NDAA, on time?; Shabaab strikes joint US-Somali base; No Space Force this year; How US, Russia can cooperate; and just a bit more...

Congress may actually finish a defense budget bill on time this year. If the House and Senate both approve the 2019 Defense Authorization Act in August, it would be the first time an NDAA has been passed before the Oct. 1 start of the fiscal year since 1996, according to CSIS’ Todd Harrison. It would also mark the earliest passage of an NDAA since 1977.

In: R&D funds for new small nuke. The bill includes $65 million to start developing a controversial new submarine-launched low-yield, nuclear weapon. (Here are arguments pro and con.)

Out: Space Force. The NDAA conference report “directs the secretary of defense’s office to ‘develop a space warfighting policy,’ but it doesn’t recommend officials explore the possibility of the military branch that Trump spoke of so enthusiastically last month,” writes Marina Koren at Defense One. “The absence of a space force in the defense bill means that Congress has ignored Trump on this wish. This is not uncommon: Congressional lawmakers have routinely ignored the president on various proposals since he took office. Unless congressional Republicans were already proposing the same thing, they have generally shrugged off Trump’s requests, especially his budget plans, and moved on.”

From Defense One

Trump’s Space Force Will Have to Wait // Marina Koren, The Atlantic: The president has called for the creation of a new military branch. So far, Congress is ignoring him.

The US and Russia Have Plenty of Areas for Cooperation. Let’s Get to Work // Debra Decker: We might start by taking Putin’s suggestion to create a bi-national advisory council to help guide engagement.

Russia Can’t Control What Happens in Syria // Krishnadev Calamur: As the civil war morphs, Putin is trying to position himself as the indispensable power. But a dangerous confrontation between Israel and Iran is escalating.

Use Maritime-Law Trends to Offset Beijing's Gains in the South China Sea // Timothy Perry: Exploiting changes to the law of the sea can help put China in a place where it has bought much less than it bargained for.

No-Bid Maintenance Contract Sweetens Air Force One Deal for Boeing // Marcus Weisgerber: A newly released contracting document reveals details about the $3.9 billion deal to buy and modify two 747s for presidential use.

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

Shabaab strikes at joint U.S.-Somali-Kenyan base again. On Tuesday, the militant group assaulted the base in the Somali town of Bar-Sanguuni, near the port of Kismayo. The attack began with the detonation of a pair of truck bombs near the base’s perimeter, followed by an assault by scores of militant fighters on the base itself. Long War Journal: “Somali officials have stated that nearly 100 militants were involved in the raid and that 87 of them were killed. Shabaab further claimed that 30 soldiers were killed in the assault. While both sides appear to be inflating numbers, more independent sources have placed the number of fatalities at 12. This number reportedly includes four Somali soldiers and eight Shabaab militants.”

In June, a U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed near the same base. The June 8 ambush also wounded four other U.S. troops.

Internal emails show a Pentagon kept out of White House loop. The emails, released through the Freedom of Information Act, “offer an inside look at how chaotic it can be for Pentagon officials when they face an unexpected onslaught of questions in the wake of an alarming public statement from the White House,” Buzzfeed reports. “The emails document two days of the aftermath of an unusual, and seemingly sudden, statement released by the White House late on the night of June 26 last year. It warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he and his military would ‘pay a heavy price’ if they carried out another chemical weapons attack.” Read on, here.

Qatar plans a $1.8 billion upgrade to Al-Udeid Air Base. The housing and “operational” improvements to the sprawling base — the centerpiece of U.S. air operations in the Middle East — are being made in the wake of, if not explicitly because of, the recent wobble in U.S.-Qatari relations. Washington Post: “Last summer, fresh from a triumphant visit to Saudi Arabia, President Trump sided with the Saudis and Emiratis when they broke relations with Qatar and accused it of ties to terrorism.By fall, however, Trump backed off after Mattis and then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that it was unwise to take sides in what was a long-standing rivalry, and reminded him of U.S. military interests in Qatar.” Read on, here.