Daily US COVID deaths top 1,000; Chinese consulate ejected; Vacancies crest at DoD; Leaf blowers vs. tear gas;

The U.S. recorded more than 1,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday — a “grim milestone” that was last reached on June 10, Reuters reports today. The country is currently the only rich nation where the infection rate is high and climbing. 

“It will probably unfortunately get worse before it gets better,” President Trump said at his first White House virus briefing in three months. 

Vaccine search:As early as next week, the first possible U.S. vaccine is set to begin final-stage testing in a study of 30,000 people to see if it really is safe and effective,” AP reports. “A few other vaccines have begun smaller late-stage studies in other countries, and in the U.S. a series of huge studies are planned to start each month through fall in hopes of, eventually, having several vaccines to use.”

“It’s not unusual for vaccines to fail during this critical testing step. But vaccine makers and health officials are hopeful that at least one vaccine could prove to work by year’s end.” Read on, here.

Trump’s inconsistent approach to “states’ rights.” The Associated Press compared his coronavirus policy to his position on protecting federal buildings and Confederate monuments, and found a man more interested in political expediency than values or consistency. 

“For months now as he’s tried to skirt responsibility for the nation’s flawed response to the coronavirus, Trump has put the onus on states, first to acquire protective gear and testing agents and then to scale testing and contact tracing,” AP reports. “Now, he’s pressuring schools to fully reopen in September, saying he’ll pull funding from school districts that continue to keep kids home.” More on that from AP, here.

Leaf blowers vs. tear gas. In Portland, Oregon, where the Trump administration sent unmarked, uninvited federal forces to quell unrest, protestors have begun bringing leaf blowers to counter tear gas. 

The Chinese consulate in Houston must shut down by 4 p.m. on Friday, the U.S. State Department said this morning, citing a need “to protect American intellectual property and American’s private information,” Reuters reports

And so: “Firefighters responded to reports of papers being burned on the consulate grounds Tuesday night but were barred entry,” AP reports this morning, citing local media like this from FOX 26. 

Bigger-picture consideration, via AP: “President Donald Trump, his reelection prospects damaged by the coronavirus outbreak, has blamed China repeatedly for the pandemic. Almost every day brings a fresh U.S. action against what Trump has called the rising Asian superpower’s exploitation of America.”

State Secretary Mike Pompeo is expected to make another anti-China speech on Thursday at the Nixon Library in California. His last big one was on July 13, when he laid out a more stern and vocal position from the U.S. regarding China’s “claims to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea.”

From Defense One

Expect More Wargames, Attention, & Allies in the Arctic, Say Air and Space Force Chiefs // Patrick Tucker: The first Arctic strategy of the Space Force era declares the region vital for US satellites and nuclear missile defenses — and in need of a lot of foreign help.

US Air Force, Space Force Introduce New Arctic Strategy // Gen. John W. Raymond, Barbara Barrett, and Gen. David Goldfein: America’s most active services in the region have a four-part plan to support the National Defense Strategy.

No Orders To Reduce Troops in South Korea Yet, Esper Says // Katie Bo Williams: With traditional U.S. deployments still under review, the defense secretary announced he hopes to visit China by year’s end.

America Gets an Interior Ministry // David A. Graham, The Atlantic: President Trump is cobbling together something the United States has never had before: a national police force, used to quell protests.

New CEO Wants Lockheed to Become a 5G Player // Marcus Weisgerber: And Jim Taiclet wants the government to underwrite its new direction.

Tomorrow's Presidential Daily Briefing, By a Former PDB Writer // Matt Zeller: What must the president's morning threat assessments look like these days?

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston and Ben Watson. 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 1620, Pilgrims aboard a 43-year-old, pine-hulled, square-stern ship called the Speedwell departed Holland and headed for the UK, en route to what we now call North America. However, the Speedwell never made it to the New World. The ship and its inhabitants departed Plymouth, England, but the ship took on too much water each time. After the second failed attempt on August 24, some of the Church of England separatists left — instead of hopping on the cargo vessel, the Mayflower, which on Sept. 6 departed Plymouth holding 102 passengers, and sailed into history. 

The White House threatened to veto the annual defense policy bill on Tuesday if it is not stripped of several measures, including language to remove Confederate names from bases like Fort Bragg, N.C., and to limit Trump’s ability to divert funds for the U.S.-Mexico border wall.  

