The D Brief: COVID, rising; Taliban, crowing; Hypersonic’s first flight; Warehouse of the future; And just a bit more…

POTUS, CDC chief plead for vigilance as COVID cases rise again. By April 19, President Joe Biden said Monday, 90 percent of U.S. adults will be eligible for vaccination and will have places to do it within five miles of their homes. But with cases nationwide jumping more than 10 percent in a week, Biden warned about a potential “fourth surge” and urged state and local governments to keep mask mandates, business limitations, and other measures intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus. (AP)

Proposal: a pandemic treaty. In a joint letter published Tuesday in various newspapers around the world, the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, and nearly two dozen other countries call for an international agreement to help coordinate responses to pandemics. NPR: “This comes as much of Europe is struggling to get enough vaccines and as the EU and a post-Brexit U.K. are locked in a dispute over vaccine deliveries.”

Origin story: “A joint World Health Organization-China study on the origins of COVID-19 says that transmission of the virus from bats to humans through another animal is the most likely scenario and that a lab leak is ‘extremely unlikely,’” according to a draft copy of the study obtained by the Associated Press. But: “Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert, said he would like to see the report’s raw information first before deciding about its credibility.” AP has a bit more, here.

Threat watch: “Antiscience has emerged as a dominant and highly lethal force, and one that threatens global security, as much as do terrorism and nuclear proliferation,” writes Peter Hotez in Scientific American, defining the term as “the rejection of mainstream scientific views and methods or their replacement with unproven or deliberately misleading theories, often for nefarious and political gains.” In the 1930s and 1940s, Hotez notes, Stalin’s embrace of Lysenko’s claptrap killed millions by famine. 

Now “antiscience is causing mass deaths once again in this COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in the spring of 2020, the Trump White House launched a coordinated disinformation campaign that dismissed the severity of the epidemic in the United States, attributed COVID deaths to other causes...and asserted that ultimately the epidemic would spontaneously evaporate. It also promoted hydroxychloroquine as a spectacular cure, while downplaying the importance of masks. Other authoritarian or populist regimes in Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines and Tanzania adopted some or all of these elements.”   

So what now? “We must mount a counteroffensive and build new infrastructure to combat antiscience, just as we have for these other more widely recognized and established threats.” Read Hotez’s piece, here.


From Defense One

A Marine Logistics Base May Be the Warehouse of the Future // Patrick Tucker: Virginia Tech researchers aim to use 5G networks to track items as they come and go.

The U.S. Doesn’t Know How to Treat Its Allies // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: If Biden wants to counter China, the U.S. needs to make some sacrifices.

America’s Immigration Amnesia // Caitlin Dickerson, The Atlantic: Despite recurrent claims of crisis at the border, the United States still does not have a coherent immigration policy.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston with Elizabeth Howe. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. OTD1939: A Heinkel He 100 set a new absolute airspeed record of 463 mph, blowing away the existing record by some 70 mph. 


Army leaders believe great power competition is an “infinite game,” according to a document obtained by Defense News that outlines the service’s new thinking about its role in said competition. As warfare evolves, so must the Army’s role — to include deterring conflict, upholding U.S. interests, and building relationships with allies and partners, the document reads. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville writes in the preface that military competition is a “scenario that will likely continuously play out to different degrees at all times.” Read on, here.

Taliban: We won. That’s the message, implicit and all but explicit, from the group’s negotiators, the New York Times’ Adam Nossiter writes from Kabul. “On the eve of talks in Turkey next month over the country’s future, it is the elephant in the room: the half-acknowledged truth that the Taliban have the upper hand and are thus showing little outward interest in compromise, or of going along with the dominant American idea, power-sharing.” Read on, here.

Report: SolarWinds hack breached DHS chief’s email. “Suspected Russian hackers gained access to email accounts belonging to the Trump administration’s head of the Department of Homeland Security and members of the department’s cybersecurity staff whose jobs included hunting threats from foreign countries,” AP reports off interviews with “more than a dozen current and former U.S. government officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the confidential nature of the ongoing investigation into the hack.”

Army stages first brigade-sized field test for new network capabilities. Three years in the making, the April tests at Fort Polk in Louisiana are intended to gather soldiers’ feedback on how the equipment — modernized radios, tactical cell phones, and network gear advertised as “the most advanced networking and communications gear in the Army” — actually works in the field, C4ISRNet reports

The gear is all part of the Army’s Integrated Tactical Network, or ITN, an effort to use existing networks to improve capabilities and communication in the field. After the Fort Polk field tests, the Army plans to send ITN equipment to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Europe. Four additional infantry brigades will get the equipment during FY 2021, and four more plus a Stryker brigade will get it in 2022. 

The Air Force could soon flight-test hypersonic missiles. Test flights for the AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, have been delayed several times for undisclosed technical issues. But memos from the FAA and the arrival of test equipment near Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, suggest the ARRW test launches could begin today, The Drive reports.

The Air Force plans to buy eight of these missiles to become its first hypersonic weapons. Four of the eight should be included in this first round of test launches. The test launches and flights will also help determine how exactly the Air Force will be integrating these missiles. Recent discussions have suggested the ARRW may one day be integrated onto the B-1B bomber.

New SOCOM diversity chief under investigation. “U.S. Special Operations Command is investigating its new chief of diversity and inclusion over social media posts criticizing police and former President Donald Trump,” officials confirmed Monday in response to an inquiry by Military.com. A bit more, including screenshots of posts that may be part of the investigation, here.

Lastly today: robot dogs are officially on duty at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. The “quad-legged unmanned ground vehicles” aren’t meant to replace military working dogs, but rather add an additional layer of security with their plethora of cameras and sensors, UPI reports

Prototypes of the four-legged robots, designed by Ghost Robotics of Philadelphia and Immersive Wisdom of Boca Raton, Fla., have been around since September. They hit the ground at Tyndall on March 22 and are now patrolling remote areas of the installation, which is still being rebuilt after 2018’s Hurricane Michael.

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