Budget Day; Alleged madam peddled access to Trump; GLCM parts restart; Critics decry ‘allied protection racket’; And a bit more.
It’s Budget Day, and the president has nothing on his schedule. In his federal budget plan for fiscal 2020—at least some of whose details are set for an 11:30 a.m. release—we’re told to expect an $8.6-billion request for segments of the southern border wall, CBS News’ Mark Knoller reports.
Admin note: “Usually, presidents want to be part of the discussion on budget day, but at this writing, [President Trump] has no public or press appearances,” Knoller added. “Could change. He's got weekly lunch” with Vice President Mike Pence.
Topline details revealed by unnamed administration officials on Sunday evening: the budget will include “$750 billion in military spending, and 5 percent cuts in non-defense domestic discretionary spending across the board. Total spending cuts would total $2.7 trillion over 10 years, the administration official said, with the goal of balancing the budget by 2034.”
That $750 billion figure confirms a plan to put almost one-quarter of the budget into OCO. As D1’s Marcus Weisgerber never tires of pointing out, DOD’s budget is legally capped at $576 billion in 2020, so the Trump administration will attempt to persuade Congress to accept the $174 billion balance in the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, the “emergency supplemental” intended for use for unforeseen crises. (Don't miss our December podcast with budget guru Todd Harrison on the $750 billion military, here.)
Another thing we know from this new budget, via Knoller: “OMB says the 5% non-defense budget cuts would total $2.7-trillion, but it will take until 2034 to reach a balanced budget. Throws aside Pres Trump's campaign pledge to eliminate the National Debt in 8 years.”
Army’s share: “The Army is asking for around $190 billion in fiscal year 2020, an increase of roughly $8 billion above last year’s budget top line, which will cover the cost of the advent of an ambitious modernization plan,” service officials tell Defense News’ Jen Judson (roaring back from maternity leave to get the scoop).
Another take: Susanna Blume and Christopher Dougherty from Center for a New American Security have a preview entitled “What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Defense Budget Masterpiece” over at War on the Rocks.
Some of their advice: “The 2020 budget request should prioritize investment in advanced military capabilities over increasing the size of the force. Any growth in force size should either be focused on defeating Chinese and Russian strategies or should enable a more cost-effective approach to counter-terrorism and irregular warfare.”
We should see more money and planning for space and nuclear forces, the authors write, alongside more work from the Army "researching and developing unmanned vehicles and manned-unmanned teaming concepts to reduce long-term manpower costs." Lots more, here.
From Defense One
Critics Blast Trump ‘Protection Racket’ Offer as ‘Pure Idiocy’ // Kevin Baron: The White House's cost plus 50 plan would require allies to pay 150% of American troop costs. Former commanders say it only hurts U.S. interests.
The US Army Is Trying to Bury the Lessons of the Iraq War // Frank Sobchak, co-author of the Iraq War Study: By scuttling plans to help its leaders understand what went wrong, the service is turning a blind eye to insights of enduring relevance.
Inside DARPA's Ambitious 'AI Next' Program // Jack Corrigan, Nextgov: The defense research agency seeks artificial intelligence tools capable of human-like communication and logical reasoning that far surpass today’s tech.
Will John Bolton Bring on Armageddon—Or Stave It Off? // Graeme Wood, The Atlantic: The national security adviser could be our best hope for protecting the world from Donald Trump’s impulses
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1940, the U.S. lifted its arms embargo on Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters planes so France and Britain could begin acquiring them.
Florida massage parlor owner who sold access to Trump has connections to Chinese government. On Friday, the Miami Herald had this startling headline: “Trump cheered Patriots to Super Bowl victory with founder of spa where Kraft was busted.”
The story quickly took a national-security turn: “If the President of the United States is letting a Chinese madam sell access at Mar-a-Lago to Chinese business people while his friends are getting serviced at businesses she started, he is making himself and the country vulnerable to massive blackmail risk. It is a textbook story of how foreign actors gain leverage over senior officials,” wrote David Rothkopf at The Daily Beast.
But the implications run deeper than blackmail: Mother Jones reported that Li Yang, who has donated to Trump’s election fund:
- “[R]uns an investment business that has offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. And a website for the business—which includes numerous photos of Yang and her purported clients hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach—suggests she had some success in doing so.” And —
- She “is an officer of two groups with ties to China’s Communist government.”
White House mute: “spokeswoman Sarah Sanders did not respond to questions about security issues raised by Yang’s access.” Read on, here.
U.S. will restart making parts for long-banned missile. “The U.S. Defense Department will begin fabricating components for new ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) systems formerly banned under the terms of the now-suspended Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” a DOD spokesman tells Aviation Week. Its production was approved by the 2017 authorization act.
Its predecessor: here’s a grainy video of America’s Cold War GLCM. The BGM-109G Gryphon entered service in 1983 and was scrapped pursuant to the INF treaty in 1991. Savannah River National Laboratory eulogized the missile as “strongly destabilizing,” explaining, “The high accuracy and short flight times of the INF-range missiles between the Soviet Union and NATO countries created a serious First-Strike Stability issue for the two sides.”
