite needed to challenge the U.S. at the GPS game. Reuters reports Beidou reached this milestone in a launch on Tuesday. However, few analysts think the Beidou system will catch on enough to significantly challenge the reliability of GPS anytime soon. More on the history of Beidou from Reuters, here.

And finally today: Get to better know how Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps has become such a fan of aluminium powder in this infrastructure deep dive from Reuters.
In a hurry? The powder is “a key ingredient in solid-fuel propellants used to launch missiles” because “When [it’s] mixed with material containing oxygen, a vast amount of energy is released.”
Why this is concerning: “The United States has broad sanctions in place, including targeting Iran’s metals sector and ballistic missile programme. Those include restrictions on operations in, and transactions related to, Iran’s aluminium sector.” Read on, here.

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