Chinese generals wrote Xi’s agenda; CENTCOM hits car-bomb factory; Obama, Putin may meet on Syria; Dempsey’s parting shot; and a bit more.

Go inside the war room with the Chinese generals who told President Xi what to do — and what not to do — when he meets with Obama this week. Determined not to be blindsided by American surprises, the PLA’s leaders made sure to keep Xi’s visit as far as possible from controversial topics like spying, cybersecurity and the South China Sea, writes Michael Pillsbury, a former Reagan-administration policy planning official who met recently with generals in Beijing. Pillsbury describes how they helped draft the script Xi is following, here.

But Obama says, oh, we’re going to talk cyber all right. “The growing reach of China’s army of cyberwarriors has become a flash point in relations between Beijing and Washington that President Barack Obama said will be a focus during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the U.S. this week,” writes the Wall Street Journal. “The story of the Chinese military staffer’s alleged involvement in hacking provides a detailed look into Beijing’s sprawling state-controlled cyberespionage machinery.” Read the narrative, here.

New Chinese sub designed to carry ICBMs to deploy soon. “China’s navy is expected this year to conduct the first patrol of its Jin-class nuclear-powered submarine” armed with JL-2 missiles, Defense Intelligence Agency said in a statement. “It declined to give its level of confidence on when the new boat will be deployed or the status of the missile,” Bloomberg reports.

China’s copycat jet raises questions about F-35’s advantage. New technical specs about the new J-31 fighter, a plane designed to rival the American-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, popped up on a Chinese blog last week. The Chinese theft of data on the U.S. fighter jet and other weapons shrinks the Pentagon’s technical superiority, experts tell Global Business Reporter Marcus Weisgerber, who explores the gap. (Don’t miss the J-31-vs.-JSF chart in the story.)

And for the best future-of-defense takes on Xi’s visit and China in general, visit and bookmark Defense One’s China page.

In Iraq, coalition continues strikes on Daesh car-bombers. U.S. aircraft hit various targets on Wednesday near Mosul, which “eliminated two significant VBIED production facilities,” CENTCOM spokesman Col. Christopher Garver said in a statement. Here’s video footage from the strikes.

Obama, Putin to meet about Syria if a mutually agreeable time can be found on the sidelines of the UN leaders’ meeting next week, the New York Times reports. It would be “their first face-to-face encounter in nearly a year as tension rises over the civil war in Syria, American officials said on Wednesday.” That story, here.

Pentagon: Those U.S.-trained Syrians didn’t defect. After reports yesterday that dozens of Syrian fighters from the train-and-equip program had defected with their U.S. weapons, the Defense Department pushed back in a statement labeled a “Correction to the Record”: “U.S. Central Command has no indication that any New Syrian Forces fighters have defected to Al Nusra Front, contrary to several press and social media reports. Additionally, all Coalition-issued weapons and equipment are under the positive control of NSF fighters.”

Reporters pushed officials to explain the “info gap” on how they’re so certain about that, and got little. Expect more on this in coming days.

From Defense One

Drones with frickin’ laser beams may arrive in two years — if General Atomics’ research pans out and the U.S. military decides to pursue them. The maker of the Predator and Reaper UAVs is working to develop a 150-kilowatt laser pod for a Predator-C, or Avenger, drone. Technology Editor Patrick Tucker explores the promise and the problems ahead, here.

Five times more fingerprints stolen in OPM hack than previously thought. The number of federal employees whose fingerprint data was stolen in the hack has increased from about 1.1 million to 5.6 million, Office of Personnel Management officials said Wednesday. “However, the latest revelation of exposed fingerprint data does not increase the overall number of people affected by the hack, which stands at about 21.5 million,” writes NextGov.

Frank Konkel tweets : “Despite already giving their fingerprints, I’m guessing 5 million people would still like to give @USOPM the finger.”

Just 1 out of every 7 emails the Pentagon gets is legit. “Out of 700 million emails we’ll get in a month, only about 98 million are actually good emails,” said Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, said Wednesday. “The rest,” he said, “are spam and worm attacks.” NextGov’s Konkel has the story.

Hillary Clinton: come clean or get out, writes National Journal’s Ron Fournier. “If Clinton won’t say how and why she hid her State Department emails related to national security, why should the public—much less the FBI—believe her on anything?” Read the rest of Fournier’s blistering piece, here.

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Soon-to-retire Gen. Martin Dempsey’s parting shot to Washington. In a Facebook video posted ahead of his retirement tomorrow, the Joint Chiefs chairman coldly lays it at the feet of Washington dysfunction. The problem is that the military “keep getting the job done,” so the public doesn’t understand how they’re hurting in readiness behind the scenes. Demps says, “Our force has done remarkably well in a time of budget’s imperative to understand the long term risks that continue to grow,” says the intro. Watch here.

DOD bracing for year-long continuing resolution. “A yearlong CR would be unprecedented for the Department of Defense, but is one of two likely scenarios for fiscal 2016, budget experts say,” writes The Hill.

Throwback Thursday, shutdown edition: Here’s Ash Carter’s memo to DOD civilians preparing them for a Pentagon shutdown...on this day in 2013.

Cyberspace norms are getting a bit clearer, thanks to the latest UN report, writes Elaine Korzak at Lawfare. “The agreement has been characterized as a ‘breakthrough’ and ‘a strong consensus report,’ she writes. Read Korzak’s full analysis, here.

All eyes are on the man in white: Pope Francis addresses a joint session of Congress at 10 a.m. (We were told we’d have to be at the Capitol by 6 a.m., so we’ll be at the Pentagon.) Expect more appeal to a common sense of humanity on welcoming refugees and fighting climate change (the Pentagon has dubbed the latter an “immediate threat to national security”).  Perhaps he’ll throw in a line urging U.S. lawmakers to close Guantanamo or ban nuclear weapons. His timing is impeccable: hours after he addresses lawmakers with Catholics House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Vice President Joe Biden in attendance, the Senate will take a cloture vote on a continuing resolution to keep the government running and pay the military (and defund Planned Parenthood).

Don’t read this if you’re already sick of 2016. But if you’re still here, mark your calendars with the general election debate schedule, released yesterday: Sept. 26 in Dayton, Ohio; Oct. 4 in Farmville, Va., and Oct. 19 in Las Vegas. The vice presidential debate will take place Oct. 9 in St. Louis.

The Syrian civil war has prompted the first withdrawal from the Doomsday seed vault. Seven years ago, Norway opened a weatherproof, bomb-proof storage facility for the world’s seeds, a hedge against nuclear war or whatever other globe-scale calamity might befall us. Now the partial destruction of a seed repository in Aleppo has led Syrians to make the first withdrawal from the vault. io9 has the story, here.

First the Ashley Madison hack, now this. “The DoD Inspector General announced Wednesday it will launch a follow-up investigation into its probe last year that revealed [military and government] card holders ran up more than 5,000 transactions at casinos and strip clubs,” writes the Military Times, here.

Bowe Bergdahl, coming in podcast form. The folks at Serial, which kind of helped do for podcasts what The Sopranos did for HBO, are turning their longform microphones on the infamous Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the soldier who disappeared from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and was held as a prisoner by the Taliban. NYT, here.