VP Pence to the Pentagon; ‘Shadow rulers of the VA’; Marines surprised down under; Getting Iran to talk to Trump; And a bit more.

“Space Corps” inbound? Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to deliver a “major policy announcement” inside the Pentagon shortly after you receive today’s edition, around 1115 ET.

We reviewed the latest known-knowns in Wednesday’s D Brief. But if you missed it, here are the highlights:

  • President Trump wants a Space Force. He’s said it so much a theme song has been written.
  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford have taken the idea and relayed it instead into a more realizable Space Corps.
  • As Defense One’s Kevin Baron wrote Wednesday: A combatant command is a big “thanks, but no thanks” from Arlington to the White House.
  • And as Mattis said Tuesday at the Pentagon, 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.”

So it would seem Pence has some kind of message about space for us all today. Stream it live, here.

Big story making waves this week: ProPublica reported a story about “The Shadow Rulers Of The VA” on Tuesday, and it has already led to one upset veteran-turned-newsman over at Task & Purpose quitting his job.  

The gist: “Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter and two other Mar-a-Lago cronies are secretly shaping the Trump administration’s veterans policies.” Read the full ProPublica report, here.

A quick summary from the veteran: “The VA, its $200B budget, nearly 400,000 employees, and 9M veteran patients have secretly been at the whims of 3 self-dealing, unvetted presidential pals who never served or worked with military members.”

About those waves being made, this Military Times headline cuts to the quick pretty well: “Democrats demand White House reveal details of outside businessmen’s influence on VA policy.” Leo Shane III has more, here.

From Defense One

Flaw in Some Satellite Communication Terminals Can Expose US Troops’ Location // Patrick Tucker: Vulnerabilities in certain brands of communications terminals can be used to access GPS data on forward-deployed troops.

Do We Need a Space Force? That Depends on Our Answers to These Legal and Strategic Questions // Stefan Soesanto: The first question that we need to clarify is whether the U.S. and its future peer adversaries are willing to fight a war in space.

What It Would Take for Iran to Talk to Trump // Vali Nasr, The Atlantic: It may not seem like it, but Tehran has a lot to gain from meeting with a U.S. president in search of his own nuclear deal.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief  by Ben Watson and Paulina Glass. And if you find this useful, consider forwarding it to a friend or colleague. On this day in 1945, a thick haze over the Japanese city of Kokura saved its citizens from three attempts by a U.S. Air Force B-29’s crew to drop the Fat Man nuclear bomb. The aim point wasn’t visible through the haze, so the B-29 diverted to Nagasaki. The entire story is fascinating and considerably more dramatic. Read more, here.

At least 29 children are dead in Yemen this morning after a bus was attacked in northern Sadaa province, the International Committee for the Red Cross announced this morning as their workers treated four-dozen more who were injured, including another 30 children.
It’s too early yet to know who attacked the bus and precisely how, according to Agence France-Presse. Houthi rebels say it was from an airstrike by Saudi-led coalition jets. But the Houthis have also accused the Saudis of the same tactic in an attack last week on a market, which may in fact have come from mortars and not jets.
Al-Qaeda and ISIS aren’t quite getting along in Yemen. AEI’s Maher Farrukh writes that AQ in the Arabian Peninsula is pissed that ISIS broke an “agreement to allow each others' militants free passage through respective checkpoints.” AQAP also says ISIS in Yemen isn’t doing enough to fight the Houthis.
So now we’re just paying AQAP? via this Tuesday report from the Associated Press. (The headline: “US allies don’t defeat Al-Qaeda, but pay it to go away.”)

Not what General Votel had in mind: Russia wants America’s help rebuilding Syria. The cost to rebuild Syria? $388 billion, the UN says. Those stories here and here, respectively.

Hey, that platoon commander is a… The New York Times sent our friend T.M. Gibbons-Neff to Australia (lucky bloke) to chronicle history. “Lieutenant Hierl is the first woman in the Marine Corps to lead an infantry platoon — a historic moment for a male-dominated organization that had fiercely opposed integrating female troops into combat, something that still unsettles many within the ranks.” Check out his report, here, and be sure to read to the kicker.

This week in discouraging, yet predictable “denuclearization” news: SecState Pompeo reportedly told North Korean officials — on multiple occasions — that the U.S. wants it to give up roughly two-thirds of its nuclear bombs. And each time, Vox’s Alex Ward writes, North Korea rejected the offer.

In unsettling domestic security news, five adults were arrested after being found with eleven children whom prosecutors allege were being trained to commit school shootings. The children were found hungry and in filthy conditions, and the adults have been charged with child abuse. The remains of another child have been found, but have yet to be identified. AP, here.

And finally today: A bizarre audio message in Chinese intruded a National Weather Service building in Maryland. Broadcasts over intercom are usually reserved for fire drills and emergencies, but this week a woman’s voice was heard both on employee phones and over the PA, told employees in Chinese that they had an Amazon package waiting for them at the Chinese Embassy.
National Weather Service officials have no idea how the message was transmitted, and have contacted AT&T to investigate. The Washington Post has more on all that, here.