Today's D Brief: Draft Afghanistan peace plan; Hill hearing season; CIA’s Sahara base; No NSA-Cybercom split yet; And a bit more.
It’s posture hearing season, and INDO-PACOM’s commander is up first. U.S. Navy Adm. Philip Davidson is already testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning in a session that began at 9:30 a.m. ET. The ostensible reason for the hearing: a “review of the fiscal 2022 defense authorization request and the Future Years Defense Program.” Catch that live here.
Also from the Hill: Lockheed Martin has agreed to pay the Pentagon more than $70 million for F-35 parts delivery delays, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said Monday.
Where that comes from: “In June 2019, the DOD Inspector General (IG) estimated that DOD spent more than $300 million on additional labor costs between 2015 and 2018 as a result of Lockheed Martin’s failure to provide F-35 spare parts with logs and that DOD will continue to pay $55 million a year if issues are not resolved,” the lawmakers write. Much more to that expensive backstory, here.
ICYMI: Since 2011, “an ever-smaller pool of contractors won bigger pieces of a growing defense budget,” Bloomberg reported Monday after reviewing the numbers.
One big reason this matters: “A limited number of Pentagon suppliers can lead to ‘potentially higher prices paid due to a lack of competition,’ the inspector general said in an October report on the department’s top fiscal 2021 management challenges.” More from Bloomberg, here.
Get to better know America’s “ICBM Lobby,” via a new 32-page report (PDF) from the Center for International Policy’s William Hartung.
Why this matters, according to Hartung: “There is no strategic need to build a new one — and certainly not at a staggering lifetime cost of $264 billion,” as Bloomberg’s Editorial Board explained in a dissenting op-ed from late February.
Instead, Hartung advises, “We should shift the funds set aside for a new ICBM towards addressing the most urgent threats we face, rather than squandering them on a system that puts us all at risk by making an accidental nuclear war more likely.” (More in an explanatory Twitter thread from CIP, here.)
Read more about ICBMs via Defense One’s full coverage, here.
From Defense One
Splitting NSA, CyberCom Now Could Reduce Military Access to Intelligence, Milley Says // Patrick Tucker: The Joint Chiefs chairman says the organizations have not yet worked out how to keep the data flowing after the long-awaited split.
Biden Nominates Two Women To Lead Combatant Commands // Marcus Weisgerber: They would become just the second and third women to head up a top-level joint military command.
With Iran, First Prevent the Nukes // Jon Wolfsthal and Dalia Dassa Kaye: If Tehran gets the Bomb, every other regional problem immediately gets a lot harder.
Five Ways to Prepare Now for the Next Pandemic // Angela Clendenin and Tiffany A. Radcliff, The Conversation: Suggestion from public-health researchers with experience in disaster response.
Guns Are a Threat to the Body Politic // Joseph Blocher and Reva Siegel, The Atlantic: America must regulate guns not only to protect life, but to protect its citizens’ equal freedoms to speak, assemble, worship, and vote without fear.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with 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 1454, the explorer for whom “America” was named, Amerigo Vespucci, was born in Florence, in modern-day Italy.
The U.S. has given an eight-page draft peace agreement to Afghanistan's warring sides, even as the State Department remains open to a May 1 troop withdrawal, the Associated Press reported Monday.
There are several notable elements to the draft, including “terms of a cease-fire and its enforcement,” which would follow an initial 90-day window wherein violence would fall. The U.S. has also recommended “truth and reconciliation commission aimed at healing 42 years of conflict,” and the U.S. wants the Taliban to pull up its stakes (“remove all its military and military structures”) from neighboring countries like Pakistan, AP writes.
Key to the plan: A power-sharing deal between the current Afghan government in Kabul and the Taliban, CNN reports.
Context: “With less U.S. tactical support, Afghanistan’s elite forces are struggling to roll back Taliban advances,” the Washington Post reported over the weekend.
The U.S. Air Force just sent B-52s to the Middle East for the fourth time this year, U.S. Central Command announced Sunday, calling it “a multinational patrol mission across the Middle East today to deter aggression and reassure partners and allies.”
These are flights widely understood to serve as a deterrent against Iran, which is at least partly why CENTCOM said “multiple partner nations...including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar” joined at different points in the flight.
For what it’s worth, “Temporary long-range bomber deployments into the region dates back to 2015,” CENTCOM added, emphasizing the pre-POTUS45 nature of these missions. A bit more here.
By the way: Robert Levinson, the “longest-held hostage in U.S. history” has been missing for now 14 years, the White House reminded us this morning in a statement. “After 14 years and repeated, persistent efforts to secure Iran’s cooperation in locating Mr. Levinson, we are still without answers,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said this morning. “Nevertheless, we will continue to demand answers and to hold Iran accountable for his abduction, detention, and probable death. We will not relent until all of our citizens who continue to be wrongfully detained in Iran and around the world, are returned to their families.” A bit more here.
The C.I.A.’s base in Niger is growing, with a nearly doubled runway now and “what appears to be an MQ-9 Reaper drone taxiing to or from a clamshell hangar,” the New York Times reported Monday after reviewing recent satellite imagery from last week.
CENTCOM and the Iowa National Guard will be in charge of Kosovo’s first-ever overseas troop deployment, which will take 32 soldiers to Kuwait, AP reports.
Background: "The 3,400-troop Kosovo Security Force was turned into a regular army two years ago," AP writes. "In about a decade, Kosovo’s lightly armed army is expected to have 5,000 troops and 3,000 reservists tasked with handling crisis response and civil protection operations." More here.
After the insurrection. A retractable fence around the U.S. Capitol is just one of several improved security measures recommended in the post-Jan.6 Capitol complex security review led by Russel Honoré, a retired Army three-star. (Read the full document, which was commissioned by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, via CNN, here.)
Worth noting: “The prospect of a permanent Capitol fence, even a retractable one, is already raising bipartisan questions and bound to run into further local skepticism by closing the building off from the public,” Politico reported Monday.
A permanent “quick-reaction” force of Guard and Reserve soldiers is another recommendation. House officials say they’ll now review Honoré’s report and could decide what to do next “in coming days,” Military Times reports. More here.
The U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force are resuming the diversity training that Trump banned, Military.com reported. Of interest: each service responded slightly differently to the White House’s Sept. 4 order. The Air Force began canceling diversity-training contracts within a week, and has now begun to revive those contracts. The Army waited until December, then issued guidance allowing training to resume immediately when the Biden administration rescinded the ban. Read on, here.
And finally: It’s starting to look like we may have reached the beginning of the end of the pandemic. The C.D.C. on Monday published updated guidance for immunized people, offering “a glimpse at the next stage of the coronavirus pandemic,” the New York Times reports.
Updated travel advice was in the works; but that’s been put on hold for now, Politico reports.