Lawmakers slam DoD secrecy; FBI cyber-crime actions plummet; Syrian rebels mount a counterattack; Taiwan’s military shopping list; and just a bit more...

Lawmaker: Increased Pentagon secrecy has been “catastrophic” for the bigger-budget push. In a remarkable address at a naval-themed conference on Wednesday, Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wisc., upbraided Navy and defense leaders for telling their people to say less in public over the past year. “I don’t mean to single out the Navy here, I understand there was similar guidance from [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] across the services as well,” said Gallagher, a first-term Congressman and retired Marine who serves on the House Armed Services Committee. “But I cannot emphasize how catastrophic a mistake I think that is.”

How so? “Gallagher said that by throttling back the stream of information, the Navy and other services haven’t cut off adversaries — only the American public. Constituents who don’t hear about grounded jets and colliding ships can’t write letters, clog voicemails, and visit congressional offices. So lawmakers interested in funding a 355-ship navy — like Gallagher — don’t have the public support they need to back them up,” reported Defense One’s Caroline Houch and Marcus Weisgerber.

CNO’s 2017 memo: Gallagher was referencing most directly a March 1 memo from Adm. John Richardson in which the chief of naval operations told senior military and civilian leaders to watch what they tell the public. In a Wednesday conversation with reporters after his own address to the Surface Navy Association, Richardson defended his guidance, saying that, “It wasn't to stop talking, it's to be careful about what we talk about.” Responded Chris Cavas, a veteran naval reporter who slammed the Navy for its closemouthedness in a recent op-ed, “But it's had that effect. But even if you didn't spell it out, it's absolutely had that effect.” (Here’s a transcript of their exchange, part of a larger conversation with reporters.)

And it’s not just Gallagher. Also on Wednesday, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, emerged from a House Armed Services Committee hearing with this message: “If we’re going to convince my colleagues who are not on this committee, as well as the American people, to fix these things, I think we do have to talk at least somewhat openly about what our problems are.”

From Defense One

Tomorrow’s Cargo Drones Won’t Look Much Like Today’s Helicopters // Patrick Tucker: Boeing unveils a squarish, skeletal quadcopter to try out new unmanned-delivery concepts.

The FBI Is Disrupting One-Tenth as Many Cyber Crime Rings As In 2015 // Joseph Marks: The bureau missed its own goals for disruptions and dismantlements the past two years.

The Pentagon's Secrecy Is Undermining Its Quest for a Bigger Budget // Caroline Houck and Marcus Weisgerber: Last year, U.S. Navy and defense leaders warned their people to watch what they say. Lawmakers say that's made it harder to argue for spending bumps on Capitol Hill.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Email us. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free.

From Europe to Korea, U.S. Army units are on the move in the next few months, including:

  • 10th Mountain Division Headquarters, stationed at Fort Drum, New York, to Iraq in the spring of 2018 — replacing 1st Armored Division Headquarters from Fort Bliss, Texas.
  • 101st Airborne Division Headquarters stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to Afghanistan in the spring of 2018 — replacing 3rd Infantry Division Headquarters from Fort Stewart, Georgia.
  • 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, to Europe in the summer of 2018 — replacing 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kansas.
  • And 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia, to the Republic of Korea in the spring of 2018 — replacing 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. More on those four deployments, via big Army, here.

En route to the Olympics next month, VP Pence “will stop in Alaska to review intercontinental ballistic missile defense systems and in Japan, stressing the U.S. commitment to stability in the region,” the Associated Press writes in a sort of status report on the state of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and South Korea.

In a move that could irk China, Taiwan is seeking “new missiles, drones and electronic warfare systems, fighter aircraft and ballistic missile defenses,” Reuters reports. “Although some arms would be domestically produced, such as an existing plan to locally build eight submarines, they say a longer-term Taiwanese drive for improved capabilities could mean fresh U.S. deals.”
Said one Asia security expert: “If there are three weapons systems that China’s high command really wants to keep out of Taiwan’s hands, it is submarines, fighter jets and ballistic missile defenses. Taipei is smartly investing in all three.” More here.

French aircraft will deploy on an American carrier this spring, U.S. Naval Institute News reported Wednesday. "The April to May deployment will occur just before France’s aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R91) is expected to complete a major maintenance period which started in 2015."
What to expect: "French Navy Dassault Rafale M fighters and Northop Grumman E-2C Hawkeye aircraft will at first fly with U.S. airwings out of Naval Air Station Oceana, in Virginia Beach. French sailors will work with their U.S. counterparts maintaining the aircraft, Rouz de Luze said. The unspecified French forces will then board [the USS George H.W. Bush] and operate as part of the air wing."
“The French Navy, we know in the future we will work with other navies, so you need to know how to operate with other navies,” said Capt. Jean-Emmanuel Roux de Luze, French Naval Attaché to the U.S. More here.

