Today's D Brief: Vaccines, compared; NSA/CYBERCOM split?; More Trump deference to Russia; Welcome, ‘guardians’; And a bit more.

A second COVID vaccine has begun distribution. This one’s made by Moderna, and STAT News has an informative side-by-side comparison with the Pfizer vaccine that’s been going out for just over a week. 

What they do, and don’t do: “Both vaccines seemed to reduce the risk of severe COVID disease. It’s not yet known if either prevents asymptomatic infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Nor is it known if vaccinated people can transmit the virus if they do become infected but don’t show symptoms.” Read on, here.

The coronavirus is mutating, as viruses do. A new faster-spreading variant has Britain locking down even harder, but scientists say it appears unlikely to change in ways that make the vaccines less effective.

The 7-day average of U.S. COVID deaths keeps setting records. Yesterday it hit 2,639, per the New York Times tracker — one death every 33 seconds.

“Help is on the way,” President-elect Joe Biden said Sunday after lawmakers reportedly reached a deal on roughly $900 billion in coronavirus relief for Americans. The bill "provides an important downpayment on the investment we need in vaccine procurement and distribution," Biden said, but cautioned, "We need to scale up vaccine production and distribution and acquire tens of millions more doses."

Then what? "In our first 100 days, we’ll be asking all Americans to mask up for 100 days," he continued. "We’ll have a plan to administer 100 million vaccine shots in 100 days and to get most schools open in the first 100 days. These are bold, but doable steps to contain the virus and get back to our lives."

The Biden White House also says it's planning a sort of public relations campaign for vaccines "to educate the American people in the efficacy and that we can all reap the benefits of their protection." More to that, here.

From Defense One

Trump Officials Deliver Plan to Split Up Cyber Command, NSA // Katie Bo Williams: An end to the “dual hat” arrangement has been debated for years — but the timing raises questions. The plan requires Milley's certification to move ahead.

Space Force Troops Get a Name: ‘Guardians’ // Marcus Weisgerber: VP Pence revealed the moniker for Trump’s oft-teased newest military service branch to stand alongside soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 83 // Defense One Staff : Interview with CENTCOM’s Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie. 

A Day of Deaths 25 Percent Higher Than Spring’s Worst / The COVID Tracking Project: For the second week in a row, more COVID-19 deaths were reported in the U.S. than at any other time in the pandemic.

How We’re Building a 21st-Century Space Force // Gen. John W. Raymond is Chief of Space Operations, U.S. Space Force: Only by staying lean, agile, and tightly focused on our mission can we succeed in protecting the United States.

Pushing Billions in Arms Sales Is Not an ‘Accomplishment’  // William D. Hartung: It matters to whom the weapons are flowing and how they will be used.

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 1945, George Smith Patton Jr., passed away from pulmonary edema and congestive heart failure — 13 days after an automobile accident in Germany paralyzed him from the neck down. He was 60 years old. 

Trump’s deference to Russia continues. Nearly a week after news broke about the large and “historic” cyber intrusion across multiple federal agencies, President Trump finally spoke up about it in a tweet on Saturday.
“The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality," Trump tweeted about the impact and damage, which has already entangled the State, Treasury, Energy, Homeland Security and Commerce Departments — as well as the National Institutes of Health.
“A grave risk to the federal government” is how DHS’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency described it in a statement updated today.
“[I]t may be China,” Trump tweeted Saturday, without even a suggestion of evidence. He went on to speculate — again, without evidence — that the cyber intrusions across the federal agencies might somehow be related to voting machines. Read the rest of that paranoid and virtually incomprehensible tweet, here

Will feds’ selloff of 5G frequencies risk more airplane crashes? Maybe, say officials with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation, who are asking the Federal Communications Commission to halt the ongoing auction. And the Defense Department? Leaders, who are kinda just tuning in to this 5G wrinkle, are meeting today with counterparts at FAA and DOT to figure out the path forward, Defense News reports.

Lockheed Martin is acquiring rocket-maker Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings for more than $4 billion, Lockheed announced Sunday. The two firms have been working together for some time already on “several advanced systems across [LMT’s] Aeronautics, Missiles and Fire Control and Space business areas,” Lockheed said in its statement. More from Reuters, here.

