Marking D-Day’s 75th; N. Korea’s bigger nuke; Feds holding 80,000 migrants; AF1’s paint job; And a bit more.
D-Day’s 75th anniversary from Portsmouth. President Trump sat beside British Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles while Prime Minister Theresa May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were nearby for the 75th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, commemorated today across the English Channel at a British naval base in Portsmouth. Three-hundred D-Day veterans and their family members also attended, the New York Times reports. “After a flyover by the Royal Air Force and a salute from the Royal Navy, the veterans will return to the landing beaches overnight, just as they did 75 years ago,” the Associated Press reports from Portsmouth.
Said Trump: “The bonds of friendship forged here and sealed in blood on those hallowed beaches will endure forever.” He also read from a prayer delivered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on national radio on June 6, 1944. That prayer: “Almighty God, our sons, pride of our nation, this day, have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our republic, our religion and our civilization and to set free a suffering humanity.”
Next, Trump is off to northern France for more D-Day commemorations. And to that end, AP writes, “Events in France began early Wednesday morning with U.S. Army Rangers climbing the jagged cliffs of Normandy’s Pointe du Hoc to honor the men who scaled them under fire 75 years ago.”
Attending Thursday’s events: “presidents, prime ministers and other representatives of the countries that fought alongside Britain in Normandy: the United States, Canada, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Denmark, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland,” according to AP. Not invited: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Otherwise on Tuesday, “Trump traded ceremony for diplomacy, meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss a possible trade agreement, the Chinese technology firm Huawei (which the United States has called a security threat) and other issues,” the Times writes. “He also spoke with Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and leading candidate to succeed Mrs. May as prime minister, and Nigel Farage, the right-wing, pro-Brexit politician whose upstart party did well in the recent European Parliament elections.”
From Defense One
North Korea’s Nuclear Bomb Is Much Bigger than Previously Thought // Patrick Tucker: A new look at 2017 test data reveals an explosion 16 times as powerful than the one that leveled Hiroshima.
Lawmakers Want the Final Say on Air Force One Paint Job // Marcus Weisgerber: A House panel has drafted legislation that would require congressional approval if Trump wants to change the Kennedy-era livery
Defense One Radio Ep. 44: Under Secretary Andrea Thompson and Kori Schake, live from the Shangri-La Defense Dialogue // Defense One Staff: Welcome to our podcast about the news, strategy, tech, and business trends defining the future of national security.
US-China Tech Cold War Puts Europe in the Middle // Lindsay Gorman: But President Trump and other U.S. officials should seize the opportunity to strengthen transatlantic ties.
The Eastern Mediterranean Needs More US Warships // Mark P. Fitzgerald: Regional tensions and distracted allies underscore the need for more naval presence.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. 75 years ago this evening and more than five hours ahead of the coastal landings, 13,100 U.S. paratroopers suited up for the Normandy invasion before exiting more than 900 C-47 airplanes over the French Cotentin Peninsula for a historic night jump behind enemy lines.
Fort Benning: Home of the Infantry…and migrant housing? “The Trump administration is considering sheltering unaccompanied immigrant children apprehended along the southwest border at Fort Benning,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported Tuesday.
Benning’s “unused property” will be toured today by Pentagon and Department of Health and Human Services officials, AJC writes. “As of April 30, the agency had received referrals for about 40,900 such children this fiscal year, an increase of more than 50% from the previous year... federal immigration authorities now have more than 80,000 people in custody.”
Two other bases are also candidates: “Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana and Fort Sill in Oklahoma are also being considered, according to the Pentagon.” More here.
The White House is still looking for ways to dissuade migrants from trying to enter the U.S., and that search now includes possibly “arrest[ing] and deport[ing] families who have gone through their legal proceedings and have been ordered to depart the US,” CNN reported Tuesday after Acting ICE Director Mark Morgan spoke to the network.
Context: “ICE, like other agencies within DHS, is facing an increase of migrants in its custody. As of Monday, there were around 52,000 single adults in ICE custody — an all-time high that exceeds funding levels yet again, according to the agency.” More to the story, here.
ICYMI: Four active-duty service members were among 14 people arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on child exploitation charges in late April, according to a statement at the time from ICE. “The suspects were taken into custody after they arrived at pre-arranged locations to meet with what they believed to be underage females.” More here.
A Russian Su-35 intercepted a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon aircraft three times in 175 minutes in international airspace over the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday, the U.S. Navy’s 6th Fleet said in a statement later in the evening.
“The first and third interaction were deemed safe,” the Navy said. “The second interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-35 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The crew of the P-8A reported wake turbulence following the second interaction. The duration of the intercept was approximately 28 minutes.”
“This interaction was irresponsible,” the statement continued. “We expect [Russian pilots] to behave within international standards set to ensure safety and to prevent incidents, including the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas.” Tiny bit more here.
The Australian Ministry of Defense was in a bit of PR trouble this week for not publicizing the arrival of a Chinese naval task force, The Australian reported Tuesday. (Headline: “Great squall of China: storm over surprise warship visit.”)
Arriving in Sydney harbor were 730 Chinese officers and sailors aboard “the frigate Xuchang, the auxiliary supply replenishment ship Luoma Hu and the landing platform dock Kunlun Shan.” The Australian MoD said this week that it had “received a request for a port visit from Beijing in April,” and the Prime Minister admitted Tuesday that perhaps he should have been more vocal about the arrival. “They were returning from counter-drug-trafficking operations in the Middle East,” he said.
