DOD halts F-35 gear to Turkey; WH reversed 25 clearance denials; Saudis buy $1.5B in missile interceptors; NATO’s 70th birthday; And a bit more.
The Pentagon suspended delivery of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter equipment to Turkey over Ankara’s deal to buy S-400 missile interceptors from Russia, Reuters’ Mike Stone and Humeyra Pamuk reported Monday. The now-suspended support gear is needed at bases that host the fighter jets.
The announcement: “Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended,” said Defense Department spox Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Andrews. Turkey is expected to receive the S-400 systems in July. The F-35s would have arrived to Turkey in November.
Why this suspension matters: It’s “the first concrete U.S. step to block delivery of the jet to the NATO ally,” according to Reuters. It’s also “the latest of a series of diplomatic disputes between the United States and Turkey including Turkish demands that the United States extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, differences over Middle East policy and the war in Syria, and sanctions on Iran.”
An opportunity? "More importantly,” Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber writes, “the Pentagon says it’s now looking for new companies to make F-35 parts currently made in Turkey. This includes parts of the engines, cockpit display, electrical wiring, fuselage, composite skins, weapon bay doors [and] composite air inlet ducts."
Read a bit more on the U.S. military’s reliance on Turkish manufacturing via a July 2016 report (an attempted coup was taking place in Turkey at the time, if you recall; if not, the BBC has you covered, here) from Weisgerber’s Global Business Brief newsletter, here.
A word on the timing: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is scheduled to visit Washington this week for NATO’s sort-of-muted 70th-anniversary celebrations (more on those dynamics below the fold). More from Reuters, here.
Related moves on the Hill: 99 House lawmakers from the Joint Strike Fighter Caucus "sent a letter to lead House authorizers and defense appropriators" asking for two-dozen more F-35 than President Trump’s 2020 budget request contained — bringing that total to 102, Defense News reported Monday.
Why those 99 lawmakers were so motivated: Because “The 2020 budget request contains $1.1 billion to buy eight F-15X jets, a new variant of an aircraft the Air Force last bought nearly a decade ago,” Weisgerber reported back in mid-March, with an update exactly a week later.
For the record: “Such internal lobbying efforts are not unusual, and last year, congressional appropriators added 16 F-35s to the Pentagon’s request,” Defense News writes. Read on, here.
Related: F-35-maker Lockheed Martin just closed a $2.4 billion sale of THAAD missile-defense interceptors, Reuters reported separately on Monday. One known destination for the missiles: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, accounting for $1.5 billion of the total. Tiny bit more, here.
Speaking of the Saudis, Riyadh’s national oil company is the world’s most profitable business, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday after Aramco topped Apple.
For what it’s worth: "The children of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have received million-dollar houses in the kingdom and monthly five-figure payments as compensation for the killing of their father," the Washington Post reported Monday.
And before we leave from the region: “Former NSA spies hacked BBC host, Al Jazeera chairman for UAE,” Reuters’ Joel Schectman and Chris Bing reported Monday in an extension of previous reporting from January about former U.S. intelligence contractors’ dirty work for the UAE.
From Defense One
The Navy Is Assembling a Hacker Team to Fight Off Small Drones // Marcus Weisgerber: Engineers, researchers, and hackers will seek ways to protect warships and bases from hobby-type drones modified to kill.
Solving One of the Hardest Problems of Military AI: Trust // Luke Hartig and Kendall VanHoose: There are many gaps, and most won’t be solved by code but by conversation.
Will Kalashnikov's New Drone Be the AK-47 of Indirect Fire? // Brett Velicovich: The company that made assault rifles ubiquitous says its KUB can put a warhead on a miles-distant target.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1513, Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon claimed an area near the coast of present-day St. Augustine for the Spanish crown. He died eight years later, having never found the fountain of youth.
NATO celebrates its 70th in D.C. this week. Kicking things off, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is supposed to meet President Trump at the White House today. And tomorrow, Stoltenberg heads to Capitol Hill to address to a joint session of Congress.
