Today's D Brief: Vaccine outreach; Space Force wish list; New national-security threat; Ransomware, upgraded; And a bit more.
The U.S. will soon give 80 million COVID vaccine doses to nations in need across the world, President Joe Biden announced Thursday, saying the U.S. effort isn’t designed “to secure favors or extract concessions” from America’s neighbors, partners, allies and friends.
“We are sharing these vaccines to save lives and to lead the world in bringing an end to the pandemic, with the power of our example and with our values,” Biden said in a statement.
The first 25 million doses will come from federal supplies of the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, said White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients on Thursday. “These are doses that are being given — donated free and clear — to these countries for the sole purpose of improving the public health situation and helping end the pandemic,” Zients told reporters.
To put this in perspective, COVAX, the WHO organization coordinating donated vaccines to those in need, “has already delivered nearly 80 million doses to 127 territories, with AstraZeneca shots making up 97 percent of doses supplied so far — the rest being Pfizer-BioNTech,” Agence France-Presse reports.
BTW: China’s vaccine outreach efforts seem decidedly more profit-driven, according to metrics maintained by Beijing-based firm Bridge Consulting (and following up on Quartz reporting from May 21). To date, China has donated 22 million of its COVID vaccines to nations around the world. By contrast, it has sold 732 million to various nations, and it has distributed 256 million overall so far, with the largest percentage routed to nations nearby in the Asia-Pacific.
Russia wants to step up its vaccine outreach game, too. And so the country’s autocratic leader told a crowd in St. Petersburg today that he expects “to analyze all aspects of this issue” by the end of June. That includes a look at “the conditions for foreign citizens to get a chance to get a vaccine on a commercial basis,” said President Vladimir Putin, without elaborating on potential costs for these would-be vaccine tourists. Read more at CNBC.
White House officials expect all 80 million U.S. doses to be distributed by the end of June, with some 6 million going to Latin America and the Caribbean, 7 million for South and Southeast Asia, and about 5 million headed to Africa. The remaining 6 million-plus doses, said Biden, “will be shared directly with countries experiencing surges, those in crisis, and other partners and neighbors,” and that includes Canada, Mexico, India, and South Korea.
“The United States will be the world’s arsenal of vaccines in our shared fight against this virus,” the president said. “And we will continue to follow the science and to work in close cooperation with our democratic partners to coordinate a multilateral effort, including through the G7.”
U.S. vaccine status report: 51% of U.S. residents has received at least one shot, while 41% are fully vaccinated, the New York Times reports. (These numbers include children under 12 who are not eligible for vaccination.)
By the numbers: Last week, average daily new cases dropped below 22,000 for the first time in a year, and deaths are down as well. But hundreds of Americans are still dying each day; on Thursday, COVID killed at least 428 in this country, bringing the total reported toll to 595,935. The actual toll is believed to be nearly double that; the University of Washington’s IHME tracker calculates total U.S. deaths to be upwards of 931,000.
DOD status report: Just 10% of U.S. military bases remain under some sort of COVID-related travel restrictions. The state-side bases with restrictions include:
- Detroit Arsenal (Michigan)
- Fort Bliss (Texas)
- Fort Huachuca (Arizona)
- Fort Rucker (Alabama)
- U.S. Army Garrison Alaska
- U.S. Army Garrison Miami (Florida)
- Westover Air Reserve Base (Massachusetts)
Half of the overseas installations with restrictions still in place are in Japan. That full list of OCONUS locations includes:
- U.S. Navy Fleet Activities Okinawa (Japan)
- U.S. Navy Fleet Activities Sasebo (Japan)
- Naval Air Facility Atsugi (Japan)
- Naval Air Facility Misawa (Japan)
- U.S. Navy Supply Depot Yokosuka (Japan)
- Kadena Air Base (Japan)
- Misawa Air Base (Japan)
- Yokota Air Base (Japan)
- U.S. Naval Base Guam
- U.S. Naval Support Activity Andersen (Guam)
- U.S. Naval Support Activity Bahrain
- Naval Air Station Sigonella (Italy)
- U.S. Naval Support Activity Naples (Italy)
- Ramstein Air Base (Germany)
- Spangdahlem Air Base (Germany)
- U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (Cuba)
From Defense One
Space Force Seeks $831.7M for Unfunded Priorities // Tara Copp: Projects left out of 2022 budget would boost Cheyenne Mountain security, space-based cryptology.
