Burning warship’s fate in doubt; US denies Chinese territorial claims; Military COVID cases jump; UK drops Huawei; And a bit more.

The fire still burns aboard USS Bonhomme Richard, more than 24 hours after a Sunday explosion touched off the blaze pierside in San Diego. Navy officials are beginning to doubt that the 40,000-ton amphibious assault ship will return to service, Rear Adm. Philip Sobeck, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 3, told reporters on Monday.

Jerry Hendrix, naval analyst and retired captain: "1000 degrees for a prolonged period of time does things to steel that are not conducive to further time at sea.”

The fire “deals a blow to the Navy’s designs in the Indo-Pacific,” because LHD 6 was one of relatively few ships slated to carry the Marine Corps’ F-35B, writes Defense News’ David Larter.

Damage-control efforts were likely hindered and delayed because most of the ship’s company was not aboard when the fire broke out. As Bryan McGrath, former destroyer commander, told the Union-Trib: “As counter-intuitive as this sounds, I would much rather fight a fire at sea with a whole crew than fight it dockside...The ability to act quickly with a massive response and inhibit the spread is aided when you have all your people.”

Replacement cost? Bonhomme Richard cost around $750 million to build in the late 1990s; current amphibious assault ships are running about $3.4 billion apiece

Context: The ship would be the second-largest U.S. warship ever lost, after the carrier Lexington, sunk in WWII.

From Defense One

Peter Thiel’s New Man In The Defense Department // Patrick Tucker: The new head of defense research and engineering comes from the White House with a relatively light resume.

We Need $10B to Pay Contractors’ Coronavirus Expenses, Pentagon Tells Congress // Marcus Weisgerber: It’s the first time a defense official has put a specific price tag on DoD’s COVID relief efforts.

The Ripple Effects of a Space Skirmish // Ramin Skibba, Undark: If a conflict breaks out between countries with weapons in orbit, it could threaten space access for everyone.

A New Understanding of Herd Immunity // James Hamblin, The Atlantic: The portion of the population that needs to get sick is not fixed. We can change it.

Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1798, the Sedition Act went into law in the U.S., criminalizing false statements against the government — that is, until the law expired almost three and a half years later. 

"Beijing’s claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful," U.S. State Secretary Mike Pomepo announced Monday — extending the White House’s run of anti-China messaging that began in earnest on June 24 — in a decision AP calls “an election-year political move.”
According to Pompeo, China “uses intimidation to undermine the sovereign rights of Southeast Asian coastal states in the South China Sea, bully them out of offshore resources, assert unilateral dominion, and replace international law with ‘might makes right.’”
Pomepo even zeroed in on the James Shoal, which is “an entirely submerged feature only 50 nautical miles from Malaysia and some 1,000 nautical miles from China’s coast.” In our podcast on the South China Sea last February, we discussed this very shoal and the seemingly quite stretched interpretation of Chinese sovereignty that Beijing derives from the shoal.
Big picture: This more assertive U.S. position “could exacerbate an escalating row with Beijing on trade, technological competition, China’s efforts to tighten control over Hong Kong and its treatment of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in the region of Xinjiang,” the Wall Street Journal writes. However, “The practical implications of the policy shift weren’t immediately clear, though it could portend tougher U.S. efforts to challenge disputed Chinese claims through military, diplomatic or other means.”
Make no mistake: “This is a big deal,” says Greg Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He’s been watching developments in this sea for nearly a decade. The State Department’s wording in that announcement appears “carefully crafted to avoid overstepping” a 2016 court decision that slapped China and its so-called “nine dash line” for breaching a maritime boundary with the Philippines.
The State Department announcement also “maintains American neutrality on sovereignty” in the area, Poling tweeted, adding, “This should be the first step in a long term campaign to highlight Chinese illegal behavior & support partners.”
What really changes? "I would say primarily that we are no longer silent,” said State’s Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, David Stilwell, at a CSIS event this morning. “We acknowledged it but we didn’t actually make any policy statements or adjustments. What has changed is the U.S. has made a more active statement about what this actually means on specific maritime claims.”
Today, China says the U.S. “is flexing muscles, stirring up tension and inciting confrontation in the region,” according to the Chinese Embassy in Washington.
Also today: The U.S. Navy sent a destroyer through the South China Sea’s “Chinese-claimed Spratly Islands, Cuarteron Reef and Fiery Cross Reef challenging restrictions Beijing seeks to place on ships operating in the area,” CNN’s Ryan Browne reported on Twitter.
By the way, the Brits have “drawn up plans to base one of Britain’s new aircraft carriers in the Far East to play a part in countering an increasingly assertive China,” according to Lucy Fisher of UK’s The Times.
Later today (at 3 p.m. ET), POTUS45 meets with SecState Pompeo in the Oval Office. It’s possible “China” comes up; but who knows. 

