Today's D Brief: Budget Day, here at last; Tracking space junk; Afghanistan pullout; USAID, hacked; And a bit more.
It’s Budget Day at the Pentagon, at last. This morning, public-affairs officials are distributing embargoed documents detailing the Biden administration’s $715 billion defense spending request for 2022. Press briefings will follow this afternoon. Stay tuned for service-by-service looks at the budget proposals.
By the calendar, it will be the latest annual spending request submitted by a presidential administration in at least 100 years, writes Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber, and perhaps that means it will bring more spending shifts than the typical first budget of an administration.
Still, big change may wait until the 2023 request, which is expected to be influenced by the Pentagon’s ongoing Global Posture Review, Weisgerber reports.
SecDef on the budget. “It invests in hypersonic weapons, artificial intelligence, micro electronics, 5G technology, cyber capabilities, shipbuilding, climate change resilience, and nuclear modern modernization to name a few,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee Thursday.
Stay tuned for budget coverage today from Defense One.
From Defense One
Analysis: Here’s What to Look For in Biden’s First Pentagon Budget Request // Marcus Weisgerber: DOD likely to face fight from Congress on plans to divest older weapons.
As Space Junk Multiplies, Pentagon Is Stuck Tracking It for Civilians // Jacqueline Feldscher: Private industry is launching at a pace with which the military’s space-surveillance system can’t keep up. Now lawmakers say the Commerce Department’s fix is running late.
If the Lab-Leak Theory Is Right, What’s Next? // Daniel Engber, The Atlantic: We know enough to acknowledge that the scenario is possible, and we should therefore act as though it’s true.
The Army Brief // Caitlin M. Kenney: Wormuth confirmed; evacuating Afghan interpreters; Budget Day; and more...
The Naval Brief // Caitlin M. Kenney: USS Reagan to aid drawdown; Big exercise planned; Former Navy Secretary dies; and more...
Don’t Just End the War in Afghanistan, Repeal the Resolution That Authorized It // John Glaser and Gene Healy: No current threat remotely justifies roving presidential authority to wage war on multiple continents.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston (above) and Ben Watson (below). And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1998, Pakistan confirmed to the world that it had nuclear weapons when it simultaneously detonated five nuclear bombs underground in a wave of tests widely seen as a direct response to Indian nuclear tests about two weeks prior.
NATO’s chief says Afghan troops are capable of coping without alliance forces, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday in an interview with the Associated Press.
“Afghanistan has come a long way, both when it comes to building strong, capable security forces, but also when it comes to social and economic progress. At some stage, it has to be the Afghans that take full responsibility for peace and stability in their own country,” Stoltenberg said “aboard a U.K. aircraft carrier involved in wargames off the coast of Portugal,” according to AP.
NATO is also considering how it can train some Afghan troops outside of Afghanistan, and it “plans to provide financial support to keep Kabul airport up and running,” but no decisions are expected to be announced before next month’s alliance summit in Brussels.
Microsoft says Russian-linked hackers have breached USAID systems and are still trying to spearphish more than 3,000 accounts belonging to “human rights groups and other organizations of the sort that have been critical of President Vladimir V. Putin,” the New York Times reports, identifying the group as Nobelium, which is the same group believed to be responsible for the so-called SolarWinds hack revealed in December.
Especially concerning: Those apparent USAID emails were “implanted with code that would give the hackers unlimited access to the computer systems of the recipients.” And according to Microsoft, the attacks are ongoing.
Bigger picture: Russia’s hackers have “grown increasingly aggressive and creative,” experts told the Times. And this latest instance “suggests Russia’s intelligence agencies are stepping up their campaign, perhaps to demonstrate that the country would not back down in the face of sanctions, the expulsion of diplomats and other pressure.” Read on, here.
The U.S. is pulling out of the Open Skies Treaty, citing “Russia's failure to take any actions to return to compliance,” the State Department said Thursday. The treaty, which was signed in 1992, allows its 34 signatories — including the U.S. and Russia — to conduct trust-building surveillance flights over each others’ territory to collect information on military activities and provide reassurance that no one is planning a major offensive against another. But, as Defense One reported last May, “American officials have long complained that Russia has failed to comply with the deal, forbidding overflights of key strategic regions and military exercises — and privately, that Moscow is using its flights to collect sensitive information on American infrastructure to plan potential attacks.”
Background: “Under Donald Trump's presidency Washington withdrew from the treaty,” the BBC reminds us. And just last week, Russia’s lower house of parliament voted to follow Trump’s decision to exit the treaty, AP’s Matt Lee reported Thursday, adding, “The upper house of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council, was expected to approve the withdrawal bill on June 2, and once Putin signed the measure, it would take six months for the Russian exit to take effect.”
On the wider significance: Now “only one major arms control treaty between the nuclear powers — the New START treaty — will remain in place,” AP writes.
One near-term benefit: “[I]t takes one potential area of immediate collaboration off the table as President Joe Biden prepares to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next month,” CNN reports.
ICYMI: After a procedural false start, the U.S. Army finally has its first-ever female secretary now that Christine Wormuth was confirmed again in a unanimous Senate vote Thursday morning.
And finally this week: Remember that company the Trump administration was letting extract oil from Syria? The Biden administration has decided to not renew the company’s waiver, AP reported Thursday.
About the company: It’s called Delta Crescent Energy LLC, and Politico reported in August that it was incorporated in Delaware back in February 2019. “Its partners include former U.S. ambassador to Denmark James Cain; James Reese, a former officer in the Army’s elite Delta Force; and John P. Dorrier Jr., a former executive at GulfSands Petroleum, a U.K.-based oil company with offices and drilling experience in Syria.” Read more at Al-Monitor, here.