Today's D Brief: Kim tests missiles; ISIS hit with hundreds more airstrikes; China’s AI; Domestic-terror hearings; And a bit more.
North Korea’s new missile tests. The “Hermit Kingdom” is back in the headlines after launching what the Washington Post called “multiple short-range missiles” on Sunday in Pyongyang’s first challenge to the Biden administration. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency later identified them as cruise missiles, which “are not sanctioned by U.N. Security Council resolutions.”
The Sunday test follows nine days of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which began in early March and — like the last two iterations in 2020 and 2019 — were also “computer-simulated command post” drills, according to Reuters and The Diplomat. (There were also early indications the North was maneuvering for some kind of new activity, but exactly what was unclear, as 38 North reported on March 12.)
You may remember that large-scale U.S.-RoK drills like the “Foal Eagle” exercise have not been conducted as planned since 2017, the year before POTUS45’s infamous “fire and fury” threats that led to an unprecedented summit between the two nations’ leaders in Singapore in 2018. Since then, North Korea “has refrained from detonating a nuclear device or launching a long-range missile,” the Post reports.
BTW: North Korea has launched at least 36 rockets since that Singapore summit, according to the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies North Korea Missile Test Database.
About this latest launch: “We see this action in the category of normal activity,” White House officials told reporters in a background call late Tuesday afternoon. “North Korea has a familiar menu of provocations when it wants to send a message to a U.S. administration: ballistic missiles of various range, mobile and submarine launch platforms, nuclear and thermonuclear tests. Experts rightly recognized what took place last weekend as falling on the low end of that spectrum.”
What next? The Washington Post lays out several options available to the White House, and nearly all of them have been tried by previous presidents with either very little or no success at all. Continue reading here.
From Defense One
China Is ‘Danger Close’ to US in AI Race, DOD AI Chief Says // Patrick Tucker: JAIC leader stresses that AI ethics guidelines don’t slow down the United States. In fact, they are essential.
Pentagon Picks Lockheed, Northrop-Raytheon Team to Develop Missile Interceptors // Marcus Weisgerber: Officials reject a bid by Boeing, which builds the current generation of missile interceptors.
The U.S. and China Finally Get Real With Each Other // Thomas Wright: The exchange in Alaska may have seemed like a debacle, but it was actually a necessary step to a more stable relationship between the two countries.
What Trump Got Wrong About Protecting GPS // Dana A. Goward, Nextgov: The 2020 policy change largely ignores first responders; local, state, and federal agencies; the Post Office; drone operators; and medium and small businesses — and cements GPS as a prime target for our enemies.
Welcome to this Wednesday 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 1998, an 11- and 13-year-old shot and killed four students (two 12-year-olds and two 11-year-olds) and teacher at the Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, Arkansas. At the time, it was America’s third school shooting in less than a year. Just 13 months later, the Columbine High School massacre would claim the lives of another 12 students and a teacher. Why does America have so many mass shootings? Because of “its astronomical number of guns,” the New York Times reports today.
Another counter-ISIS operation in Iraq’s mountains is still ongoing. And it’s alleged to involve 312 airstrikes that have helped destroy 120 hideouts and killed more than two dozen fighters, according to a new tweet from U.S. Army Col. Wayne Morotto, a spokesman for OIR, this morning.
That’s on top of the “major offensive” in the Qarachogh mountain region that Brian Everstine wrote about Monday in Air Force Magazine. More than 130 airstrikes were launched during a 10-day operation that targeted a “cave complex” used by the terrorist group near Iraq’s Qarachogh mountain.
Twenty-four different Qarachogh caves were hit with precision-guided munitions, Morotto tweeted Sunday. Another 61 alleged “hideouts” were also destroyed in the operation, which saw the U.S. providing air support for Iraqi ground forces.
FWIW: U.S. officials believe at least 8,000 ISIS fighters remain across both Iraq and Syria, which is down a couple thousand from a U.S. estimate just 12 months prior. More on that via a Pentagon report from early February (PDF) here.
U.S. intelligence intercepts suggest Iran wants to attack Fort McNair, just south of the U.S. Capitol, the Associated Press’s Jim LaPorta reported Sunday. “The intelligence also revealed threats to kill [Army Vice Chief] Gen. Joseph M. Martin and plans to infiltrate and surveil the installation,” LaPorta writes, citing “communications intercepted by the National Security Agency in January.”
Meanwhile, “City leaders have been fighting the Army’s plan to add a buffer zone of about 250 feet to 500 feet (75 meters to 150 meters) from the shore of the Washington Channel, which would limit access to as much as half the width of the busy waterway running parallel to the Potomac River.” Read on at AP.
Police have removed an outer layer of fencing around the U.S. Capitol building, but they insist they’re “ready to quickly ramp up security at a moment’s notice, if needed,” the department said in a new statement this morning.
There is still an “inner layer” of fencing in place. And that will apparently remain “while the Department works with our congressional stakeholders and law enforcement partners to strengthen our security posture.”
Today on Capitol Hill, domestic terrorism is the focus of hearing now underway before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence and Counterterrorism. Catch that one here.
- “Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention” is what House appropriators are discussing this morning. Find that one here.
- Former CENTCOM commander retired Army Gen. Joseph Votel joins a panel of witnesses to discuss “future crises” and America’s National Response Enterprise. That, too, started at 10 a.m.
- The Texas energy grid failure draws the attention of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. That starts just before noon.
- And “Extremism in the Armed Forces” is the focus of a noon hearing before the House Armed Services Committee.
- The House Veterans Affairs Committee is looking into COVID’s effect on the VA’s supply chain in an afternoon hearing.
- Several DOD and VA officials are testifying today on the impact of PFAS. That starts at 2 p.m.
- And SASC takes up “sexual assault in the military” at 2:30 p.m. Details here.