In a surprise decision, the U.K. is reportedly dropping Huawei for its 5G network, “bar[ring] telecom companies from purchasing new [Huawei] equipment” with a 2027 deadline “to remove [Huawei] technology from their 5G networks,” the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The ban begins at the end of the year.
In one critical caveat for telecoms operators, AP reports, “the government opted not to order firms to rip out legacy equipment manufactured by Huawei in earlier systems, like 4G. Such a decision might have caused havoc in U.K. telecoms systems.”
In terms of real costs, the Journal reports this new decision will “delay the development of 5G by two to three years and cost up to £2 billion ($2.5 billion).”
“This has not been an easy decision, but it is the right one,″ said U.K. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden. 

Nearly a dozen people were killed by the Taliban in an apparent complex attack on a rural office of Afghanistan's intelligence agency, Agence France-Presse reported Monday. A suicide car bomber detonated before gunmen stormed a building in the northern city of Aybak.
Another 19 Afghan security forces were killed from Taliban attacks in Kunduz and Badakhshan provinces on Sunday.
Get to better know “How Russia Built a Channel to the Taliban” in this Monday report from Mujib Mashal and Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times.
Former Afghan war commander Gen. John Nicholson has a response plan for those alleged Russian bounties. Writing in the Washington Post, Nicholson recommends suspending President Trump’s planned troop withdrawal from Germany and pausing any more withdrawals from Afghanistan until Taliban agreed upon conditions for peace. More to that argument, here

160 more U.S. military medical personnel were ordered to California to help with coronavirus case loads, ABC News’s Luis Martinez reported Monday. “Including the 580 [already] deployed to Texas, now 740 military medical personnel [are] deployed for COVID.”
Among the military, there’s been a 60 percent jump in coronavirus cases in just the first few weeks of July, CNN reported Monday. 
The Army and Air Force shared coronavirus data for recruits since March, and Military.com’s Oriana Pawlyk rolled up what to know out of that containment effort, here

Boeing gets $23 billion for F-15EX fighter jets, the Defense Department and Boeing announced Monday. “The F-15EX carries more weapons than any other fighter in its class, can launch hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet long and weighs up to 7,000 pounds,” Fox Business reports. “The first two jets are expected to be delivered in the second quarter of fiscal year 2021, while the rest will be delivered in fiscal year 2023...Following the first eight jets, which were approved in the budget for fiscal year 2020, the Air Force has requested 12 F-15EX aircraft in fiscal year 2021 and plans to ask for 76 F-15EX aircraft over the five-year Future Years Defense Program.”
BTW: An F-16 crashed over New Mexico Monday night, Air Force Times reported in the evening. Fortunately, the pilot ejected and received medical attention for only minor injuries. More on that, here

And finally today: Spend 19 minutes with a few retired four-star officers in a conversation between former NATO commander Adm. James Stavridis and former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford. The two men sat down as part of the Aspen 2020 Summer Interview Series to talk about the coronavirus, Afghanistan and more. That conversation begins, here.