Mattis backs Space Command; Airmen of the future; Bolton admits the obvious; Spain lost a missile; And a bit more.

Mattis backs Space Command (but not necessarily a #SpaceForce), the defense secretary told reporters outside the Pentagon Tuesday.

Said Mattis: “We need to address space as a developing warfighting domain and a combatant command is certainly one thing that we can we can establish. This is a process we’re in,” he said standing beside his visiting British counterpart, Gavin Williamson. In reality, it’s more than “one thing.” Death by process? Again, as Defense One has reported, the Pentagon was about punt the sticky work to Congress. They could have suggested a Space Force — an entire new branch of the military equal to the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Mattis and Dunford have not done that. A combatant command is a big “thanks, but no thanks” from Arlington to the White House.

In case there was any doubt, Mattis said, “We are in complete alignment with the president’s concern about protecting our assets in space to contribute to our security to our economy and we’re going to have to address it as other countries show a capability to attack those assets.”
Mattis answered a few other Qs from reporters as well. A lightning round of takeaways out that include:

  • The war against ISIS is still far from over. “I don't declare victory until it's in the rear-view mirror. When there is hard fighting ahead, as I've said, as we close in what happens with ISIS is they become more concentrated, so there is -- there is hard fighting ahead, that's all there is to it.” (For more on long wars, scroll down to the C.J. Chivers piece.)
  • VP Pence is the “point man for the president on [the Space Force developments]. We are working closely daily with his office and with supporters on Capitol Hill and the relevant committees,” Mattis said.

You can read the full transcript, here.

From Defense One

Risks Rise As US Reimposes Sanctions on Iran // NIAC’s Ryan Costello: Several undesirable consequences are becoming more likely.

The Future Airman is a Hacker // Patrick Tucker: Air Force recruiters will prize computer skills more highly, while the service will encourage airmen to experiment with their own solutions.

America Is Not Ready for Exploding Drones // Kathy Gilsinan, The Atlantic: An apparent assassination attempt in Venezuela shows how technology is moving faster than governments can counter it.

How to Keep the US-India Defense Relationship Moving Ahead // Vikram J. Singh, former DASD/South Asia: Both countries can help each other in a rapidly changing Asia — if they can pick their way past several looming obstacles.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief  by Kevin Baron and Ben Watson. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day in 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, sent a letter of resignation to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, who declined. Replied Davis, “To ask me to substitute you by someone … more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army … is to demand an impossibility.” The Civil War would grind on for another year and nine months before ending on May 13, 1865.

John Bolton admits the obvious on North Korea. “What we really need is not more rhetoric. What we need is performance from North Korea on denuclearization,” he said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday — repeating some of what he told PBS NewsHour the evening prior.
Where to go from here? SecState Pompeo is ready to go for the next trip to Pyongyang, Bolton also said. Read a bit more from Reuters, here.

The Assad regime is eyeing a new offensive in NW Syria that could uproot between 250,000 and 700,000 more Syrians, Reuters reports citing new analysis from a series of aid agencies including the World Health Organization.
The location: “Idlib governorate, where an influx of displaced people has roughly doubled the population to around 2.5 million.”
Recall that President Bashar al-Assad said in July, “Idlib is our goal. And not just Idlib. We will be moving into all these regions.”
For a bit more on the importance of Idlib — “a crucial province that will stop Turkey from redrawing the map of Syria” — read this, which posted Tuesday at The National.
Related: A Turkish delegation is headed to meet with U.S. State Department officials today, State spox Heather Nauert said this morning. The Washington Post has a bit of a preview of that meeting — and a review of the higher-profile concerns, including the status of detained American Pastor Andrew Brunson — here.

Remember the coup? Turkey is investigating the former commander of Incirlik. That’s because Turkish officials reportedly “found a directive written by a man named John ordering the failed coup attempt in 2016,” the Washington Post’s Liz Sly wrote on Twitter Tuesday after reading this report.
And so today, “All men named John who were in Turkey at the time are now being investigated.” That just happens to include U.S. Ambassador John Bass and U.S. Air Force Col. John Walker, who commanded Incirlik airbase at the time of the failed coup. Read on, here.

The FBI is now passing info it finds about online trolls to tech companies, Voice of America reported Tuesday of the “bureau’s behind-the-scenes effort to disrupt foreign influence operations aimed at U.S. elections.” More here.

Russia — being Russia — says a new and “horrible” conflict could erupt if Georgia joins NATO, the Associated Press reported Tuesday from Moscow — and on the 10-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of its southwestern neighbor. The warning rhetoric this time came from Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in a TV interview.
Said Medvedev, who was Russia’s president when his military invaded Georgia: “There is an unresolved territorial conflict ... and would [NATO members] bring such a country into the military alliance? Do they understand the possible implications? It could provoke a horrible conflict… We can’t help getting worried when the circle around our country keeps narrowing as more and more countries join NATO. NATO’s expansion clearly poses a threat to the Russian Federation.” A bit more, here.

Speaking of dangers on the border with Russia, how about this morning headline from The Aviationist: “Spanish Eurofighter Typhoon Accidentally Fires Live Air-to-Air Missile Over Estonia, 25 miles west of the Russian border.”
The quick read: “The incident took place on Tuesday, August 7, 2018 sometime around 3:45 PM local… The missile has not been recovered. The last assumed location of the missile is roughly 40 km to the north of the city of Tartu, and its direction was northbound.” If you happen to be in the area, keep an eye out for an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile. Details and a bit more, here.

America’s newest ballistic missile submarines are gonna be delayed a bit more, Defense News reported Monday.
The gist: “faulty welding was discovered in several missile tubes destined for both the Columbia and Virginia-class programs.”
In context: “The issue is made even more troubling because it arises from a vendor with an excellent reputation, and raises questions about whether the Navy can deliver Columbia on time, something the Navy says is vital to ensuring continuous nuclear deterrent patrols as the Ohio class reaches the end of its service life.” Read on, here; or review the promise and need of the Columbia-class program in our video explainer from September, here.

South China Sea update: “Since 2013, China has constructed nearly 30 outposts in the South China Sea, creating 3,200 acres of new land,” according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Read more about each known outpost in CSIS’s Island Tracker, here.

The less we know: “The muzzling of journalists and independent news media is at its worst point in 13 years,” The Economist writes in this late July report on global press freedom.  

This week’s recommended #LongRead is a seriously long one. It comes to us via the NYT’s former Marine C.J. Chivers, and it’s been adapted from his new book, ‘‘The Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Dive into the “War Without End,” which takes an extended look at “The Pentagon’s failed campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan [and how they] left a generation of soldiers with little to fight for but one another,” here.

And finally this morning: A peek at some very ancient defense. A late Bronze Age fort is believed to have been found in southeastern Europe. According to AP, archeologists have uncovered what they believe to be a 3,400-year-old fortress in western Romania.
Researchers believe “The prehistoric city, described by Romanian local archaeologists as the ‘Troy of the Carpathians’, was not built of stone like the famous ancient city in Asia Minor, but of soil and wood, and is almost three times bigger.” By comparison, “Troy was 29 hectares in size.” Continue reading here.