“This year, the entire meeting has been downgraded to a gathering of foreign ministers and not presidents,” the Washington Post reports in a useful, comprehensive preview of tensions and messaging. “Ministerial meetings will take place at the State Department in addition to various events and lower-key commemorations instead of the usual pomp and circumstance.”
AP’s headline for the occasion: NATO chief plays down divisions as allies mark anniversary.
The Harvard Belfer Center published a lengthy report on NATO at 70, co-authored by Nicholas Burns and Douglas Lute. The alliance's challenges are broken down "from Within NATO," "from Beyond NATO’s Borders," and a third section on what lies ahead "on the Horizon."
In a hurry? Catch a short (2:25) video of Nick Burns explaining “an alliance in crisis,” here.
White House whistleblower says 25 security-clearance denials have been reversed so far in the Trump era. The various reasons for denials span “ties to foreign influence, conflicts of interests, questionable or criminal conduct, financial problems, or drug abuse,” the Washington Post reports.
The list of 25 also includes “two current senior White House officials,” according to documents released by the House Oversight Committee.
And that WH whistle-blower? She was just suspended without pay for two weeks, NPR's Tim Mak reported Monday. "The stated reason? Failure to follow a new policy to scan documents in separate pdf files instead of a single pdf file."
It gets worse. Mak reports “This suspension was the first formal disciplinary action in [the whistle-blower’s] 18-year career working for Dem and GOP administrations, and came after she repeatedly raised concerns about the security clearance process in the White House.” Read on, here.
The Department of Homeland Security is about to surge agents to the Mexico border to meet the wave of migrants headed north, NBC News reported Monday. Some 750 Customs and Border Protection agents are about to be temporarily reassigned for the task while “daily border crossings have surpassed a 13-year high.”
And Nielsen’s DHS just disbanded a domestic terror intelligence unit, The Daily Beast also reported Monday. "The group in question was a branch of analysts in DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A). They focused on the threat from homegrown violent extremists and domestic terrorists," TBD's Betsy Woodruff reports. "Then the Trump administration’s new I&A chief, David Glawe, began reorganizing the office, which is the DHS component that has a place in the Intelligence Community. Over the course of the reorganization, the branch of I&A focused on domestic terrorism got eighty-sixed and its analysts were reassigned to new positions. The change happened last year, and has not been previously reported." More here.
Whaddyaknow: “Mexico’s Security Chief Says He Was an Undocumented Worker in the U.S.,” Bloomberg reported. “On two occasions Public Security Minister Alfonso Durazo crossed into the U.S. to wash dishes and cars without documentation, he told a group of business leaders,” according to Mexico’s La Jornada newspaper.
Facebook and Instagram removed 103 groups, pages, and accounts linked to Pakistan’s military for conducting information operations against the Indian government and others, Reuters reported.
Said Facebook: “Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our investigation found that it was linked to employees of the ISPR (Inter-Service Public Relations) of the Pakistani military.”
And ICYMI, “Last week, Facebook removed a social media network in the Philippines and took the unusual step of linking it to a businessman who said he had managed the president’s online election campaign in 2016.” More here.
And finally today: RIP, USMC aviators. We now know the names of the two Marine pilots who were killed in a helicopter crash near Yuma, Ariz., this weekend. “Maj. Matthew M. Wiegand, 34, of Ambler, Pennsylvania, and Capt. Travis W. Brannon, 30, of Nashville, Tennessee, lost their lives in the Viper crash while conducting routine training during the semi-annual Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course at the sprawling Yuma air station,” Marine Corps Times reported Monday off word from the USMC.
A bit more: Wiegand joined the Corps in 2008 and was assigned to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One. He had previously deployed to Okinawa, Japan, as part of the Corps’ Unit Deployment Program,” MCT writes. And “Brannon was a pilot assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron (HMLA) 367, Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, according to details in the command release.” A bit more, here.