Trump’s parade, postponed; China to arm bombers with nukes; Intel chiefs slam clearance revocation; US VIP jets getting $34m more posh; and just a bit more...

President Trump cancels his military parade after reported costs rise 666%. This morning on Twitter, the commander in chief cancelled the parade he had ordered in Washington, D.C., for this upcoming November.

  • Tweeted POTUS45 of his thinking: “The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up! I will instead attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th. Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN.”
  • Replied Washington, D.C.’s mayor: “Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad).”

A bit more about that much larger parade estimate: On Thursday we learned — via the Associated Press — the tab had risen by $80 million more than initially thought to $92 million. (The first tally for the parade was just $12 million — find CNN on that, here. And that was $2 million less than the cost of the summer exercises with South Korea’s military that President Trump instructed to be cancelled because they cost a “fortune.”)

For the (now outdated) record, AP reported Defense Secretary “Mattis himself said late Thursday that he had seen no such estimate and questioned the media reports.” Here’s CNN’s Barbara Starr summing that up on Twitter.

BTW: What does $92 million get you? “About $50 million would cover Pentagon costs for equipment, personnel and other expenses for the parade,” USA Today reports. “The rest would be handled by other agencies, including security costs.”

According to CNBC, “the parade is to include as many as eight tanks, along with other armored vehicles such as the Bradley and Stryker fighting vehicles and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The parade as currently conceived also would include a variety of aircraft, including helicopters, fighter jets and flyovers from historical planes.” Here’s GovExec with why that’s a big problem — at least on paper.

ICYMI: Here’s the Pentagon’s statement after the $92 million news broke:

"The Department of Defense and White House have been planning a parade to honor America's military veterans and commemorate the centennial of World War I. We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019."

So what next? According to the president, “Now we can buy some more jet fighters!”

For your ears only this weekend:

  • The latest on hypersonic missiles;
  • Why President Trump had 52 objections to this year’s annual defense policy bill;
  • And a Q&A with Chris Lynch of Defense Digital Services — from the sidelines of Black Hat/Defcon in Las Vegas.

Hear all that in episode 16 of Defense One Radio over on iTunes, Overcast, Google Play or on our website, here.


From Defense One

Pentagon Spending $34M to Make Presidential Jets More Posh // Marcus Weisgerber: The Air Force is upgrading the interiors of two smaller VIP aircraft to resemble the presidential cabin of Trump’s main Air Force One jets.

We Regret to Inform You That Russia Is (Probably) At It Again // Evelyn N. Farkas and James M. Ludes, The Atlantic: For Putin and company, election season in America is open season for meddling.

China Is Going to New Lengths to Surveil Its Own Citizens // Sigal Samuel: New tech—including drones disguised as birds—can be a nightmare for Muslims in particular.

Trump's Turkey Pushback is a Welcome Start // Steven A. Cook, Council on Foreign Relations: Unlike its predecessors, the Trump administration finally seems to be doing something about a long list of U.S. grievances.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Air Force One savings, explained; Upgraded C-5s sit idle; Mitre’s supply-chain report; and more.

Thousands of Miles of Internet Cables Could Be Underwater by 2033 // Route 50’s Kate Elizabeth Queram: Rising sea levels could threaten internet access for millions of people, according to a recent study.

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. On this day in 1945, Ho Chi Minh began the first of a series of eight letters to President Harry Truman asking for U.S. help securing Vietnam’s independence from France.


The Pentagon suspects China may be training its long-range bombers “for strikes against US and allied targets," CNN reported Thursday.
Source document: “Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China.” (PDF here)
Also in the report: “claims that China is pursuing a nuclear capability on its long-range bombers, saying the Chinese air force ‘has been re-assigned a nuclear mission.’” Read the other topics on the Pentagon’s watchlist out of China, here.

Remember when Google employees protested the AI system developed for the Pentagon? Now they’re protesting a “secret search engine for China,” Buzzfeed News reports.
The gist: “Employees are circulating a list of demands for the company in a letter obtained by BuzzFeed News, calling for an ethics review structure with rank-and-file employee representatives, the appointment of ombudspeople, and an ethical assessment of Google projects including Dragonfly and Maven, Google’s contract with the Pentagon to build AI-assisted drone technology.” Read the letter and Buzzfeed’s full report, here.

One more thing out of China: A “botched CIA communications system” may have led to the execution of “dozens of suspected U.S. spies” believed to have been working in the country since about 2010, Foreign Policy reported this week.
Contributing factor: “The CIA had imported the [botched comms] system from its Middle East operations, where the online environment was considerably less hazardous, and apparently underestimated China’s ability to penetrate it.” Read on, here.

Back stateside, former intel chiefs slam Trump. Reaction to the president’s Wednesday decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA chief John Brennan, a noted critic of Trump’s, came swiftly. In a Thursday open letter, a dozen former leaders and deputy leaders of the intelligence community and the CIA called Trump’s action unprecedented and dangerous: “the president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances – and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.”
“Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President,” added William McRaven, the retired Navy admiral and former USSOCOM commander who oversaw the raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. “Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation,” McRaven wrote Thursday in a Washington Post oped.

This week in national-security visualizations: Have you ever wondered how a gas centrifuge works? The folks at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) have an animated 3D model for you to play around with over here.

Finally: Found! The stern of a warship blown off during World War II. In 1943, the destroyer Abner Read was patrolling off the Aleutian Islands when an explosion — thought to be caused by a mine — violently severed its aft section. Watertight hatches and swift action by the crew saved the ship, which was repaired and returned to duty. By the time Abner Read was sunk by a kamikaze at Okinawa, it had earned four battle stars in its 19 months of duty.
Now scientists have found the missing stern section. Read all about it, here.

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!

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