Today's D Brief: Transition begins at last; Biden’s first natsec picks; NDAA veto threat; Army’s airborne artillery; And a bit more.

President-elect Biden gets the greenlight from GSA. The Pentagon is now actively working with Biden’s transition team, said Defense Department spokeswoman Sue Gough in a statement late Monday, just hours after CNN reported the formal decision from the office of General Services Administration’s Emily Murphy. Read Administrator Murphy’s memo to the Biden campaign, here.

Here’s that ordinarily routine DOD statement, which this time around has become briefly extraordinary because of POTUS45’s ongoing refusal to admit he lost to Biden: “This evening, DoD has been contacted by the Biden-Harris team and their designated lead for the DoD Agency Review Team and, based on the ascertainment by the GSA Administrator, we will begin immediately implementing our plan to provide support in accordance with statute, DoD policy and the memorandum of agreement between the White House and the Biden-Harris team...DoD is prepared to provide post-election services and support in a professional, orderly, and efficient manner that is befitting of the public’s expectation of the Department and our commitment to national security.”

Key triggers for this development: 

  1. Michigan election officials officially certified Biden’s victory in that state on Monday, which was just two days after... 
  2. A federal judge on Saturday tossed out a lawsuit from President Trump’s campaign that they hoped would stop Pennsylvania from certifying its results;
  3. By noon on Sunday, a growing number of Republicans were publicly acknowledging Biden’s victory. USA Today and the New York Times rolled up those names here and here, respectively. And while those external pressures mounted over the weekend...
  4. “Jay Sekulow, one of the president's longtime personal attorneys, and White House Counsel Pat Cipollone were among those who helped persuade Trump to commit to the transition,” according to the Washington Post, reporting Monday. 

Here’s how a few major news outlets framed the overnight developments: 

And then there’s Fox News, which headlined these latest developments accordingly: “NO STOP TO LEGAL FIGHT: Trump's message to those who see Biden transition as [a] sign his election challenges are losing steam.”

Trump is gradually accepting the outcome, but in his own Trumpian way, tweeting Monday evening: “Our case STRONGLY continues, we will keep up the good fight, and I believe we will prevail! Nevertheless, in the best interest of our Country, I am recommending that Emily and her team do what needs to be done with regard to initial protocols, and have told my team to do the same.” 

About five hours later, an upset Trump popped back up on Twitter with another tweet of resistance to Biden’s win, which included these lines at the end: “We are moving full speed ahead. Will never concede to fake ballots...”

But even One America News, one of Trump’s favorite outlets, appears to have moved on. Its lead story this morning is on the Senate runoffs scheduled for January in Georgia, which could slow or accelerate policy changes from the Biden administration’s dealings on Capitol Hill. (The anti-Beijing-outlet-turned-misinformation-conduit Epoch Times, by contrast, is holding fast to a belief that Trump will emerge victorious and begin a second term, somehow.) 

By the way: Here’s some remarkable election misinformation forensics from the New York Times, along with the human rights group Avaaz and the Elections Integrity Partnership. Together, they found that “Of the 20 most-engaged Facebook posts over the last week containing the word ‘election,’ all were from Mr. Trump. [And] All of those claims were found to be false or misleading by independent fact checkers.” Much more on election misinformation superspreaders — like Diamond and Silk, Eric Trump, Dan Bongino, Brandon Straka, Mark Levin and more — here.

What does GSA’s greenlight actually free up? “$6.3 million in congressionally appropriated funds to Biden’s transition team and 175,000 square feet (16,200 square meters) of federal office space, including secure areas where Biden and his team can receive sensitive intelligence briefings,” AP reports this morning. 

Clock’s ticking: The Biden camp now has 57 days until inauguration. “Most recent president-elects have had about 77 days between their election and inauguration,” AP writes. More on transition “provisions and funding,” via the Congressional Research Service, which updated its report on those matters on Nov. 13, here.

Dollars and sense: Stock futures are rising today on the news of a transition, the Wall Street Journal reports. More transition-related news below the fold.


From Defense One

More Computers Would Bring Military AI Along Faster, New JAIC Chief Says // Patrick Tucker: Groundbreaking tools are around the corner, 3-star general says. The limiting factor is lack of computing power to grind through giant Pentagon datasets.

Biden Team Highlights Cybersecurity With First Cabinet Picks // Mariam Baksh, Nextgov: Familiar faces will likely have to revisit efforts around information-sharing and establishing global norms.

IC Vets, Dem Lawmakers Applaud Selection of Haines as Intelligence Director // Patrick Tucker: Biden picks an Obama administration intelligence community veteran to be the first woman to serve in the role.

