Americans trapped in Yemen; Carter to Silicon Valley; ISIS bigger threat than Russia?; Ray guns; And a bit more.
Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi militant positions continued some 200 kilometers south of the capital of Sana’a this morning and in the southern port city of Aden. Al-Arabiya has more.
Americans remain trapped in Yemen, with little help from the U.S. While other countries coordinate evacuations for their citizens, the U.S. State Department only is advising where Americans may find ways out. “There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time,” said Marie Harf, this week. But the fighting is intensifying as humanitarian conditions collapse. “It seems that the department’s excuses for not directly rescuing Americans in Yemen are disappearing quickly,” writes Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin, here. And more on Yemen below.
U.S. voters see the Islamic State, or ISIS, as a bigger threat than Russia, Iran, North Korea or China, according to a new poll from CNN. Nearly 80 percent of those polled fear the conflict in Iraq and Syria will spill over into the broader region. Seventy percent are also ready for U.S. military action against Iran should they violate the terms of the nuclear framework that’s still yet to be completed in the coming months. Read more here.
China says North Korea is sitting on as many as 20 nuclear warheads—nearly twice that of recent U.S. estimates—and Pyongyang could have the capability to double that number by 2016. The fears point to the many growing global security crises facing President Obama in his final months in office, The Wall Street Journal’s Jeremy Page and Jay Solomon report.
The U.S. is accusing Russia of sending more air defense systems to eastern Ukraine in breach of the Minsk 2 agreement in February. "This is the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment in eastern Ukraine since August," said State Department’s deputy spox Marie Harf, Reuters reports.
From Defense One
The Pentagon is setting up an outpost in Silicon Valley as part of Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s blitz to identify “game-changing” new technologies and convince the tech community to contribute to the nation’s defense. Technology Editor Patrick Tucker has more ahead of Carter’s speech today at Stanford.
Carter said the military’s sexual assault problem is a real obstacle for young people even considering a career in the military. The SecDef talked to reserve officer cadets at Georgetown University on Wednesday. Politics Reporter Molly O’Toole puts the issue into perspective here.
Ronald Reagan gave Larry Korb his choice of plum Pentagon assignments. Korb chose the manpower job, for good reason, he says, outlining what the personnel and readiness office needs to take care of the Defense Department workforce. Korb shares his insight here.
The Army is testing an actual ray gun called “Burke’s Pulser” and it could be a lot easier to attach to the modern infantryman’s standard kit than you might think. Tucker with more on how the thing works and what it might look like over here.
Ash Carter is not alone in blitzing resources and attention to Silicon Valley—the Department of Homeland Security wants in on the action, too, NextGov’s Aliya Sternstein reports.
Trace the Houthi’s rise to power in Yemen with this explainer from the Council on Foreign Relations’ Zachary Laub.
Veterans from across the country are tired of waiting in some cases hundreds of days just to apply for combat-related compensation, reports GovExec’s Kellie Lunney.
Two recent big developments on the surveillance and tech front at Capitol Hill: (1) Sen. Mitch McConnell pitched a possible workaround to the NSA’s domestic phone surveillance, which is set to expire on June 1; and (2) the House just cleared a “blockbuster” cybersecurity bill that protects businesses so information on data breaches can be more easily shared and more quickly become part of a solution. National Journal’s Dustin Volz here and here, respectively.
Also on the Hill, Sen. John McCain confirmed what many have known for weeks—a new authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State will likely languish until everyone just lets the issue go, National Journal’s Lauren Fox reports.
Welcome to Thursday's edition of The D Brief, from Ben Watson and Defense One. If you'd like to subscribe, click here or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.If you want to view The D Brief in your browser, you can do that, here.