Biden: Government Must Draft Anti-Corruption Plan by December // Jacqueline Feldscher: Analysts hailed the memo’s designation of corruption as a national security threat and its deadline for action.
US Must Strengthen Israel’s Deterrence // Ari Cicurel and H Steven Blum: As Israel’s adversaries look to rearm and improve their own capabilities, Washington must act to help Israel deter another fight.
The Naval Brief // Caitlin M. Kenney: Another destroyer, please; Iranian warship sinks; Afghan evacuation plans; and more...
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1940, the British evacuation of Dunkirk concluded, saving the lives of more than 300,000 troops (though 16,000 French and about 1,000 British forces perished) as the temporarily hesitant Nazis closed in on the coastal French city.
SecDef Austin met with his Israeli counterpart Thursday at the Pentagon as part of Israeli officials’ swing through Washington, D.C., to ask for $1 billion to resupply Tel Aviv’s Iron Dome missile interceptor system. Austin and Israeli Minister of Defense Benjamin Gantz discussed UAV threats, the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire signed on May 21, and “creat[ing] conditions to re-engage in a meaningful way on the path to a two-state solution” between Israelis and Palestinians, according to a transcript of their public remarks.
When it comes to Iran and any potential return of a nuclear accord to curb Tehran's weapons program, Gantz said, “Let me be clear, Iran is, first and foremost, a global and regional problem. And it is also an existential threat to Israel as its own leaders openly declare.” That’s why “Israel must always make sure that it has the ability to protect itself,” Gantz said, and emphasized, “We will continue this important strategic dialogue in private discussion and by that manner only, not in the media in a provoking way. I am sure that through open dialogue behind closed doors, and in this spirit of cooperation and goodwill, we can achieve our goal.”
There’s a big cyber policy change underway in the U.S.: Ransomware attacks will soon be prioritized like terrorist attacks, Reuters reported Thursday citing a new decision out of the Department of Justice. “According to the guidance, the list of investigations that now require central notification include cases involving: counter anti-virus services, illicit online forums or marketplaces, cryptocurrency exchanges, bulletproof hosting services, botnets and online money laundering services.”
Already the FBI is investigating 100 kinds of ransomware, Director Chris Wray said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Friday. “The scale of this problem is one that I think the country has to come to terms with,” he said.
Worth noting: Russian hackers can’t seem to keep their hands out of the ransomware cookie jar. “Time and time again, a huge portion of [ransomware attacks] traced back to actors in Russia,” Wray told the Journal. “And so, if the Russian government wants to show that it’s serious about this issue, there’s a lot of room for them to demonstrate some real progress that we’re not seeing right now.”
So should companies pay these ransoms? Wray said he’d prefer the victims work with the FBI, even suggesting that his agents may be able to obtain encryption keys before money exchanges hands. Read on, here.
BTW: Ransomware and terrorism were among the topics discussed Thursday when Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan rang up his French counterpart, Emmanuel Bonne, ahead of next week’s G7 meeting and NATO Summit.
Also discussed: “the tax challenges arising from globalization,” which could tie into the Biden administration’s new and developing counter-corruption efforts. Sullivan and Bonne also chatted about “Russia, China, Iran, and the Sahel,” though with little elaboration, according to the White House’s readout.
The White House just added 59 Chinese entities to its blacklist of companies with alleged ties to the Chinese military or to the country’s major surveillance industry firms. The Washington Post has more on Biden’s expansion of the Trump-era ban, here.
And lastly today: Is it time to resurrect supersonic passenger flight? United Airlines is betting a portion of its future on 15 of the jets built by a Denver-based company called Boom Technology, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday — and on the anniversary of a fatal Russian supersonic jet crash at the 1973 Paris Air Show.
Critical caveat: “United said it would buy 15 of Boom’s planned Overture jets if the plane meets safety, operational and sustainability standards,” the Journal writes.
As far as what to expect, “Boom hopes to fly a scaled-down prototype later this year or early in 2022, with the full-size, 88-seat version targeted to carry passengers by 2029.”
Explained one skeptical consultant: “[T]here are only a handful of routes with enough traffic to support enough full-fare premium passengers, and not enough to justify the development and production of a supersonic jetliner.” Read on, here.