We Have Met the Enemy, and It Is Us: Restoring American Power // Gregory D. Foster: Getting the nation’s house in order — restoring our integrity and dignity — is a precondition for reestablishing our standing in the world.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with 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


Biden’s picks to lead DHS, DNI could mark new firsts for immigrants and women, respectively. 

  • Alejandro Mayorkas got the nod for DHS secretary, the Biden administration announced Monday. Mayorkas previously served as DHS Deputy Secretary from 2013 to 2016. “If confirmed, would be the first immigrant and Latino to lead the Department of Homeland Security,” Biden officials said. 
  • Avril Haines was selected as Biden’s Director of National Intelligence, which — if she’s confirmed — would make her the first woman to serve in that role. Haines has served as deputy CIA director, deputy national security advisor and deputy counsel to the president for national security affairs, all during the Obama administration, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports

Also named Monday: Biden’s Climate Envoy, a senior position that could help the U.S. marshal its powers to address “the climate crisis as the urgent national security threat it is,” tweeted John Kerry, the man who got Biden’s nod for the post on Monday.
What should lead the new president’s to-do list? Reject “America First,” argue Kori Schake, Jim Mattis, Jim Ellis, and Joe Felter in an essay published Monday in Foreign Affairs. “Enhancing national security must start with the fundamental truth that the United States cannot protect itself or its interests without the help of others,” they write. “In practice, ‘America first’ has meant ‘America alone.’ That has damaged the country’s ability to address problems before they reach U.S. territory and has thus compounded the danger emergent threats pose.” Read the essay in its entirety, here.
Still to come: Biden’s pick to lead the Pentagon. The same names from two weeks ago are still being floated this week — Michèle Flournoy and Jeh Johnson, e.g., possibly Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., according to the NYTs — but no one seems to know yet who will actually get the nod. 

How Minot became the COVID-19 capital of North Dakota. Perhaps best known for the nearby ICBM fields that make it a center of America’s nuclear sponge, Minot has in 2020 “become a paragon of North Dakota's pandemic crisis: a nightmare nexus of virus skepticism, underestimated rural spread, delayed action and an overburdened hospital system,” the Grand Forks Herald reports.

Trump wants to veto this year’s $740 billion annual defense policy bill to protect the memory of Confederate generals, NBC News reports this morning — extending a related tease from Politico on Monday.
The gist: “Since the Nov. 3 election, Trump has privately told Republican lawmakers that he won't back down from his position during the campaign that he would veto the annual National Defense Authorization Act if it includes an amendment to rename the bases” that have Confederate names, NBC reports.
There are 10 such bases, the New York Times reported back in June.
What’s this all mean? “If Trump vetoes the bill and a new version isn't passed and signed before the 116th Congress adjourns Jan. 3, the next Congress will have to start from scratch,” NBC reports. More here.

Meet the U.S. Army’s airborne artillery. Forbes: “The U.S. Army sneaked a pair of long-range rocket-launchers near Russia’s Black Sea outpost on Thursday, fired off a few rockets then hurried the launchers back to the safety of their base in Germany. All within a few hours.”
The details: The two HIMARS rocket launchers and their three-person crews flew in on USAF MC-130Js. They landed in Romania on Nov. 19, drove to a nearby training range, fired some rockets into the Black Sea in a not-so-subtle message for Moscow, and flew back to Ramstein.
The concept: The Army and Marine Corps call these missions “HIMARS Rapid Infiltrations,” or — inevitably — HIRAINs. “They’re a cornerstone capability of the ground-combat branch’s new approach to heavy firepower,” Forbes writes. “Instead of deploying slowly by road or rail, rocket-launchers now can deploy quickly by air. That means they can show up almost anywhere there’s a nearby airfield. The sheer speed of these aerial deployments helps to complicate the enemy’s counter-battery fire.” Read on, here.

Trump’s Commerce Department is sitting on a list of nearly 90 Chinese companies it alleges have ties to the military, “according to a draft copy of the list seen by Reuters,” the wire service reported Sunday evening. “Washington trade lawyer Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce official, said Commerce had shared the draft rule with a technical advisory committee of industry representatives, and it should have been kept confidential.” More here.

And lastly today, Disney security has Mickey Mouse/Punisher challenge coins. When someone sent a Task & Purpose reporter a photo, “we were unsure if this was a one-off thing, like a few security guards who were vets decided to make a challenge coin for themselves, or if it was something the magical kingdom had officially sanctioned. Turns out that Disney challenge coins are, in fact, very real.” Read on, with photos, here.

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