Today's D Brief: Advisory-board reset; Withdrawal from Europe on hold; Russia’s vaccine; Hicks’ warning; And a bit more.
Austin resets defense advisory boards. Every member of 40 boards that provide outsider advice to various DoD agencies will be let go, and a “zero-based review” performed by each board’s sponsoring agency to “focus our advisory committee efforts to align with our most pressing strategic priorities and the National Defense Strategy,” SecDef Lloyd Austin directed in a Jan. 30 memo.
The move follows the post-election appointment of several Trump administration officials, including Anthony Tata, “a former acting senior defense official who in 2018 called former President Barack Obama a “terrorist leader” and was placed on the Defense Policy Board on Jan. 19, the last full day of the Trump administration,” Reuters reports.
“There is no question that the secretary was deeply concerned with the pace and the extent of recent changes to memberships,” one unnamed defense official told Reuters. “It gave him pause to consider the broad scope and purpose of these boards.”
Demand bigger ideas, Mr. Secretary. The boards should be reshaped to provide “10X ideas, not 10% ones” and help DoD make the necessary big changes to keep up with China and technology, argue serial Silicon Valley entrepreneur Steve Blank, former DIUx leader Raj Shah, and former ASD Joe Felter in an oped for Defense One. The restaffed boards should consist of a carefully chosen mix of defense insiders and outsiders, they argue.
From Defense One
Russia Has a Vaccine. The World Has Questions // Patrick Tucker: Despite a promising clinical trial, Moscow’s record suggests a wait-and-see approach to a vaccine that the Russian military is already pumping into troops’ arms.
Hicks Warns Against ‘Extreme Consolidation’ in Defense Industry // Marcus Weisgerber: Kathleen Hicks, President Biden's pick to be deputy defense secretary, cruised through her confirmation confirmation hearing.
The Capitol Rioters Aren’t Like Other Extremists // Robert A. Pape and Keven Ruby, The Atlantic: We analyzed 193 people arrested in connection with the January 6 riot—and found a new kind of American radicalism.
Urgent Job Opening: U.S. Navy Secretary // Brent D. Sadler: The chaos and uncertainty atop the sea service is undermining national security.
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 1961, America’s long term mission to maintain command and control of its nuclear arsenal even in a nuclear war — a 24/7 airborne operation known as “Looking Glass” — first began.
It’s official: The U.S. has “extended the New START Treaty with the Russian Federation for five years,” the State Department announced this morning.
Now what? Maybe an expansion; maybe add in China; maybe not. “The United States will use the time provided by a five-year extension of the New START Treaty to pursue with the Russian Federation, in consultation with Congress and U.S. allies and partners, arms control that addresses all of its nuclear weapons,” the State Department said. And about that China element, “We will also pursue arms control to reduce the dangers from China’s modern and growing nuclear arsenal,” though how that might shape up is anyone’s guess. A bit more from Foggy Bottom, here.
America isn’t moving its troops out of Germany and Belgium for Poland. That’s what the U.S. military’s top officer in Europe, U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, told reporters in a briefing this morning.
That plan, Wolters said, “has been put on freeze,” echoing Pentagon spox John Kirby’s message from last week when he said all military force laydowns from the Trump era are under review.
A German military plane just carried medical personnel and equipment to Portugal to help with a worsening COVID-19 crisis, Reuters reports. “The German team will manage a new unit of eight ICU beds in a private hospital in Lisbon, Hospital da Luz, which was equipped but lacked the staff to operate.”
Context: “Hospitals across Portugal, a nation of about 10 million people, appear on the verge of collapse, with ambulances sometimes queuing for hours because of a lack of beds while some health units are struggling to find enough refrigerated space to preserve the bodies of the deceased.” More here.
Back stateside, the Reagan Defense Forum has been postponed further. “Given the current state of the COVID 19 pandemic in California and nationally, the Reagan National Defense Forum (RNDF) scheduled for March 5-6, 2021 at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA has been cancelled,” officials announced Tuesday.
Next date to watch: December 3 and 4, 2021, when this year’s forum is scheduled.
“Illegally imported walkie talkies.” Those are the charges the Myanmar military has placed on ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi as it keeps her under house arrest, according to the Associated Press. “National League for Democracy spokesman Kyi Toe confirmed the charge against Suu Kyi that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.”
As for international reax, the U.S. State Department on Tuesday called the Monday actions a “coup,” which triggers a review process that could lead to new sanctions, CNN reports. Meantime, “The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday but took no action,” AP reports, and today foreign ministers of the Group of 7 nations called for Suu Kyi’s release “and for power to be restored to the democratically elected government.” However, few observers expect that to happen anytime soon. More from AP, here.
The U.S. military isn’t doing enough to protect civilians, according to the Washington director for Human Rights Watch. Writing at Just Security, Sarah Holewinski takes stock of “the progress the United States has made on civilian protection after two decades of war and counterterrorism operations since 9/11” and finds that despite “some progress” made thanks to concerned officers, people in the Departments of Defense and State, and lawmakers, “the big picture remains bleak.
For example, Holewinski writes, the Pentagon:
- Still doesn’t have a good sense of how many civilians it has killed or injured.
- Still doesn’t teach operational planners about civilian harm in operational plans (OPLANS) for any conflict including future ones.
- Still doesn’t have a standard for investigating civilian harm.
- And a dozen more things. Read the full list, here.
Lastly today: Space Force at the Space Foundation. The Deputy Commander of Space Force, Lt. Gen. John Shaw, is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m. ET during the virtual Space Foundation Space Symposium 365 event today. Details and registration here.