Said an MoD spox: “The visit is entirely appropriate. I’m just not sure why the government wouldn’t bother to let anyone know it was happening.”
The visit also came “days after Australian navy pilots were the target of laser attacks over the South China Sea and Australian ships were tailed by Chinese vessels. Helicopters from HMAS Canberra were forced to land as a precaution last week after they were targeted by lasers from fishing vessels.” More here.
For the second time in two days, Australian police raided a media outlet on allegations it printed classified material, Reuters reports from Sydney. The two outlets were the Sydney offices of government-funded Australian Broadcasting Corp. and “the home of a News Corp editor.”
About the former: “ABC said the raid was over its 2017 reports about alleged misconduct by Australian troops in Afghanistan,” Reuters writes. And the latter was purportedly “related to a 2018 report about plans for surveillance of Australians’ emails, text messages and bank records.”\
Bigger picture: “Raids on two influential news organizations sparked warnings that national security was being used to justify curbs on whistleblowing and reporting that might embarrass the government.” Read on, here.
Speaking of sensitive matters, the U.S. Department of Energy approved a license to transfer nuclear expertise to Saudi Arabia just 16 days after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, NBC reported Tuesday.
Why this is concerning: “Saudi Arabia plans to build nuclear power plants with help from U.S. companies, but so far it has refused to agree to safeguards to ensure it does not develop nuclear weapons, including a prohibition on uranium enrichment and reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.”
Nuclear fight brewing in the House. Legislation to “halt deployment of a new low-yield nuclear warhead and bar any withdrawal from the Open Skies Treaty” passed the House Armed Services’ strategic forces subcommittee on Tuesday, Defense News reports. “Chairman Adam Smith, D-Wash., is expected to offer still more restrictive language on nuclear weapons in the days ahead, likely triggering further battles,”
However, Ranking member Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said that “Republicans will not support the NDAA if it contains prohibitions on the W76-2 or on developing technology for space-based missile defense―or a ‘no first use’ policy regarding nuclear weapons, which Smith has previously supported.”
Arguments in support include this oped by Rep. Ted Lieu and Sen. Ed Markey, both Democrats: “New, More Usable Nukes for Trump? No.”; and this June 3 letter to HASC and SASC leaders from more than two dozen nuclear-policy experts.
One more thing: A new review of data from North Korea’s 2017 nuclear test suggests a bomb about two-thirds larger than the U.S. previously suspected, reports D1’s Patrick Tucker: “Earlier data put the yield somewhere between 30 and 300 kilotons; the U.S. intelligence community said 140 kilotons. That was already the most powerful device tested by North Korea, topping a 2016 test by about an order of magnitude. But a new look at seismological data suggests that the blast was between 148 and 328 kilotons, and probably around 250 kilotons.” Read on, here.
And now for something completely different. Trump reportedly said he’d cut off child support payments if his daughter Tiffany joined the military or the Peace Corps, according to documents obtained by Vanity Fair.
Should the State Department be funding trolls to harass journalists? One of those journalists, Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post, argues emphatically: No.
The gist: “The Iran Disinformation Project was funded by the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, which was begun to combat online extremism and propaganda. The targets of the tweets included think-tank analysts, human rights activists and journalists (including me). The common thread is that we are all perceived by regime change proponents and supporters of the Trump administration’s so-called maximum pressure policy to be soft on Iran because we are critical of crushing economic sanctions and the threat of the use of military force against it… On Friday, in response to the complaints, the State Department suspended the initiative’s funding" — temporarily.
The bigger concern: “Put personal politics aside for a moment and look back through history. Do peddlers of disinformation contribute or detract from our health as a society? The answer is obvious, and the State Department should take a clear stance on the side of honest and responsible discourse.” More here.
For your ears only: The folks at Inkstick Media are back with a new season of their “Things That Go Boom” podcast, hosted by Laicie Heeley.
And here’s a note from Laicie about what to expect: “This season we're digging deep into the Iran nuclear deal — how we got it, how we lost it, what it means for us all going forward. We talked to Brian Hook, Wendy Sherman, Jake Sullivan, Ernie Moniz, Jason Rezaian, and more. (We also talked to my mom and my kid, which will make more sense when you hear the show.)”
There are already four episodes up and available, so get started listening here.
And finally today: In the name of justice in Mali, the U.S. Navy announced Tuesday that Staff Sgt. Kevin Maxwell, a Marine Raider, will be court-martialed Thursday in the death of Green Beret soldier Logan Melgar on June 4, 2017. The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe reported Tuesday the death is said to have been the result of a joke kidnapping episode complete with a choke hold, restraints, duct tape and a camera.
“Former SEAL Team 6 member Adam Matthews pleaded guilty to several charges last month,” Lamothe tweeted from his report. Two others — SEAL Chief Special Warfare Operator Anthony DeDolph and Marine Gunnery Sgt. Mario Madera-Rodriguez — also face charges.
Related: Niger ambush update. “Acting Defense Secretary Pat Shanahan is not recommending punishments for higher-level commanders for the ambush that killed four American soldiers in Niger a year and a half ago, despite calls from some lawmakers and former officers to hold more senior personnel accountable for the ill-fated operation,” Politico reported Tuesday.
What that means: “The completion of the review clears the way for the families of the fallen to receive their awards for valor, as well as redacted copies of the main previous investigation, which was conducted by U.S. Africa Command. But Shanahan's decision is unlikely to satisfy some lawmakers and retired senior officers who remain highly critical of the handling of the Niger attack.” A bit more, here.