Those drones that attacked a Russian airbase in Syria? They can be bought "in a rebel social media arms market based in Syria’s Idlib province," The Daily Beast discovered after a little digging this week. "The seller offered the drone alongside two small, grenade-sized munitions. 'Brothers,' the author wrote next to pictures of the weapons, 'reconnaissance plane which drops shells for sale.'"
The implications: "With Syria's declining insurgency still clinging to life, that means Russia and the Assad regime are likely to face more homebrew drone attacks like the one against Hmeimim air base." Read on, here.

And speaking of Syria’s Idlib province, “Rebels launched a counter attack against Syrian government forces and their allies” this morning, Reuters reports. The goal: “roll back an advance that is fuelling tension with neighboring Turkey.”
Hezbollah says the Syrian troops’ allied advance is to push back an assault by the Nusra Front, or al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria.
Free Syrian Army rebels say they’re fighting not just in southern Idlib, but also northeastern Hama.
And Tahrir al-Sham, “an alliance led by the Nusra Front,” says it is making gains in Idlib, too.
So to review: Idlib is a crowded battlefield where everyone says they’re winning. In other words, the war for Syria is about where it was five years ago — minus ISIS. Read on, here.

Related: Spade to the face. That’s what the remaining ISIS fighters will get from American troops, if U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. John Wayne Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser in the Pentagon, has his way. He issued the warning on Facebook and Twitter Tuesday evening, the Washington Post reports.
In his own words: “ISIS needs to understand their two options when facing us: surrender or die! Surrender & we will safeguard to due process. Otherwise we will kill with extreme prejudice, even if that means beating them to death with our entrenching tools!”
Adds the Post: “It isn't the first time that Troxell has issued a warning along those lines. He used the same talking points during a United Services Organization (USO) holiday tour last month in which he and his boss, Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited deployed U.S. troops in numerous locations.” More here.

Back stateside, A-10 pilots BRRRRT-BRRRRT’d their way to hypoxia — and that’s a big problem for those 25,000-lbs. aircraft up in the sky, Aviation Week reports.

Computer security alert. Users from the U.S. Senate, Navy, and Executive Office of the President were sharing or commenting on images from the revenge porn site Anon-IB, The Daily Beast reports this morning.
How they found this all out: “Einar Otto Stangvik, a security analyst at Norwegian newspaper VG, provided The Daily Beast with a large cache of hundreds of thousands of Anon-IB users’ IP addresses—numerical codes that can show where a user is posting from. A source showed Stangvik a trick for pulling IP addresses from Anon-IB, and Stangvik subsequently wrote a series of scripts to optimize the process and successfully grab the data. Stangvik said the data was obtained legally, and he also helped The Daily Beast analyze the results.” Much more — including more on participation from people using U.S. Navy computers as recently as November — here.

And now for something completely different: A man in the Russian Arctic stole a bottle of wine after smashing into shop using an armored personnel carrier, the Moscow Times reports. Story and photos, here.

Disney’s lawyers are good — or someone inside the Pentagon was caught being a little too clever. "The Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian... tried to inject 'Star Wars' references into a memo setting up the Defense Department’s multibillion-dollar cloud computing initiative," Bloomberg's Tony Capaccio reported Wednesday. It did not last long.
“In a memo issued Jan. 4 and rescinded about an hour later, Deputy Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan announced a new ‘Central Cloud Computing Program Office’ — or ‘C3PO’ — to ‘acquire the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) Cloud.’”
Now, “A new, more conventional memo issued Jan. 8 renames the office the ‘Cloud Computing Program Manager,’ or CCPM. The JEDI reference simply disappeared.” More here.

ICYMI: Who’s not shy of Star Wars references? Former NATO supreme commander James Stavridis and a host of other national-security thinkers who contributed essays to the forthcoming “Strategy Strikes Back,” an anthology of military lessons from a galaxy far, far away. Read Stavridis’ contribution, “Hybrid Star Wars: Lessons from The Battle of Endor,” here.

Finally today: We take a short detour for some satire from the folks at the Duffel Blog. Since explaining humor is a sure way to kill it, we’ll pass along the headline and leave the click to you: “War in Afghanistan sues Marvel for copyright infringement over ‘Infinity War’ film.” Jokes, here.