Today's D Brief: FBI chief on the Hill; AI plan; Troops deploy to help vaccinate; COVID-variants warning; And a bit more.

FBI Director Chris Wray is testifying this morning before lawmakers with the Senate Judiciary Committee, his first public trip to Capitol Hill since September. The scope of his hearing is apt to be both incredibly broad and quite specific: lawmakers want to zero in on Wray’s oversight of the bureau in light of the Jan. 6 failed insurrection and the recent rise in domestic terrorism across America. 

Was the National Guard slow to respond on Jan. 6? “From my perspective, I don’t think that’s a fair assessment,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley told reporters traveling with him this week. (Reporters like Defense One’s Patrick Tucker, e.g.) “If the forces were there, they were ready to go, as part of the preparatory stuff, then I would say, ok, that’s a fair assessment,” Milley continued. “But this is the D.C. National Guard that went from a cold start. And they had troops there in two and a half, three hours. Delta Force takes, well I won’t even say what it takes because it's probably classified but they reacted faster than our most elite forces. [I’ll] Put it that way.”

Milley also cast doubt on a POTUS45 claim on Sunday, via Fox News: That Trump requested 10,000 National Guard troops before Jan. 6 and “the people at the Capitol...rejected it.” Milley said he knows of no such request. “As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, if there was an order for 10,000 National Guardsmen, I would like to believe I would know that. I know that was never transmitted to me by anyone, the President, the Secretary of Defense or anyone else, for the 6th of January. I don’t know if he did or didn’t. He might have had a phone call; I’m not saying that [did not happen]. I can’t comment on that. All I know is what I know, and I know I wasn’t directed by anyone at any time to provide 10,000 troops. I’m not trying to contradict anybody, I’m just saying he may have given those orders; but they didn’t come to me.” The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler unpacks this

Also happening on Capitol Hill today: Global Security Challenges and Strategy” is the topic of discussion before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning. Former POTUS45 National Security Advisor retired Army Gen. H.R. McMaster joins Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution for that one, which started at 9:30 a.m. ET. Catch the livestream here

Service academy superintendents are also testifying this morning before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. That includes Vice Adm. Sean Buck of the Naval Academy; Lt. Gen. Richard Clark of the Air Force Academy; and Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams of West Point. Find opening statements and the livestream link here

From Defense One

A Solid Plan to Compete with China in Artificial Intelligence // Megan Lamberth and Martijn Rasser: The NSCAI’s new report should also be taken as the first plank in a national technology strategy.

Modeling Software Once Led Us to the Precipice of Nuclear War. What Will AI Do? // Steve Blank: The Pentagon must heed the lessons of RYAN and Able Archer amid its artificial-intelligence aspirations.

A Salami Slice for Taiwan’s Security // Andrew Latham: The U.S. can put a revisionist tactic to its own use in the Western Pacific.

Why Invest in Hypersonic Technology? // AJ Piplica: Weapons aren’t the endgame. Hypersonic aircraft are next.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Patrick Tucker 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

President Biden will speak this afternoon about the COVID-19 pandemic from the White House’s State Dining Room.
The Pentagon on Monday unveiled a multi-state vaccination operation that U.S. troops will be helping with in the coming days and weeks. That includes 730 personnel tasked with supporting “community vaccination centers in New Jersey, Texas, California, Florida and St. Thomas.” (Lucky assignment for the last spot, which two dozen troops will be visiting.)
The full list includes: 

  • 222 soldiers from Colorado’s Fort Carson who will be helping out at California State University in Los Angeles;
  • 139 soldiers from Fort Riley, Kansas, heading to Fair Park Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas;
  • Almost two dozen Fort Campbell soldiers are going to the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, N.J., with follow-on assignments at the Calvary Baptist Church and the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, both in Paterson, N.J.;
  • 25 soldiers from Fort Campbell and Fort Carson will help at the Iglesia Pentecostal Church and Trenton Central High School, both in Trenton, N.J., and they’ll later pivot to a vaccination site in Camden;
  • 23 more soldiers from Fort Bliss, Texas, Fort Campbell, Ky., and Colorado’s Fort Carson will head to the Thomas G. Dunn Sports Center in Elizabeth, N.J.;
  • 139 soldiers from Fort Campbell are supporting vaccinations the at Valencia College West Campus in Orlando;
  • 139 soldiers from Fort Riley are helping at Miami Dade Community College (North Campus) in Miami;
  • And 24 soldiers from Fort Bliss “and various U.S. Army Medical Command locations” are making that trip to the Bahamas, at the University of the Virgin Islands campus on St. Thomas.

Meanwhile, the head of the CDC warned not to let up on masking and other counter-COVID efforts. “Please hear me clearly: at this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on Monday. “These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress.” BBC News reports

POTUS46’s national security advisor just spoke to his South Korean counterpart, the White House announced Monday. Discussed: “the strength of the U.S.-ROK Alliance, their shared commitment to coordinate closely on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the importance of maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula,” as well as COVID-19 and climate change.
Not mentioned in the White House’s release: What the Biden administration is going to do about the outstanding negotiations over South Korea hosting U.S. troops, as the former president complicated somewhat by increasing Washington’s asking price.
Rewind: “Seoul agreed to pay $926 million [to host U.S. forces] in 2019, an 8.2% increase for a one-year, stopgap deal,” the Wall Street Journal reported back in July. “No cost-sharing accord has been in effect since the 2019 deal, known as the Special Measures Agreement, lapsed in December.”
The latest there: The two nations are currently quietly working out a  “multi-year agreement that increases Seoul's contribution to cover the presence of US troops at around the 13% increase South Korea had suggested in 2020,” CNN reported in Feb.
Next week, the U.S. and RoK militaries will begin a nine-day joint exercise — though most of that is expected to take place “as computer simulations,” The Diplomat reports in a preview.