Seoul: DPRK drops demand that US troops leave; Syria strike probably didn’t deter Assad, DOD says; Pentagon plans ‘AI factory’; 10 B-2s aloft for exercise; and just a bit more...

South Korea: North has dropped its demand that U.S. troops leave. If that’s true — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it and Pyongyang hasn’t confirmed it — then it would appear to remove a large and longstanding obstacle to a peninsular peace treaty. The Wall Street Journal has more, here.

Moon, in his own words: “The North Koreans did not present any conditions that the United States could not accept, such as the withdrawal of American troops in South Korea. They only talk about an end to hostilities against their country and about getting security guarantees… It’s safe to say that the plans for dialogue between the North and the United States could proceed because that has been made clear.” More, via the New York Times.

10 B-2s aloft at once?! Plane-spotters in the Minneapolis metro area were dumbfounded yesterday when two-plane elements of B-2s appeared overhead...and then kept appearing. That’s about half of the multi-billion-dollar Spirits ever built, and all but one of today’s operational fleet. Then there were more than a dozen KC-10 and KC-135 tankers, a few B-52s, and an E-4B “Doomsday” plane. It all adds up to a big strategic-bombing exercise like 2016’s Neptune Falcon, writes The Drive, citing a Notice to Airmen.  

Missile designations, decoded. Ankit Panda has a short thread on some U.S. intel community missile designations for Russian and Chinese systems. (Let's use SC19, WU14, PL19, and KY30 as examples.) That’s here.  

Elsewhere in the region: Chinese, Australian ships met in South China Sea. Aussie news reports said the Chinese warships “challenged” the Australian ones. Chinese Defense Ministry officials took exception, saying in a statement: “The Chinese side’s ships used professional language to communicate with the Australian side, and their operations were lawful, in compliance, professional and safe.” Reuters has more, here.

From Defense One

The Pentagon Is Building an AI Product Factory // Patrick Tucker: Job One for the new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center will be delivering solutions for services' specific problems.

The US Navy Wants a Better Way to Keep China's Nose Out of Its Contracts // Caroline Houck: A subcontract with a Huawei partner has the secretary looking for an 'institutional algorithm' for spotting dicey partnerships.

The Pursuit of AI Is More Than an Arms Race // Elsa B. Kania: Dealing wisely with the challenges of artificial intelligence requires reframing the current debates.

The US Military Will Award $10 million to the Company That Can Launch Satellites on Short Notice // Tim Fernholz: The Air Force is desperate to replace larger satellites that are vulnerable to attack, and fast.

Global Business Brief, April 19 // Marcus Weisgerber: Drone-export rules to relax; Air Force leaders want to change space; Chat with Boeing's defense boss; and more.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. They can subscribe here for free. OTD1898: William McKinley signs a joint resolution by Congress to declare war against Spain.

Pentagon: There’s probably going to be more chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian regime. That’s because the U.S. military doesn’t think last week’s strikes on Syria’s chemical weapons program will stop the use of chemical weapons, the New York Times wrote Thursday, citing a “military intelligence report, put out less than three days after the attack.” A bit more from that angle — and a lot more in summary/catch-up — here.
BTW: No one was killed in that Friday strike either, Chief Pentagon Spox, Dana White, said Thursday. has that one, here.

Back to that ISIS war: There is now a carrier strike group in the Mediterranean, U.S. Naval Institute News reported Thursday. “The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group entered the U.S. 6th fleet area of operations Wednesday, the region where less than a week ago U.S., British and French forces launched air strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities.”
Rollin’ deep: “The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group includes USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG-60), and guided-missile destroyers USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), USS Bulkeley (DDG-84), USS Farragut (DDG-99), USS Forrest Sherman (DDG-98), USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) and USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG-81). German frigate FGS Hessen (F-221) is also joining the Truman CSG for this deployment.” A bit more, here.

You should listen to more podcasts. And one place you can start is with a new series on ISIS called “Caliphate,” from the New York Times’ terrorism correspondent, Rukmini Callimachi. Her goal: “try to understand how ISIS turns people into killers,” among other takeaways from her reporting on the fall of Mosul, and what remains of the Islamic State across Iraq and Syria. Headphones required, here.

