Defense request decline. “After three straight years of increases, the Trump administration’s fiscal 2021 defense budget request totals $740.5 billion — in line with a two-year budget deal struck by Congress and the White House last year,” reports Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber. DOD would get $705.4 billion, down 1.1% from last year’s $713 billion budget; the other $35 billion is for Energy Department nukes and other government agencies.
Big pivot. “The Trump administration’s first two defense budgets spent heavily on readiness, and particularly on training and maintenance for forces. Now it’s spending to develop a new generation of weapons: $107 billion in the 2021 proposal. But procurement itself would drop to $137 billion from $144 billion.”
Trimming fleets. Not only is procurement dropping, but the budget proposes to retire portions of Air Force’s existing fleets of aircraft to free up funds. “Yet these cuts would only trim the various fleets, reducing capability and increasing strain on the remaining aircraft without eliminating entire supply chains, training requirements, and the like.”
In the crosshairs: B-1 bombers; A-10 attack planes; F-15 and F-16 fighter jets; C-130H cargo planes; KC-10 and KC-135 aerial tankers; and high-flying Global Hawk spy drones.
CSIS’ Todd Harrison: “I view it as hedging — that they’re afraid to let go of things completely...They’re shooting themselves in the foot because they’re guaranteeing that they’re going to have a smaller force structure in the future by making partial fleet reductions now. If you retire whole fleets, you get way more in savings, then you can buy a larger fleet in the future.” Read on, here.
Navy shipbuilding shrinks. The $19.9 billion, 8-ship request, the smallest in six years, “falls about $4 billion and four ships short of the FY 2020 ship procurement,” USNI News reports, and “does not begin to move the sea service towards a 355-ship fleet that relies more on smaller ships.”
Big boost for nukes. New York Times: “The Trump administration has begun to put a price tag on its growing arms race with Russia and China, and the early numbers indicate that restoring nuclear weapons to a central role in American military strategy will cost tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.
By the numbers: $28.9 billion for to develop and build B-21 bombers, Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, new ICBMs, and a new communications network. $19.8 billion for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear-warhead activities, a 20 percent increase.
Space Force’s first ask: $15 billion. The first request for the fledgling Air Force component includes $2.5 billion for operations and maintenance, $10.3 billion for research and development, and $2.4 billion for procurement. (Defense News)
2021 proposal is setting up big changes in 2022. That one will be “a big pivot point for us,” SecDef Mark Esper told Defense News, which reports that it “should be completed sometime in the summer. But in the meantime, the department will be conducting war games, exercises and compute simulations that can help inform the development of the FY22 budget request.”
Sorry, Europe. The proposed $4.5 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative marks “the second straight year that the department has cut its request for the program,” Defense News reports. The EDI is “focused on reassuring allies in Europe and deterring Russian aggression on the continent.” A quick timeline: 2018 request: $4.8 billion; 2019 request: $6.5 billion; 2020 request: $5.9 billion, plussed up by Congress to $6.6 billion.
One take, from AEI’s Mackenzie Eaglen: Despite President Trump’s SOTU declaration that “our military is completely rebuilt,” the 2021 budget shows that while readiness is back up, what the Pentagon “did not buy enough of was classic rebuilding through investments in the operational fleets and inventories of the services which they use to fly, sail, and drive in each day around the globe.” Read that, here.
Another take, from William Hartung and Ben Freeman: “We spend far more on the military than the countries we most fear, while shorting the things that would actually help us compete,” such as “education and the economy, with a particular focus on investments in science and technology.” Read on, here.
From Defense One
DOD's 2021 Budget Would Trim Arsenal, Shift Funds To Arms Development // Marcus Weisgerber: Some experts say the budget proposal assumes a worrying amount of near-term risk.
US Defense R&D Funding Falls As China’s Keeps Growing // Patrick Tucker: 2021 budget request would see Pentagon funding shrink from $64.5 billion to $59 billion.
Chinese Military Officers Hacked Equifax, Justice Department Says // Mariam Baksh, Nextgov: DOJ officials highlighted the theft of intellectual property and personal information in one of the biggest online thefts in history.
Amazon Wants Trump to Testify as It Protests JEDI Cloud Award // Frank Konkel, Nextgov: Amazon Web Services also wants to hear from Defense Secretary Mark Esper and has asked for White House communications in its case against the Defense Department.
Trump's Attacks on Public Servants Are Hurting America // William J. Burns, The Atlantic: Self-dealing and disdain for public service reinforce the autocratic conceit that democratic systems are no better than dictatorial ones, and undermine our biggest advantage.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here.
The Philippines says it will end its security agreement with the U.S. “At the direction of President Rodrigo Duterte, a fierce critic of the United States, the Philippines announced Tuesday that it would scrap a security pact that allows American forces to train there,” NPR reports.
Manila has officially sent the notice to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement to the United States. The notice was signed by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who just last week publicly argued against the move.
