Today's D Brief: Pipeline, ransomed; Israel-Gaza fight intensifies; USAF looks past F-22; Service chiefs speak; And just a bit more.
Colonial Pipeline latest: The company paid $5 million in ransom to get its operations back up and running, and they paid that fee last Friday, Bloomberg reports nearly a week after the funds were transferred.
About the ransom: “The company paid the hefty ransom in untraceable cryptocurrency within hours after the attack, underscoring the immense pressure faced by the Georgia-based operator to get gasoline and jet fuel flowing again to major cities,” Bloomberg’s William Turton reports.
President Biden will speak about the incident just before noon ET from the Roosevelt Room, the White House says.
ICYMI: Biden signed an executive order Wednesday evening that the White House says will “chart a new course to improve the nation’s cybersecurity.” Defense One’s Patrick Tucker explains what’s in it.
More from the WH: “This incident demonstrates that Federal agencies and the private sector must work collaboratively to learn the lessons of this incident, strengthen cybersecurity practices, and deploy technologies that increase resilience against cyberattacks.”
From Defense One
White House Aims To Beef Up Nation’s Cybersecurity After Pipeline Hack // Patrick Tucker: A new executive order shifts how the government buys software and gives consumers visibility into products’ security features.
The Air Force is Planning For a Future Without the F-22 // Marcus Weisgerber and Tara Copp: Just four fighters will make up the future fleet: F-35, F-16, F-15EX, and NGAD, chief says.
DHS, DOJ Look to Spend Big on Countering Violent Domestic Extremism // Patrick Tucker: New money, new programs will fight what officials described as a growing problem.
Space Force Aims to Take on an Air Force Surveillance Mission // Tara Copp: Ground Moving Target Indicator satellites would begin to replace decades-old aircraft as the newest service expands its mission set.
Lawmakers Scold Pentagon for Leaving Afghanistan Without ‘Over-the-Horizon’ Plan // Jacqueline Feldscher: “Why would we leave Bagram when we don’t have an alternative closer than UAE?” said the Armed Services Committee’s top Republican.
Shake Off the Pentagon's Industrial-Age Bureaucracy // Dan Ward, Pete Modigliani, and Matt MacGregor: Five disciplines and five initiatives can help the U.S. military better adapt to 21st-century threats.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1862 and at about 3 a.m. in the morning, enslaved South Carolina man Robert Smalls piloted the Confederate military boat CSS Planter away from Charleston harbor — containing seven other enslaved crew members and their families, who didn't know of Smalls' escape plan until aboard the boat. Once out of gun range of Fort Sumter, Smalls lowered the Confederate flag and raised a white sheet as he steered the Planter — and its 200 pounds of ammunition — toward the Union Navy. He was met by the crew of the USS Onward just before sunrise, delivering all aboard the Planter to freedom at last.
The Israel-Gaza fighting appears to be the worst since the 2000 intifada, the Associated Press reports. “Hamas sent a heavy barrage of rockets deep into Israel on Thursday, and Israel pounded Gaza with more airstrikes. The relentless escalation of hostilities came even as Egyptian negotiators held in-person talks with the two sides, intensifying efforts at mediation,” the news agency reported. “While some rocket attacks have reached the Tel Aviv area, Arab and Jewish mobs have rampaged through the streets, savagely beating people and torching cars. Flights have been canceled or diverted away from the country’s main airport.”
Israeli boots: “Israel said it had three brigades of ground troops on standby near Gaza, raising the potential for a devastating escalation of the conflict,” the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The U.S. is calling for a “comprehensive ceasefire” in Yemen, State Secretary Antony Blinken tweeted Wednesday. More than half the country’s rural population has no electricity, and millions are still suffering from famine-like conditions, according to the UN.
For your eyes only: Here’s a 12-minute look at Yemen’s ports, which provide 90 percent of the country’s food.
Al-Qaeda in Yemen is trying to capitalize on Israeli-Hamas fighting, Yemen-watcher Elisabeth Kendall noted on Twitter Tuesday.
Someone is harming America’s spies and diplomats, even causing brain damage in some instances, the New York Times reported Wednesday — updating the “Havana syndrome” story that seemed to first surface five years ago. According to the Times, more than 130 people have been affected across the State and Defense Departments, as well as the CIA. So far, “The Biden administration has not determined who or what is responsible for the episodes or whether they constitute attacks.” Full story, here.
The U.S. Army moves closer to a new milestone today: Former Pentagon official Christine Wormuth is widely expected to breeze through her confirmation hearing this morning (livestream here) before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Last month, President Biden nominated Wormuth to become the Army’s next secretary, which — if confirmed — would make her the first woman in U.S. history to hold that post.
Wormuth previously served as deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans, and forces from 2012 to 2014. Before that, she served as principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and civil support starting in 2009, and later worked as senior director for defense policy on the National Security Council under POTUS44. Defense One’s Tara Copp has more on the significance of Wormuth’s nomination, here.
Elsewhere on the Hill, Navy and Marine Corps officials are testifying on servicemembers’ quality of life before the House Appropriations’ Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Subcommittee. A quick review of opening statements reminds us:
- The U.S. Navy has 71 installations across the world, and “about 92 ships deployed away from port on any given day,” says Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith. “This puts a strain on our force that is greater than has ever existed in our history,” he writes in his prepared testimony.
- And just last month, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany (in southern Georgia, about two hours north of Tallahassee) “became the first United States Marine Corps installation to achieve ‘Net Zero’ energy status, which means the installation produces as much electricity from renewable ‘green’ energy sources as it consumes,” according to Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Environment, Installations and Energy Todd Schafer.
Related: The EPA says climate change is causing more frequent coastal floods, according to the Washington Post. “The destruction of year-round permafrost in Alaska, loss of winter ice on the Great Lakes and spike in summer heat waves in U.S. cities all signal that climate change is intensifying,” the Post reports. That “assessment, which languished under the Trump administration for three years, marks the first time the agency has said such changes are being driven at least in part by human-caused global warming.” Read on, here.
Also on the Hill today: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials will review staffing and mission priorities this morning before the House Appropriations’ Subcommittee Homeland Security. That began at 10 a.m. ET; details here.
Immigration at America’s southern border is also the focus of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing this morning. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is testifying for that one, which you can catch on C-Span, here.
BTW: More single adults are attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, AP reports off the latest ICE stats. “The Border Patrol had 108,301 such encounters in April, up 12% from March,” AP writes, noting that “Nearly nine of 10 adult encounters ended in expulsions under pandemic-related authority that began under former President Donald Trump and continued under Biden.” Read on, here.
And lastly: The chiefs of the Navy, Marine Corps and Army are all slated to speak today at the conclusion of McAleese’s virtual “Defense Programs” Conference. Navy Adm. Mike Gilday is up at 10:30 a.m. ET, followed by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger at 11:30 a.m. Vice Chief of the Joint Staff, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, speaks about two hours later, just before Army Chief Gen. McConville, who’s scheduled to speak at 2:05 p.m. Details here.