A worrisome view from Europe, via Nils Muiznieks, outgoing Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, speaking to NPR’s All Things Considered on Thursday. In the last six years on the job, he said he’s witnessed:

  • “The economic crisis and the fallout that had on human rights;
  • The Ukraine crisis and the tensions and suffering that that created;
  • The migration policy crisis, which fueled a lot of racism and nationalism within Europe and undermined European solidarity;
  • And a whole string of terrorist attacks and very problematic responses on the parts of governments."

Taken together, he warned, “The people in power now aren't so afraid of war, dictatorship, and genocide. They're afraid of other things, and the public is as well, [including] terrorism, migration, economic insecurity... Nationalism and revisionism is on the rise. You have the glorification of war criminals in several countries.”
Perhaps most concerning, he said, “you have very little learning from the past — very little reconciliation that is taking place there. You have an ongoing conflict in Ukraine, you have countries that are seriously backsliding. So war and the threat of bloodshed is still very much alive in many countries in Europe.” Worth listening to all of that one, which you can find right here.  

For Afghanistan and beyond: The U.S. Army’s SFAB program — the new supplementary brigades of soldiers volunteering to deploy to train host nation troops — wants you! And they especially want you if you’re gonna be at Fort Hood, Texas, next Tuesday and Wednesday.
Where that’s happening on Hood: Howze Auditorium, 10 a.m. CST.

A status report on the SFABS: The first of those units that have deployed to Afghanistan “is being used largely as intended for field advising, but not entirely,” Politico’s Wesley Morgan wrote Thursday off remarks from Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the Army’s chief of operations. The units are also doing “some institutional advising & SOF [special operations] support, too.”
Noteworthy: “[C]ontrary to what SFAB was designed for, 1SFAB deployment hasn't been allowed any BCT units to go home,” Morgan tweeted. We’ll let him fill you in on the rest of Anderson’s remarks — and why there could be issues properly staffing for the mission, here.

The more you know. Each U.S. Army Brigade Combat Team has about 2,500 GPS-enabled and 250 SATCOM-enabled devices, Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies tweeted Thursday from a briefing by the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command.
Says Harrison of the obvious: “No wonder adversaries are targeting these systems.”

Threat watch, eastern Europe edition: NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance’s presence in the Baltics is good for now.
Ordered to the region last year: “four multinational battalions to Poland and the Baltic states as tripwires against possible Russian adventurism, while the US military sent a Patriot battery to Lithuania for drills.” More from Agence France-Presse, here.

.ICYMI: NATO and Russia’s military chiefs met Wednesday in Baku, Azerbaijan, Reuters reported Thursday. Attending: U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparrotti and Valery Gerasimov.
He said, he said: “NATO said the meeting ‘focused on issues related to military posture and exercises’ — defense parlance for how to avoid military accidents that might lead to war,” Reuters writes. “The Russian side said the pair also talked about the seven-year-long civil war in Syria, where Moscow and the West back opposing sides, and combating Islamic militants.”
For what it’s worth: “U.S. General Joseph Dunford, the top U.S. military officer, also met Gerasimov in Azerbaijan last year,” Reuters notes. More here.

Speaking of Dunford, he made the #9 spot on Forbes’ 50 greatest world leaders.

And in the Russian IO world this week, here’s how Moscow’s RT has been using Buzzfeed video-style tactics to evade YouTube’s propaganda flagging system, via NBC News.

Coming this summer: A strategy for the Arctic from the U.S. Navy — since so much of the waterways are expanding with melting glaciers.
Said U.S. Navy Secretary Richard Spencer: “The Arctic ice caps are as small as they’ve been in my lifetime. And that gives rise to strategic changes. Waterways that are open. The secretary mentioned the blue-water Arctic. Continental shelves that are exposed, and the resources on those shelves. So there are strategic issues that arise from that shrinking of the icecap. And then there’s this National Defense Strategy that’s changed our focus as well. So it’s really, from a number of perspectives, about time to do that again.” USNI News has more in that preview/tease from Spencer and CNO Richardson, here.

And finally this week: Where math and space meet, a beer could be yours. That is, if you can solve this satellite-orbiting equation that our colleague Marcus Weisgerber spotted at the National Space Symposium this week in Colorado Springs.
Be safe out there this weekend, gang. And we’ll see you again on Monday!