Russia’s own newish GLCM, the 9M728 (R500) Iskander cruise missile, is the reason the Trump administration is giving for the U.S. withdrawal.
Happening today and tomorrow in Washington: the 30th iteration of the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference.
Featured speakers: America’s North Korean envoy, Stephen Biegun. He takes the stage at 11 a.m. EDT. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Andrea Thompson spoke first today. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is tomorrow’s early speaker (at 8:45 a.m. EDT).
A few sessions that caught our attention:
- Nuclear Endgames on the Korean Peninsula
- The Future of U.S.-Russia Arms Control
- U.S.-Russian Strategic Relations: The Big Picture
- Can a Rules-Based Nuclear Order be Enforced?
- Could a Nuclear War Remain Limited?
- Command-and-Control Vulnerability: Are There Solutions to a Growing Problem?
- Women of Mass Destruction: Telling Our Story. Find the full agenda (PDF), here.
Catch the livestream via CEIP’s site today, here.
The more you know: missile-defense edition. “A higher percentage of American believe our midcourse missile defense works (~77 percent) than the percentage of actual successful intercepts even under controlled conditions (~57 percent),” MIT’s Vipin Narang tweeted after reading a recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal entitled “Living with a Nuclear North Korea.”
In that op-ed you’ll learn “77% of our respondents believe that it is highly likely or somewhat likely that 'current U.S. missile defenses could successfully destroy all the North Korean missiles before they reached their targets.'” (h/t Ankit Panda for this find)
One possible takeaway: “missile defense is all about politics and feels, not actual security,” policy analyst Brian Weeden tweeted in reply. “Trying to argue against [missile defense] with stats and physics is a [losing] strategy.”
Find our multimedia missile defense review explainer from last June — full of all kinds of data like stats and physics — over here. Or if you’re in a hurry, you can skip straight to the six-minute video, here.
Iran-backed hackers are believed to have stolen at least six terabytes of data from Citrix, the "major software company that handles sensitive computer projects for the White House communications agency, the U.S. military, the FBI and many American corporations," NBC reported Friday.
Known-knowns: Several employee accounts were compromised using “brute force attacks that guess passwords," the cybersecurity firm Resecurity told NBC.
Unknown: “over what time period it had come under the cyberattack, how many employee accounts may have been compromised,” and rather a lot more, NBC writes.
Suspected culprits: the Iranian-linked hacking group known as Iridium. More here.
In London, MI5 blocked a suspected Russian spy from entering the country last summer, “five months after the chemical weapons attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury,” the Sunday Times reported this weekend.
Blocked: Umar Sugaipov, since "MI5 had received intelligence that he planned to murder Akhmed Zakayev, a former prime minister of Chechnya and an enemy of President Vladimir Putin." A tiny bit more in front of the paywall, here; or vi Mail Online’s summary, here.
Russia says its added more of its troops to illegally annexed Crimea, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said at a meeting of the State Duma’s Defense Committee, according to state-run TASS.
Shoigu: "The force grouping in Crimea has been reinforced, this ensures protection of the peninsula’s territory and Russia’s interests in the Black Sea."
Writes Tech Editor Patrick Tucker: “This troop reinforcement could provide support for a new land assault northward to seize water or more Black Sea operations.” For more, read Tucker’s Black Sea tensions review, here; and find his 2019 forecast, here.
Meanwhile in actual Russia, "more than 15,000 people gathered in Moscow on Sunday" protesting "against plans to introduce tighter restrictions on the internet," the BBC reported citing figures from activists — figures which were double those reported by police.
What's going on here: "The government says the so-called digital sovereignty bill will reduce Russia's reliance on internet servers in the United States. It seeks to stop the country's internet traffic being routed through foreign servers." More from the BBC, here. More about that internet-cutting work from Moscow, also via Defense One’s Patrick Tucker, here.
Back stateside, “For the first time in its history, the U.S. government is detaining more than 50,000 people it says are undocumented immigrants in jails and prisons around the country,” The Daily Beast’s Spencer Ackerman reported Friday.
And ICYMI, the Pentagon is looking for “space to house up to 5,000 unaccompanied alien children on DoD installations, if needed, through September 30, 2019,” a Defense Department spokesman announced in an emailed message to reporters Thursday evening.
That new detention-facility hunt comes at the request of the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services and that department’s hunt for “temporary shelter for unaccompanied alien children,” the Pentagon statement read.
And finally today: “What the Navy Can Learn From the Fyre Festival,” the much-hyped and ultimately ill-fated event that’s become the focus of two recent documentaries. Commander Tom Clarity, operations officer for the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), tackled the subject of that festival in a blog post for the U.S. Naval Institute.
What he found: “A case study of organizational dysfunction that is easily transferable to a military audience.”
Commander Clarity’s quick tips: “listen to dissenting opinions, establish reasonable expectations,” and two more, here.