Today's D Brief: New China review; Biden says DoD needs more leaders of color; Iran’s forbidden metal; Denmark’s drones; And a bit more.
President Biden announced a review of the military’s strategy toward China during his first trip to the Pentagon as POTUS on Wednesday. Biden also vowed never to “politicize” U.S. troops, in what Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams called “a clear signal that he intends to set a different tone than his predecessor.”
"I will never dishonor you. I will never disrespect you. I will never politicize the work you do,” Biden said in an address directed at U.S. service members and delivered from a podium in the Pentagon press briefing room
Biden also focused his attention on issues directly related to the Pentagon workforce, and said his administration would prioritize diversity within the ranks and try to eradicate sexual assault in the military. He also highlighted a long list of Black service members from as far back as the American Revolution, including Henry Flipper, the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and Roscoe Robinson, the first African American four-star general.
“Right now, more than 40 percent of our active duty service members are people of color,” Biden said. “It’s long past time that the full diversity and full strength of our forces is reflected at every level in this department.”
About that China review: It will be led by Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Ely Ratner. And it’s intended to “provide a baseline assessment of DoD policies, programs, and processes on China-related matters and provide the Secretary of Defense recommendations on key priorities and decision points to meet the China challenge,” the Pentagon said in a statement. It’ll be staffed by 15 civilian and uniformed personnel, and according to the Pentagon, will focus on:
- Operational concepts;
- Technology and force structure;
- Force posture and force management;
- U.S. alliances and partnerships;
- And defense relations with China.
And in case you were wondering: “No final public report is anticipated,” the Defense Department said, “although the Department will discuss recommendations with Congress and other stakeholders as appropriate.” Read more in Williams’s report, here.
Also: Biden called China’s leader for the first time on Wednesday. In that call, Biden flagged “his fundamental concerns about Beijing’s coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan,” according to the White House’s readout of the phone call.
According to China, “cooperation is the only correct choice for both sides,” Beijing’s readout said, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Worth noting: Biden is still planning for naval exercises in the South China Sea and dispatching ships to travel the Taiwan Strait in the months and years to come, White House officials told reporters in a background call Wednesday.
Expect more U.S. investment in “semiconductors, biotechnology and artificial intelligence,” a White House official said. And the reason is “to ensure that we are not supplying highly sensitive technology that can advance China’s military capabilities. We will be bearing down on that,” he said. Read more from Reuters.
Biden also announced sanctions against the military leaders of the recent coup in Myanmar. “The military must relinquish the power it seized and demonstrate respect for the will of the people of Burma as expressed in their November 8th election,” Biden said at the White House before his trip to the Pentagon Wednesday. As a result, he said, “The U.S. government is taking steps to prevent the generals from improperly having access to the $1 billion in Burmese government funds held in the United States.” The White House released a copy of a related executive order freezing the U.S.-based finances of the coup leaders; read over that EO here.
From Defense One
New Supercomputers Turbocharge Military Weather Forecasting // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: Housed at Oak Ridge National Lab, the new forecasting tool is more than six times faster than its predecessor.
Biden: ‘I Will Never Politicize’ US Troops // Katie Bo Williams: Biden also announced a new Pentagon-led review of military strategy towards China.
Want to Redefine Readiness? Here’s Where to Start // Seamus Daniels: Two Joint Chiefs are on the right track.
We Must Reorient US Cyber Strategy Around the Only Safe Assumption // Dmitri Alperovitch: We should assume adversaries are already in our networks — and Congress should take these five steps to mitigate the damage.
Welcome to this Thursday 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 2017, North Korea launched a medium-range ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. Pyongyang would conduct another nine missile tests before eventually launching its first-ever ICBM in early July that same year.
This afternoon, President Biden will drop by the National Institutes of Health to visit the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory and speak to NIH staff, according to the White House’s public schedule for the day.
Top SolarWinds-response official named by Biden administration. One day after the leaders of the Senate intelligence committee asked why no one had been picked to lead the U.S. government’s inquiry and response to the massive intelligence operation, the administration said that Anne Neuberger, deputy national security advisor for cyber and emerging technology, had been doing the job since January, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Neuberger spent more than 10 years at the National Security Agency, where she served as assistant deputy director of operations and its first chief risk officer.
Dmitri Alperovitch: The attack proves that we need to reorient our cybersecurity approach to comport with the only safe assumption: that adversaries are already in our networks. Alperovitch, who co-founded CrowdStrike, testified as much to the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. (Also, he says, we need to stop calling it the SolarWinds breach.) Read his op-ed on the matter, here.
Chris Krebs: Speaking at the hearing, the CISA head ousted by then-president Trump pushed for a hard response to Russia. “Working with our allies, with the UK and elsewhere where there are Russian expats, Russian oligarchs that have a significant amount of money, you start turning the screws on those individuals, and they will go back to the Kremlin and we may see some behaviors change,” Krebs said. Read his related oped, here.
BTW: Russia is using its facial recognition system to arrest suspected protesters in an effort “to make preventive arrests and detentions,” Reuters reports from Moscow.
Iran has produced a small amount of uranium metal, a substance banned under the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a confidential report by the United Nations atomic agency that was seen by the Wall Street Journal. The production — which Iranian officials had warned about in December — started Feb. 6 at a nuclear facility under UN inspection.
So far, the metal is unenriched. “To use uranium metal for a nuclear weapon’s core, Iran would need around half a kilogram, or slightly more than one pound, of highly enriched uranium metal,” experts told the WSJ. Read on, here.
CBO says cruise missile defense for North America could cost up to $465 billion. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office finds that “Building a new defensive network against cruise missiles could cost anywhere between $75 billion to $465 billion over 20 years, depending on whether the goal is to protect selected high-value facilities or the entire U.S.,” Theresa Hitchens writes at Breaking Defense.
Lastly today: Denmark’s military is sending long-range drones to monitor its Arctic holdings, Reuters reports from Copenhagen. “Lawmakers in the Nordic country agreed to spend half of the allocated 1.5 billion Danish crowns ($245 million) on drones to improve surveillance in Greenland, a semi-autonomous part of the Kingdom of Denmark.”
The former Viking nation will also spend money on a surveillance radar in the Faroe Islands due to “an increase in foreign activities in the Arctic and the North Atlantic,” Defence Minister Trine Bramsen said.
In case you were wondering, “Denmark currently has one aircraft, four helicopters and four ships to monitor the vast area,” according to Reuters. And “Six sleds powered by 80 dogs patrol the remote northeastern part.” More here; and more on those sled teams, here.