When Saudi Arabia resumed more airstrikes just hours after announcing an end to most of their coalition’s military campaign in Yemen, one thing became clear: Washington’s wishes are meeting the reality of a determined Riyadh intent on keeping up their pressure on the Houthi rebels. The Houthis, meanwhile, show no interest in ceasing their hostile advances—including the seizure of a Yemeni army brigade early Wednesday—and sporadic sniper fire while Saudi pilots are reportedly being offered Bentleys (that via the BBC) for their continued work from the skies. More on the limits of U.S. power in the Yemen crisis from The New York Times Eric Schmitt and Michael Gordon.
U.S. drone strikes are believed to have continued in Yemen yesterday as seven suspected fighters from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, were killed on the south-central coast, which points to the broader chaos on the ground Yemen. It’s no secret there’s a legitimate humanitarian crisis that grows worse the longer the conflict drags on, still with no apparent end in sight. But the U.S. insists it remains in an intel and logistics supporting role, even as it laments the seemingly unnecessary loss of life from airstrikes that have claimed the lives of as many as 1,000 people, including some 300 civilians at last count. The Washington Post has a bit more, including a helpful map with the latest on Houthi and AQAP positions.
And the Saudi-led campaign is sending a clear message to Tehran about Riyadh’s ability to lead a “lengthy and complicated campaign,” which by Tuesday had completed roughly 2,500 air sorties—two-thirds of them flown by Saudi pilots—over Yemen, writes The Wall Street Journal’s Yaroslav Trofimov.
Carter is concerned Iranian ships headed toward Yemen are carrying weapons for the Houthis, but he stopped short of telegraphing any U.S. response to such action. "We have options,” said Carter Wednesday, adding, “We're not at [the] point [of U.S. military personnel interdicting the Iranian ships]. We're at the point of trying to get the parties back to the table." More from AP’s Lita Baldor.
A hearty congrats to former Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby, who yesterday returned to the helm as the new State Department spokesman. Kirby succeeds Jen Psaki, who left to become the White House’s communications director. Kirby, widely respected for both his frank assessments and congenial rapport with the press, was outed from the Pentagon’s top spox spot by Ash Carter, who sought to put a civilian in Kirby’s role—though notably the position remains vacant. More on Kirby from WaPo’s Al Kamen and AP’s Matt Lee.
The Air Force would love a replacement for the costly—but, as its critics would point out, effective—A-10, even if Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said yesterday the service has no money to work with figuring out what that replacement might look like. Air Force Times’ Brian Everstine has more.
What is the Air Force eyeing with its money? 120 weapons systems totaling nearly $60 billion, the service’s weapons buyer William LaPlante told the Senate Armed Services Committee, Bloomberg reports.
ICYMI: Air Force drone pilots are being lured away from their uniformed gigs with offers of as much as twice their Pentagon salary to fly for overseas contractors, Air Force Times’ Jeff Schogol reported Tuesday.
The Navy is about to make history if the Senate confirms the president’s nomination of Vice Adm. Nora Tyson to command the Third Fleet. Navy Times with that short hit, here.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus is scheduled to appear at a federal court in Charlotte today where he’s expected to plead guilty to passing his biographer, Paula Broadwell, classified information. Prosecutors are recommending a $40,000 fine and two years probation for the retired four-star’s guilty plea, which carries up to a year in prison. The Petreaus case has raised allegations a “double standard” in is place in contrast to the prosecution of intelligence leakers Chelsea Manning and former CIA-er Jeffrey Sterling, as Kevin Maurer wrote yesterday in The Daily Beast.
The Pentagon can’t account for some $1.3 billion in CERP (Commander’s Emergency Response Program) funds in Afghanistan, according to a year-long investigation from the inspector general for Afghan reconstruction, John Sopko. “When Sopko’s staff divided the Pentagon expenditures into 20 categories set under the emergency program, from transportation and education to healthcare, agriculture, water and sanitation, by far the largest category was in a 21st category that the inspector general termed ‘Unknown.’ That category applied to 5,163 projects, compared with 4,494 projects in all of the 20 defined areas put together.” Read the rest from McClatchy’s James Rosen, here.
NEXT STORY: Who Are the Houthis?