The UAE and/or Saudi Arabia appear to be behind a cell phone hacking operation that spanned dozens of Middle Eastern journalists working for Qatar-based al-Jazeera, the Washington Post reports. That “probable” conclusion is from an alarming report by researchers with the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.
Apparently, victims didn’t have to do anything to get hacked; and that’s why researchers called the vulnerability a “zero-click” exploit.
One big takeaway: “All iOS device owners should immediately update to the latest version of the operating system.” More here.  

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny duped an FSB agent into confessing details of the poisoning operation that was supposed to kill him, CNN reports on the heels of their joint investigation into Russia’s attempts to kill Navalny. 

Here are 15 ways the U.S. military says it will try to improve its racial diversity and inclusiveness, via a report commissioned in the wake of protests against police brutality this summer after the death of George Floyd: 

  1. Update Recruiting Content to Represent All Service Members.
  2. Develop and Publish a Data-Driven Accessions and Retention Strategy.
  3. Increase the Pool of Qualified Reserve Officer Training Corps Enrollment, Scholarship, and Commission Applicants from Minority Serving Institutions.
  4. Remove Aptitude Test Barriers That Adversely Impact Diversity.
  5. Evaluate Demographic Trends in Performance Evaluations.
  6. Develop Diverse Pools of Qualified Candidates for Nominative Positions.
  7. Establish a Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence.
  8. Standardize a DoD Human Resources Data System for Diversity and Inclusion Analysis.
  9. Offer Internships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Fields in Conjunction with Junior ROTC Programs.
  10. Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Organizational Structure.
  11. Develop a DoD Diversity and Inclusion Mobile Application and Website.
  12. Incorporate the Value of Cultivating Diversity and Inclusion into Leadership and Professionalism Curricula.
  13. Increase Transparency of Promotion Selections and Career Opportunities.
  14. Prohibit Extremist or Hate Group Activity.
  15. Update the Uniform Code of Military Justice to Address Extremist Activity.

The Secretary of the Air Force chaired the Board on Diversity and Inclusion, which also included the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and Service members from each branch of the Military Services and the National Guard Bureau. The group “reviewed industry best practices, and assessed pertinent data and reports” when writing up its 15 recommendations.
“After reviewing the Board' s 15 recommendations,” Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller wrote in a department memo released Friday evening by the Pentagon, “I am pleased to see such a methodical evaluation leading to the development of such rigorous actions to address diversity and inclusion. I expect all leaders to take an aggressive approach to embed diversity and inclusion practices into the core of our military culture...We must not accept-and must intentionally and proactively remove any barriers to an inclusive and diverse force and equitable treatment of every Service member.”
The first phase of post-report actions are expected by March 31, according to Miller’s reaction plan to each of the 15 recommendations. And that will involve—

  • A reassessment of aptitude tests;
  • A review of the Defense Department’s “accessions and retention strategy for officers and enlisted personnel”;
  • A review of selection board processes;
  • Some kind of progress on what sounds like a very ambitious "plan of action and milestones for the establishment of a Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute to develop and institute a DoD-wide curriculum on diversity, inclusion, and cultural awareness";
  • Some sort of progress toward tracking diversity and inclusion at the HR-level using “standardized data elements”;
  • A plan for “a Diversity and Inclusion Organizational institute positive change over time”;
  • Plans for a phone app that will somehow help track diversity and inclusiveness; plans for this app are to first surface by the end of March, too; 
  • A review of “standardized leadership and professionalism curriculum”;

And the Pentagon must begin working on how to reduce “extremist or hate group activity” by March 31, with “a plan of action and milestones” to be spelled out by the end of June. That falls to the Pentagon's Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and its Under Secretary for Intelligence and Security. For more on what lies ahead, see Acting SecDef Miller’s memo (PDF) in full, here

And lastly today, Space Forcer troops got a collective name on Friday: guardians. As in soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and guardians. Reports Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber: “The new name for military’s space professionals, announced on Friday by Vice President Mike Pence, may appear to be a play on the Marvel superhero film “Guardians of the Galaxy.” But Space Force officials said it was a callback to a 1983 motto.”
That didn’t stop various Hollywood types associated with the movie from chipping in their two cents. Tweeted Clark Gregg, who plays S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson: “My pet raccoon just got a draft notice. WTF.”
The new name was missing from the Chief of Space Operations’ oped published by The Atlantic on Sunday. “Only by staying lean, agile, and tightly focused on our mission can we succeed in protecting the United States,” wrote Gen. John W. Raymond. Read that, here.