Today's D Brief: Armed troops defend the Capitol; Joint Chiefs decry the “riot”; Social-media crackdown; New warship updates; And a bit more.

National Guard soldiers are carrying weapons as they help protect the nation’s capital in the days leading up to and on the day of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20, the New York Times reported Tuesday evening. 

The threat: So far, “About 16 groups — some of them saying they will be armed and most of them made up of hard-line supporters of Mr. Trump — have registered to stage protests in Washington,” the Times writes. U.S. law enforcement officials say they have to plan for a wide range of potentially violent actions, including the possibility of suicide attacks and exploding drones. In terms of timing, some clashes could begin as early as today, U.S. officials told reporters this morning. 

New in DC: An “inauguration perimeter” around the White House, Capitol and downtown, as the local CBS affiliate, WUSA9, reports. 

See also the fencing added around the Capitol after hundreds of pro-Trumpers easily tore through lesser barriers on Jan. 6. (Michigan is doing something similar, as local news reports here.)

There are only about 2,000 Guard troops in the city now, CBS News reports. But that final number is expected to rise sharply, to somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 — with forces drawn from several different states.

Several dozen troops are already in the Capitol itself and have spent at least a little bit of time napping beside their weapons, according to photos snapped by various journalists (e.g., Nathaniel Reed of Newsy; CNN’s Rebecca Buck; Scott Wong of The Hill; and Lindsay Wise of the Wall Street Journal). 

One big task for the Army: Screening inauguration troops for extremist sympathies. More on that internal policing challenge from Army Times and Politico.

All of America’s Joint Chiefs called the Jan. 6 insurrection a "violent riot" that "was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process." That’s according to an extraordinary memo issued Tuesday to the entire U.S. military. The memo was signed by all eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

“Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law,” the memo continues. Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams has a bit more on that message, here

Applauding Milley’s letter: Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan and a former Pentagon official and CIA analyst. “For months, I have spent hours on the phone with senior ranks of the military, knowing that a peaceful transition of power could come down to them,” Slotkin said in a statement today. “The letter the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent to American forces yesterday is an important recognition of their role in upholding the Constitution as well as the conduct and reputation of the institution they love –– and will be vital throughout this next week of transition from one administration to the next.”

Surprise, surprise: A former Navy SEAL is now in trouble for confessing to “breaching the Capitol” in a video he posted to Facebook after the insurrection, ABC News reported Tuesday. "There was destruction, breaching the Capitol, our building, our house. And, um, to get in you had to destroy doors and windows to get in," he says in the video. "There are stories to tell from generations upon generations," he added.

Now the former SEAL says “it was all taken too far,” and that “I am cooperating with the FBI,” admitting as well to ABC News that the Jan. 6 insurrection “accomplished nothing.” More here

See for yourself: Watch insurrectionists coordinate their plan on the spot in this video posted to social media. 

See also: This apparently quite heroic Capitol Police officer who on Jan. 6 “lur[ed] the mob away from the Senate chambers, where lawmakers were sheltering and armed officers — including one with a semiautomatic weapon — were securing the doors,” as the Washington Post explains. The Wall Street Journal has more on how close the violence truly got to U.S. lawmakers, here

Tick-tock: Go minute-by-minute through Jan. 6 via this open-source review from the digital forensics team at the New York Times

By the way: Trump just got suspended from YouTube for a week because “A recent video on Trump's channel had incited violence,” YouTube told CNN Tuesday evening. In addition, “YouTube also said it will be taking the extra step of disabling comments underneath videos on Trump's channel.”

From Defense One

Joint Chiefs Affirm Election Results, Condemn ‘Assault on Our Constitutional Process’ // Katie Bo Williams: “President-elect Biden will become our 46th Commander in Chief.”

It's Harder to Boot Right-Wing Extremists from Social Media Than ISIS // Patrick Tucker: There are various reasons why. But studies suggest it’s still worth the effort.

New Destroyer, Armed With Lasers and Hypersonic Missiles, Envisioned as Navy’s Future Centerpiece // Marcus Weisgerber: U.S. admirals made the case for the new ship during a virtual conference this week.

Mr. Vice President, Now Is the Time // Ali Soufan: Mike Pence must unify the nation. He must tell the truth about the election results to the millions who voted for him on the same ballot as Trump.

Biden Should Extend New START — and By the Full Five Years // Shannon Bugos: Some have suggested the new president withhold a full extension of the nuclear-arms treaty in search of leverage for a new one.

Americans Were Worried About the Wrong Threat // Emerson T. Brooking and Jacob Shapiro, The Atlantic: Despite considerable hype about foreign interference, the greatest danger to American democracy is domestic.