Shortly after the veto threat, the House passed the NDAA in a 295-195 vote, which Politico’s Connor O’Brien noted Monday is a veto-proof majority in that chamber.

The Pentagon's legislative affairs chief is stepping down, Foreign Policy's Jack Detsch reported Tuesday. And with this resignation of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs Robert Hood, the Defense Department will have “21 of 60 senior positions at the Pentagon vacant or unfilled, matching a high-water mark for the administration first reached in March.”

Another reason this matters: It would “leave the Pentagon without a point person to help guide eight Trump administration nominees for high-ranking civilian roles through confirmation. That includes Anthony Tata, President Donald Trump’s controversial choice to lead the Pentagon’s policy shop.” Continue reading, here.

The Department of Justice charged two Chinese hackers for targeting coronavirus research on Tuesday. The hackers have also allegedly been hacking major targets across the globe since at least 2009 — in operations that DOJ says (PDF) yielded hundreds of millions of dollars worth of trade secrets and intellectual property. 

For what it's worth, Chinese hackers seem to hit in waves that are about eight months apart, "a security engineer who works for a [video] game company” told Vice news’s Joseph Cox on Tuesday.

By the way: “Since September of last year, Trump properties in the US have imported more than eight tons of goods from China,” CNN reported Tuesday, noting, “imports to Trump's properties are at odds with the economic nationalism of his ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan… The Trump organization's Chinese purchases also contradict messages coming from the members of his own Cabinet warning Americans to be wary of doing business with China.”

How CNN discovered this: After “reviewing US customs data compiled by ImportGenius, which tracks information companies are legally bound to provide to US customs when they import goods to the US.” More here

Remember when candidate Donald Trump vowed to bring troops home from America’s wars abroad? The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan updated that effort Tuesday to report still today, “Trump has been stymied at virtually every turn.”  

Why? In part because, as Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reported one week ago, “Lawmakers from the Senate and the House have in the last three years sought to use legislation to prevent the president from pulling troops from Afghanistan, Syria, South Korea, and now Germany — unless the administration certifies that a withdrawal will not harm U.S. or allied interests.” 

By the way: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi “is due to visit Washington this month,” DeYoung and Ryan reported in their review of America’s military footprint abroad. More, here.  

Now for something completely different: There’s a new book that promises to “Challenge Conventional Wisdom on Use of US Military Threats & Coercion.” It comes from the scholars and experts at the Stimson Center. The first chapter is free and can be found here.  

Here’s Stimson’s tease: “By using lessons derived from in-depth case studies and statistical analysis of an original dataset of more than 100 coercive incidents in the post-Cold War era, this book generates insight into how the US military can be used to achieve policy goals. Specifically, it provides guidance about the ways in which, and the conditions under which, the US armed forces can work in concert with economic and diplomatic elements of US power to create effective coercive strategies.” More on all that, here.

Happening today: The Defense Department’s Deputy Chief Information Officer for Information Enterprise Peter Ranks hops on a virtual panel discussion entitled “Out of Office: Telework Opportunities and Challenges.” This is an event we here at Defense One are hosting today, along with our partners at NextGov and INSA, as part of the “Powering Mission Readiness” webcast series. That gets started at 1 p.m. ET. Then at 3 p.m. ET, join us for a "Clouds of War" webcast featuring the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Deputy Chief Information Officer Doug Cossa and the Defense Logistics Agency's Chief Information Officer George Duchak.

This week in unusual terrorism: a bus siege in Ukraine ended Tuesday after the president complied with a 44-year-old hostage-taker’s demands to recommend in Russian that everyone watch a 2005 animal-rights documentary called “Earthlings.”

“At one point the hostage-taker fired shots and threw explosives which did not detonate,” the BBC reported. The gunman “had previously spent around 10 years in prison on convictions including fraud and the illegal handling of weapons.” More here

And finally today: An Afghan teenage girl fought back when Taliban fighters attacked her parents last week at their home in the centrally located Ghor province. “The Taliban came to the house because the girl's father was a government supporter,” the BBC reported Tuesday. After shooting her mother, who answered the door, the fighters entered and shot her father. She then “took the family's AK-47 assault rifle, [and] shot dead two of the militants.” The Guardian reports she killed three fighters, and wounded a few more. The Taliban returned in greater strength, “but were beaten back by villagers and pro-government militia.” She and her brother are believed to be in a safe, undisclosed place now. More at The Guardian, here.