WH is reportedly cutting troops in Germany; SecDef refuses HASC briefing; USCG talks Arctic; And a bit more.

The White House is reportedly cutting the U.S. military in Germany by about 30 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday and Politico followed later during the weekend. The changes come as a result of a “memorandum signed recently by White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien,” the Journal’s Michael R. Gordon and Gordon Lubold reported.

Some 9,500 American troops would leave, according to the memo, which also caps the number of U.S. forces in Germany at 25,000. Currently about 34,500 are stationed in Germany. And “Under current practice, overall troop levels can rise to as high as 52,000 as units rotate in and out or take part in training exercises,” according to the Journal

“Some 19,000 additional civilian employees support the uniformed military forces,” according to Politico, “and that number would almost certainly be cut as a result of the planned withdrawals.”

Why make these reductions? The decision “reflected the Trump administration’s long frustration with German policy,” according to the Journal, “especially the nation’s level of military spending and its insistence on completing the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline that will channel Russian gas directly to Germany under the Baltic Sea.” The news also comes “just days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel rebuffed an invitation from Trump to attend a G7 leaders' summit in Washington later this month,” according to Politico.

“The Kremlin has done nothing to deserve a gift like this," former U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges told Politico. "No change in behavior in Ukraine or Syria or along NATO’s eastern flank or in the Black Sea or Georgia, Yet they get a 28 percent reduction in the size of U.S. military capability that was a core part of NATO’s deterrence."

  • BTW: The U.S. military says it flew COVID-19 ventilators to Russia this weekend. Photo, here.

Said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in public remarks today: "Over the last few years, we’ve seen an increased presence” of U.S. activities in Europe, and Stoltenberg cited America’s rotational presence, its Europe battle group in Poland, its Romanian base for missile defense, and its aircraft carrier that participated in the recent multinational Trident Juncture exercise. “The thing is,” Stoltenberg said, “we’re doing more together now in Europe than in many, many years.” 


From Defense One

The US Army Has Grounded the Two Pilots Who Flew Low Over DC // Patrick Tucker: Active duty soldiers in the nation’s capital will also be returning home.

Russia Puts Defensive Face on Its Nuclear Doctrine Ahead of Arms-Control Negotiations // Patrick Tucker: Moscow’s new strategic-arms decree appears to be an attempt to win advantage whether New START lives on or not.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 71: The future of Arctic security, with U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Karl Schultz // Defense One Staff : The Coast Guard commandant shares some of his concerns about China, Russia, how the coronavirus has challenged the force, and more.

This is Not a Civil-Military Crisis // James Joyner: Recent statements by uniformed leaders are anodyne expressions about U.S. law. Those by retired four-stars are more problematic.

ICE Details Its Outsourced Face-Recognition Efforts // Aaron Boyd, Nextgov: A new report details the workings, rules, and privacy implications of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's 3rd-party facial recognition system.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1959, America stood “on the threshold of rocket mail” when the U.S. Navy submarine USS Barbero launched an Regulus cruise missile —its nuclear warhead having been replaced with letters — at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Naval Station Mayport in Florida. Said a confident U.S. Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield, "Before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles."


More than 110,000 Americans have now died from coronavirus complications, according to Johns Hopkins University’s ongoing COVID-19 tracker. And with expanded testing, the U.S. is still trending upward for case counts — just like Russia, Brazil, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Chile, Sweden, Iran, Colombia and more listed by JHU here.
Regions of the U.S. still documenting a rise in cases include the southeast (Health and Human Services “region 4”), south central (region 6), the west coast (region 9) and the Pacific northwest (region 10).
Other notable COVID trends in the U.S., according to CDC data released Friday:

  • Modest uptick in youth hospitalizations. “Among the 0-4 years and 5-17 years age groups, there appears to be a slight upward trend in weekly hospitalization rates,” but this doesn’t appear to be terribly alarming since “For children (0-17 years), cumulative COVID-19 hospitalization rates are much lower than cumulative influenza hospitalization rates at comparable time points during recent influenza seasons”;
  • U.S. deaths are still above epidemic levels. “The percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza or COVID-19 decreased from 13.7% during week 21 to 8.4% during week 22. This is the sixth week during which a declining percentage of deaths due to PIC has been recorded; however, the percentage remains above the epidemic threshold, and is now similar to what has been observed at the peak of some influenza seasons.” Read on, here.

Top Pentagon officials refuse to appear before Congress. After last week’s events (1, 2, 3) seemingly threatened to upend contemporary U.S. civil-military relations, on Friday Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley declined an “invitation” to brief HASC Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., on the military’s involvement in responding to protests in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. 
This is “unacceptable,” say the Dems. Smith and 30 other HASC Democrats said in a Friday statement, “Apparently, the Trump administration believes they have no obligation to explain their actions to Congress or respect our constitutional system of checks and balances,” they said. "We look forward to receiving a briefing from the department no later than Monday, June 8, and receiving public, on-the-record testimony from Secretary Esper and General Milley shortly thereafter.” (Recall that Congress is appointed by the Constitution not just to oversee the military but to decide how much money it gets.) Defense News has a bit more, here.

AQIM emir killed by U.S., French forces. It happened last Wednesday in northern Mali, resulting in the death of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb’s “Abdelmalek Droukdal and several of his close collaborators,” CNN reported this weekend. “Droukdal became leader of AQIM in 2004 and led the organization when it pledged formal allegiance to al Qaeda and its founder Osama bin Laden.” Read on, here.

The robotic herd is coming. The U.S. Army says it will award a contract soon to produce hundreds of robotic mules to help carry infantry gear. It's just one of a series of unmanned ground systems the Army is working on. Read all about it, here. (h/t Sam Bendett)

And lastly today: The Marines have barred public displays of the Confederate flag. After two weeks of anti-racism protests across the nation, the Corps released the news on social media on Friday (“The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps...This presents a threat to our core values, unit cohesion, security, and good order and discipline.”) and detailed the new policy in a MARADMIN to commanders.
ICYMI: Retired general Stanley McChrystal describes why he threw away his portrait of Robert E. Lee in 2017. 
Any day now, Army. For that argument, see a 2017 Defense One op-ed, Rename US Army Bases for Heroes, not Confederates, from former SASC and DoD-er Mark Jacobson.

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