Today's D Brief: Biden’s first moves; Austin’s vows; New DOD team; IC’s ‘biggest challenge’; And a bit more.
Biden’s first day. The era of President Donald John Trump is finished (for now), and today the new administration of President-elect Joe Biden assumes control of the White House, taking the reins of the most advanced and sophisticated military that the world has ever seen.
“Today, we begin anew,” Biden tweeted this morning at about 10 a.m. ET.
What to expect: The swearing-in ceremonies are scheduled for noon at the U.S. Capitol. At 1:40 p.m., President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris are to “review the readiness of military troops” in the customary pass in review at the East Front of the Capitol. Biden and Harris are slated to drive to Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier around 2:30 p.m.
Just after 5 p.m., Biden’s first presidential directives are expected to begin rolling out of the Oval Office. (More on that below.) Shortly afterward, a variety of presidential appointees will be sworn into their new jobs across several federal agencies. That sets the stage for the Biden White House’s first press conference, scheduled for 7 p.m. and led by veteran Communications Director Jen Psaki. Then finally, just before 9 p.m., Biden is expected to address the nation, putting a cap on the televised “Celebrating America” inaugural concert program, which starts at about 8:30 p.m.
Here are a few early policy changes signaled by Biden’s transition team:
- A renewed emphasis on mask-wearing among the federal workforce; and that’s part of a larger drive Biden officials are calling the “100 Days Masking Challenge,” which will ask “the American people to do their part — their patriotic duty — and mask up for 100 days” to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
- Biden will appoint a COVID-19 Response Coordinator “responsible for coordinating all elements of the COVID-19 response across government, including managing efforts to produce, supply, and distribute personal protective equipment, vaccines, and tests.”
- Border wall construction will stop, and “a close review of the legality of the funding and contracting methods used” will begin at a so-far unspecified date.
- The U.S. will rejoin the World Health Organization.
- It will also rejoin the Paris Climate accord.
- POTUS46 will revoke POTUS45’s so-called “Muslim travel ban.”
- And Biden will dissolve the Trump White House’s early-stage “1776 Commission,” which was designed to counter the New York Times’ influential reporting on the roots of slavery and systematic racism in America called the “1619 Project.”
More planned changes include a new government agency review focused on racial equity; extending the federal eviction moratorium; rescinding Census orders that excluded non-citizens from the count; and Biden wants to preserve and fortify DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, “which shields undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children from deportation,” CNN reports.
Outgoing Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy just released a “message to the force,” and you can find that (PDF) here.
With just hours to go in his presidency, Trump issued 73 pardons this morning at 12:50 a.m., including one for his former “strategist” Steve Bannon, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Of those ultimately granted clemency in the final hours of the Trump presidency, 18 were endorsed by the Justice Department office that reviews pardon applications, while the rest were recommended by an array of political leaders, criminal-justice reformers and other allies of the president.” Read more on the pardons from Reuters, here, or review the full list, from Al Jazeera, here.
Rewind: Wanna make sense of some U.S. gains and losses notched under Trump? Dozens of analysts at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies released another enormous report, this time entitled “From Trump to Biden.” The reviews are organized by geographical region as well as topics such as “cyber,” “international law,” and “arms control.” Begin reading, here.
From Defense One
Here’s Who Will Be Running the Pentagon When Biden Takes Office // Katie Bo Williams: Dozens named in the most comprehensive roster published to date of who will be running DOD when the president-elect is sworn in.
Austin Promises Healthy Civilian Control At DOD // Katie Bo Williams: “I look forward to working with the chairman, but I have no desire to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs,” the retired general told senators.
Austin Pledges to Recuse Himself from Military Decisions Involving Raytheon // Marcus Weisgerber: The commitment is a huge win for Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other progressive Democrats pushing for stricter lobbying laws.
Intelligence Community’s Biggest Challenge Is Restoring ‘Trust and Confidence,’ Biden’s ODNI Pick Says // Patrick Tucker: Avril Haines also vowed to put more resources toward tracking Chinese espionage and foreign efforts to stir up domestic strife.
Biden’s NSA May Face Legal Fight Over Trump-Installed Lawyer // Patrick Tucker: Acting SecDef Miller warns firing Michael Ellis could bring new allegations of unfair retaliation.
Advice for the Next Secretary of Defense // Chuck Hagel: Our most serious threats are not external. Biden’s team also must address the bitter polarization of our politics, which has divided our country and global institutions.
QAnon Is Destroying the GOP From Within // Sen. Ben Sasse, The Atlantic: Until last week, too many in the Republican Party thought they could preach the Constitution and wink at QAnon. They can’t.
Welcome to this Inauguration Day 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 1887, the U.S. Navy was authorized to begin building a cooling and repair station for its ships on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Those stations would eventually expand to become what we now know as Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam.
12 Guardsmen sent home from inauguration security detail. Two were flagged for “inappropriate comments or texts” — one by their chain of command and another by an anonymous report — while 10 more were identified by the FBI through “standard” vetting done on participants before all inaugurations, National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson told reporters on Tuesday. The Hill reports, here.
ICYMI: Nearly 25,000 Guardsmen are in and around the nation’s capital this morning.
Lloyd Austin, whose nomination to lead the Defense Department will turn on Congress’ willingness to pass a law to allow it, got a boost on Tuesday when the House Armed Services Committee said it would debate the matter behind closed doors instead in an open hearing.
Austin took the stand before the Senate’s corresponding committee, where the retired Army general vowed to respect civilian authority. The Raytheon board member also pledged to recuse himself from decisions concerning the company for four years, twice the legal requirement.
Rebuilding “trust and confidence” in the U.S. intelligence community will be Avril Haines’ biggest challenge, Biden’s pick to become Director of National Intelligence told senators at her own confirmation hearing on Tuesday. That assessment comes after four years in which Trump repeatedly undermined the community, starting even before he took office and continuing with unprecedented episodes like taking Vladimir Putin’s side against the IC’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Among the last moves of the Trump administration was insisting that a former White House official be seated as the general counsel to the NSA, setting up a high-profile personnel challenge for the incoming president. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reports.
Meanwhile, DHS pick Alejandro Mayorkas told senators he would carry out Biden’s planned immigration overhaul and increase efforts to fight domestic extremism, the Washington Post reported.
But hopes for a quick confirmation were dashed by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, last seen pumping his fist to rioters at the Capitol before leading an unprecedented effort to overturn a U.S. election.
Meet the rest of Biden’s DOD leadership team. Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams got a look at department planning documents that were current on Tuesday morning, and has two lists: folks who will immediately take up office today, and folks who will act as placeholders for appointees who need Senate confirmation. Find those here.
And finally today: If you don’t want to wear a mask in the time of COVID-19, first: please rethink your priorities. But secondly, maybe you’d rather fork over a heckuva lot more money to wear a space suit-type thing that makes you look incredibly strange to those around you. That’s where San Francisco tech columnist Drew Magary steps in.
Magary tested a product called The Microclimate Air, which comes in at about $300. “It looks so weird!” Magary’s 8-year-old son told him when he put it on recently. The product was reportedly designed specifically with air travel in mind. But if you want to talk in the $300 space suit helmet thing, you’re gonna run into some issues (such as your voice sounding crazy loud). There’s much more to the story of The Microclimate Air, and you can read the rest here.