Welcome to this Wednesday 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 179 years ago, the British army suffered one of its worst defeats in history with the 1842 retreat from Kabul.

Obama’s “pivot to Asia” chief will run Biden’s Pacific security policy. Kurt Campbell will be Indo-Pacific Coordinator on the National Security Council, a job that shows “that we see this region holistically,” a senior national security adviser to Biden’s transition team told The Daily Beast. “We believe this is a fundamentally competitive relationship [with China], but one that on certain issues it will be in America’s interest to work with China even as we compete.”
Campbell “has been at the fore of U.S. policymaking toward Asia for the past 25 years,” the Beast writes; he served most recently as assistant secretary of state for East Asia in the Obama administration. Read on, here.
Related: Lloyd Austin’s message for America (and lawmakers on the fence about his nomination to be Defense Secretary). See that via a video Austin tweeted Tuesday here.

Declassified: Key Indo-Pacific strategy document. For three years, Trump administration strategy in the region has been guided by a 10-page report written in 2018 and released on Jan. 5 with a memo by National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien. Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Zach Dorfman break it down for Axios, here.

Tomorrow’s U.S. warships: It’s Surface Navy week, at least virtually, which brings us updates on various planned warship classes:

  • DDG-X destroyer: Once called DDG Next and Large Surface Combatant, this destroyer will carry lasers and hypersonic missiles and will “competently operate inside adversary weapon engagement zones,” Rear Adm. Paul Schlise, who leads the Navy staff’s Surface Warfare Division, said Tuesday. Defense One’sMarcus Weisgerberhas more, here.
  • Constellation-class frigate: Navy Times’ David Larter reports on this 496-foot, 7,291-ton vessel meant to be a “best-in-breed ship with all the latest technologies on a smaller platform” — including a small version of the next-gen SPY-6 radar and 32 missile tubes — while costing less than the latest Arleigh Burke destroyers.
  • Large Unmanned Surface Vessel: Larter also has a 3-part opus on the Navy’s faltering effort to replace its aging missile ships (cruisers, destroyers, converted Ohio-class boomers) with unmanned VLS-stocked vessels.

A new approach to shipbuilding: As we mentioned yesterday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday says previous shipbuilding woes have put the Navy at risk of losing its superiority to China. So what’s next? “Instead of building ships and technologies in concert — as it did with the Zumwalt-class destroyer, the littoral combat ship and the Ford-class carrier — the Navy will move forward by designing hulls around fielded systems with room for upgrades,” Larter wrote, here.

4,406 people died on Tuesday in the U.S. from COVID-19. Since Friday, the U.S. has averaged more than 3,000 deaths per day, the New York Times reports.
The number of people hospitalized with coronavirus — a data point generally dubbed the most reliable measure of the disease’s day-to-day impact — has been rising since September. The current 7-day average tops 131,000.
Spike on U.S. naval base. Officials with Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan said 41 people had tested positive for the coronavirus since Friday, bringing the total current caseload to 127, Stripes reports.
With one week to go, Trump administration changes vaccine-access rules. STAT News: “Outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar threw a new wrench into the works on Tuesday, telling states to expand priority access to tens of millions of additional people immediately.”
Why that “sets up a debacle,” in STAT’s words: “Azar’s new instructions put 152 million people — about half of the adult population of the country — at the front of the vaccine line.” The White House currently estimates that by the end of March, it will have 200 million doses to distribute. “Even if those doses can be manufactured and shipped seamlessly, that’s only enough for 100 million people, given that the currently authorized vaccines require two doses each.”
So: “The incoming Biden administration will likely face a groundswell of complaints about long lines, failed efforts to find vaccine supplies, and an inequitable distribution system as it tries to live up to its promise of seeing 100 million vaccine doses administered in the new president’s first 100 days in office.” Read on, here.
Currently: “About 9 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of a vaccine,” the Times reports.

State Secretary Mike Pompeo cancelled his European trip today because “EU and Luxembourg officials declined to meet him” following the Jan. 6 failed insurrection, Reuters reported Tuesday.
In case you’re curious, “There were no meetings on his schedule with EU officials or any public events at NATO,” which left Pompeo with a “thin itinerary” that “raised questions.” More here

Lastly: Facebook is still taking down influence operations, including 17 new ones in December. At least five were aimed at foreign audiences (Iran, Ukraine, France, Morocco, and Russia), while the remaining 12 (including Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, Indonesia and Morocco) focused primarily on domestic influence work. More from Facebook on all that, here.