CJCS slams 'NATO is obsolete' line ; Obama opens Nuclear Summit; Ukraine pleads for arms; Inside look at Navy’s stealth destroyer; and a bit more.

“The relevance of NATO is not at all in question,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said Wednesday at U.S. Central Command in Tampa. Dunford “flipped the script” on GOP 2016 front-runner Donald Trump’s recent eyebrow-raising assessment of the 28-member alliance, Defense One’s Kevin Baron writes while traveling with Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Carter and Dunford were at MacDill Air Force Base for the change-of-command ceremonies for new commanders Gen. Joseph Votel, at CENTCOM, and Gen. Tony Thomas, at SOCOM.

Today, NATO is helping build foreign militaries in North Africa and elsewhere, Dunford said. Carter piled it on, listing several current NATO operations, including helping with the flow of refugees across the Aegean Sea and countering a resurgent Russia.

“We are working with NATO now on strengthening the deterrence of Russia, Russian aggression, and also so-called hybrid warfare in Europe. We’re working with NATO allies on security issues in the Mediterranean that derive from ISIL,” the secretary said. “There is a lot that NATO has done and is doing.”

In short: It’s not the alliance that’s out of touch, Dunford said, but the candidate who challenges its importance. Read the rest, here.

North Korea and global terrorism will dominate today’s 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, the Wall Street Journal reports ahead of the two-day event that echoes one of President Barack Obama’s earliest foreign policy goals—reducing nuclear proliferation.

More than 50 nations will be represented at the summit, and Obama is slated to sit down with leaders from Japan, South Korea, China and France. Officials from nuclear-armed Pakistan and India are also expected to attend. Russia is boycotting the summit.  

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Obama says the agenda will include chats about how to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of groups like the Islamic State—a scenario one Harvard researcher told Defense One’s Patrick Tucker is not as farfetched as you might think.

Obama on his nuclear accomplishments: “I’ve reduced the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy. I also have ruled out developing new nuclear warheads and narrowed the contingencies under which the United States would ever use or threaten to use nuclear weapons… We’ve succeeded in uniting the international community against the spread of nuclear weapons, notably in Iran.” And finally, “The international fuel bank that I called for seven years ago is now being built in Kazakhstan. With it, countries will be able to realize the energy they seek without enriching uranium, which could be at risk of diversion or theft.”

Perhaps this is as good a time as any to contrast the president’s perspective with some feedback from nuke-watchers like Joe Cirincione of Ploughshares Fund. Joe lists the nuclear ambitions Obama outlined in his first foreign policy speech as president, including he detailed “an initiative to unite world leaders to secure all nuclear bomb material from terrorists,” and concludes that the president has “achieved only a fraction of what he had hoped.

Obama concedes it: “I’m the first to acknowledge that we still have unfinished business. Given its violations of the INF Treaty, we continue to call on Russia to comply fully with its obligations. Along with our military leadership, I continue to believe that our massive Cold War nuclear arsenal is poorly suited to today’s threats.” He also called for international unity in the face of North Korean aggression, and for the U.S. “ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and conclude a new treaty to end the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons once and for all.”

Need more food for thought? Here are some of Defense One’s best nuclear-security pieces from staff and contributors.

Ukraine is still pleading for defensive U.S. military equipment. That was President Petro Poroshenko’s message at an event sponsored by the World Affairs Councils of America at the Capitol last night. Specifically, he said, Ukrainian soldiers need electronic warfare and communications equipment to stop pro-Russian forces from listening in on their radio calls.

So he’ll go shopping while in Washington. Even though he’s here for President Obama’s nuclear security summit, Poroshenko said he would meet with a U.S. defense firm today to talk about possible equipment buys. He did not say which company he would meet.

Other takeaways from Poroshenko: While Ukrainian officials have consistently asked for more U.S. aid, the Ukrainian president said the training his forces have received from the U.S. military was making a difference and has helped halt Russia’s offensive in the eastern part of the country.

A shot at Donald Trump and Ted Cruz? Although their names were never mentioned, it seemed the two Republican presidential candidates – who have struck nationalistic and isolationist tones in their campaigns – were the targets of this piece of advice from Poroshenko: “Don’t let America become small minded.” Earlier Tuesday at a German Marshall Fund event, Polish President Andrzej Duda refused to talk about the U.S. elections, but said: “It is in the interest of the U.S. to have security in Europe.”

From Defense One

Obama’s record as commander-in-chief, by the numbers. He vowed to end America’s wars, but has mostly just changed who's doing the fighting. The Atlantic adds it up, here.

Welcome to Thursday’s D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1979, the governor of Pennsylvania advised the evacuation “of pregnant women and pre-school age children...within a five-mile radius of the Three Mile Island facility.” Subscribe to the D Brief: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. Got news? Let us know: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.

The effort to empty Guantanamo continues. The Pentagon wants to transfer “up to a dozen” detainees from the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a U.S. official told reporters Wednesday night after the Defense Department, in accordance with law, notified Congress of its intentions.

Where things stand: “There are 91 detainees at the military prison, with 37 detainees approved for repatriation or resettlement in a third country,” WaPo’s Adam Goldman reported Wednesday.

U.S. officials said they expect to move all 37 out by the end of the summer, Reuters reported.

“The best known of the detainees expected to be resettled in the coming weeks is Tariq Ba Odah, a 37-year-old Yemeni, whom the military has been force-feeding daily,” WaPo’s Goldman adds. “That involves guards strapping him down, putting a rubber tube down his nose and pumping a liquid dietary supplement into his stomach. Last year, Ba Odah’s weight dipped to 74 pounds…Ba Odah fled Afghanistan in 2001 as the U.S. attacked the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces and was arrested in Pakistan, where he was handed over to American Forces, according to military documents. He was taken to Guantanamo in 2002.” More here.

While Obama and Co. talk nukes, the folks at the Heritage Foundation will dissect the National Defense Authorization Act at 10:30 a.m. EDT with two former senior Armed Services Committee staff members. More info on the event, here. Heritage has also just released a paper “outlining suggested policy priorities for the FY2017 NDAA,” and you can find that here.

The OIR medal has arrived. The war against ISIS has finally given way to a new piece of flair for the U.S. military uniform: “The Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal, authorized in an executive order by President Barack Obama, joins a growing list of decorations created for the wars and operations that followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,” Stars and Stripes reported. Read on for qualifications.

Here comes Obama’s 10th military-personnel chief. “Peter Levine, an attorney who serves as Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s senior adviser on business transformation, has been named to succeed the embattled Brad Carson,” Military Times reports, citing an email Carson sent to his staff. “He will take over as acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness when Carson leaves April 8.” Levine’s nearly 19 years on the Senate Armed Services Committee staff may help smooth the path for Ash Carter’s Force of the Future reforms.

Inside look at the Navy’s new stealthy destroyer at sea. Defense News’ nonpareil Chris Cavas reports from the bridge, and the deck, and the engineroom, of DDG 1000 during her second series of builder’s sea trials. (“The Zumwalt is filled with so many new technologies – ten major groupings and dozens of smaller items – that [Bath Iron Works] is running a non-standard second trial.”) Read it all, here.

Lastly today: “The burden of war falls on fewer Americans than ever before,” the folks at Vox remind us in a compelling animation produced in partnership with the organization Veterans Coming Home. You’re probably familiar with just how few Americans are serving in the Global War on Terror, but that doesn’t make the number or the broader point any easier to digest—at least for those who have fought or deployed or been away from loved ones as the country’s longest war grinds on. Worth the click, here.