In testimony to the Philippines Senate, Locsin “warned that abrogating the 1998 security accord with Washington would undermine Philippine security and foster aggression in the disputed South China Sea. U.S. military presence in the strategic waterway has been seen as a crucial counterweight to China, which claims virtually the entire sea,” AP wrote, here.
Happening tomorrow in Brussels: NATO defense ministers will discuss possibly adding troops to Iraq in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s remarks in early January.
The two-day meeting at NATO HQs could result in an increase of “as much as 2,000” alliance troops, Reuters reports today from Belgium, “but it would not be a net increase of Western troops in Iraq because the U.S.-led coalition would simply re-assign trainers.”
About Iraq: The White House “has agreed to speed up the cases of some former interpreters for the U.S. military in Iraq and hundreds of other refugees whose efforts to move to the United States have been in limbo since he announced his travel bans three years ago,” AP reported Monday evening. “Under the settlement, the refugees won’t automatically be admitted to the U.S., but the government agreed to move their cases to the front of the line for processing.” More here.
Update: More than 100 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with brain injuries from Iran’s Jan. 8 missile attacks, which is nearly double the 64 previously reported last month, Reuters updated on Monday.
So far, 76 of the 109 have reported back to duty, the Pentagon said in a statement later in the afternoon. Twenty-six others “are in Germany or the United States for treatment, and another seven are on their way from Iraq to Germany for evaluation and treatment,” AP adds.
By the way: That almost-war with Iran that the U.S. nearly started when it killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani? Iran-backed militias may not have actually fired the rocket that killed the U.S. contractor whose death triggered the Soleimani killing. It may have actually been ISIS, the New York Times reported late last week.
One big problem: “The United States has not presented any of its intelligence publicly,” which includes alleged phone intercepts tying the rockets to the Khataib Hezbollah militia. “Nor has [the U.S.] shared the intelligence with Iraq.”
Meanwhile in Iran this weekend, a cyber attack of some kind took out around a quarter of the country’s internet, Forbes reported.
And ICYMI: Iran failed to send a satellite into orbit this weekend, which is “at least the third failed satellite launch by Iran since the start of 2019 in a program that Washington claims is helping Tehran to advance its ballistic-missile program,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported Sunday. More from AP, here.
Speaking of satellites: Russia has sent a few satellites to follow a U.S. spy satellite in orbit, U.S. Space Force’s Gen. John Raymond told Time on Monday.
What’s going on here? “The Russian spacecraft began maneuvering toward the American satellite shortly after being launched into orbit in November, at times creeping within 100 miles of it,” Time writes. “We view this behavior as unusual and disturbing,” Raymond said. “It has the potential to create a dangerous situation in space.”
Reminder: The Space Force” is requesting $15 billion in this week’s budget proposal,” Time’s Bill Hennigan writes. Read the rest, here.
The U.S. charged four Chinese military hackers with the 2017 hack of Equifax credit reporting agency, the Department of Justice announced Monday morning. Read over the indictment for yourself, here.
What happened: “The hackers in the 2017 breach stole the personal information of roughly 145 million Americans, collecting names, addresses, Social Security and driver’s license numbers and other data stored in the company’s databases,” AP reported after the announcement.
Bigger picture: “While China and the U.S. committed in 2015 to halt acts of cyber espionage against each other, the Equifax intrusion and others like it make clear that Beijing has continued its operations.”
Two questions, from Zach Dorfman of the Aspen Institute’s Cyber and Technology Program: “Beyond the constitutional right to privacy—being violated en masse by China—in a knowledge economy, is PII [personal data] critical infrastructure? And if so, should there be legal sanction for negligent stewardship of that information?”
“The intelligence coup of the century” is the headline for a big feature from the Washington Post’s Greg Miller, reporting jointly with ZDF, German public television, and freelance journalist Peter Mueller.
The gist: “The CIA secretly owned the world's leading supplier of encryption systems to other countries,” known as Crypto AG. The company then “sold rigged machines to more than 100 nations, including Iran, India, Egypt, Italy,” and more. The #LongRead begins, here.
U.S. authorities are mapping residents’ movements via phone. “The Trump administration has bought access to a commercial database that maps the movements of millions of cellphones in America and is using it for immigration and border enforcement,” the Wall Street Journal reported last week. “The location data is drawn from ordinary cellphone apps, including those for games, weather and e-commerce, for which the user has granted permission to log the phone’s location.”
In case you wondered, “Contracting records show the federal government is buying the location data from Venntel. Venntel, in turn, purchased the information from private marketing companies that sell the location data of millions of cellphones to advertisers."
FWIW: Experts say “the use appears to be on firm legal footing because the government buys access to it from a commercial vendor, just as a private company could, though its use hasn’t been tested in court.” Read on, here.
And finally today: There are more than a million people on America’s terror watch list, Yahoo News reported last week, along with a map of every time police stopped someone on the list and collected "biographical identifiers."
One reason why this is concerning: a federal judge ruled just this past September “that the U.S. government’s terror watch list violates constitutional rights.”
The twist: Federal authorities are now working with local police departments “to rapidly expand the information it is collecting for those currently on it, and [are] possibly adding new names.” Read on, here.