The D Brief: DOD to launch AI accelerator; Army’s pandemic warning; Taliban advance; New study reveals suicide’s toll; And a bit more...

The Defense Department will launch a new AI and data accelerator initiative, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said Monday during the 6th Annual Defense One Tech Summit. Within the next 90 days, teams under the AIDA Initiative will be going out to "every single combatant command and start to tie in their data, and they'll also have technical expert teams on AI and they'll start looking at how to bring AI and data to the to the tactical edge in support of the warfighter," said Hicks.

JEDI decision, coming soon. Hicks also said that the Department is currently assessing its options for moving forward to acquire a new joint enterprise cloud solution, now that the beleaguered JEDI contract is tied up in litigation. “We have a good sense of what our needs are and we're working through what the potential solutions are,” Hicks said in conversation with Defense One’s Patrick Tucker. “We’ll be moving forward … in a direction over the next, you know, month or so, but I'm not going to get into where we might end up.” Read on, here.

The Tech Summit continues virtually this afternoon (Eastern time) with Walter S. Chai, who directs the Missile Defense Agency’s Missile Integration and Operations Center; Derek M. Tournear, who directs the Space Development Agency; Col. Eric Felt, who leads the Space Vehicles Directorate at Kirtland AFB; and Kelly D. Hammett, who directs the Directed Energy Directorate of the Air Force Research Laboratory. Register here.

From Defense One

JEDI Cloud Update Coming Soon, Says Pentagon's No. 2 // Mila Jasper: Kathleen Hicks said the department is assessing just how it will buy large-scale cloud services.

‘This May Not Be The Big One’: Army Scientists Warn of Deadlier Pandemics to Come  // Tara Copp: The service is closing in on a “pan-coronavirus” vaccine and on synthetic antibodies that could protect a population before spread. But that may not be enough.

Boeing’s Top Lobbyist Leaves Company // Marcus Weisgerber: Tim Keating was close to CEO fired in 2019.

The Air & Space Brief // Tara Copp: Space laser-drone test; New tanker buy; Tourists to ISS; and more... 

US Companies Won’t Pay to Prepare for Cyber Attacks. Congress Must Step In // Corye Douglas: A combination of funding and regulation is needed to boost the defenses and resilience of the corporations that America depends on.

Iran Stops Pretending // Karim Sadjadpour, The Atlantic: The rigged “election” of Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s next president has the potential to be a turning point for the country. But its significance will be fully understood only in hindsight.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. OTD1942: Congress officially adopted the Pledge of Allegiance, which would be amended 12 years later to add the words “under God.”

In Afghanistan, another district falls to the Taliban. In the northern province of Kunduz, Taliban fighters took control of the Imam Sahib district and encircled the provincial capital city, AP reports. “The Taliban’s gains came as the Pentagon reaffirmed the U.S. troop withdrawal was still on pace to conclude by early September,” AP wrote. “Dozens of districts have fallen to the Taliban since May 1, when U.S. and NATO troops began their final departure from Afghanistan.” Many of the districts have strategic significance; Imam Sahib sits near the Tajikistan border and a key supply route from Central Asia. More, here.

Four times as many troops and veterans have died by suicide than in combat in the past two decades, according to a new study released on Monday by Brown University’s Costs of War project. “The 35-page study breaks down how traumatic brain injuries, better medical treatment of wartime injuries, an indifferent civilian public, and the protracted length of the post-9/11 wars have all piled on each other to drive the rate of military and veteran suicide numbers past civilian counterparts,” writes Task & Purpose.

By the study’s count: An estimated 7,057 service members have been killed in operation since 9/11, while 30,177 active duty service members and veterans have died by suicide. “The average suicide rate for post-9/11 veterans between 18 to 34 was 32.3 per 100,000 between 2005 and 2017, but it rose to 45.9 per 100,000 in 2018. That’s about 2.5 times the suicide rate of that of the general population, which is 18 per 100,000,” T&P wrote, here.

Iran’s president-elect urges nuclear talks to continue. The hard-line judge who won Friday’s election, Ebrahim Raisi, said Monday that he welcomes negotiations about returning to the 2015 nuclear deal, if it protects Iran’s “national interests.” Wall Street Journal: Raisi is “expected to agree to reimposing constraints on Iran’s nuclear program, he is seen as a more confrontational adversary to the West than his predecessor, current President Hassan Rouhani.”

In Libya, U.S. envoy presses foreign forces to withdraw before December elections. "There are negotiations underway with some of the key actors aimed at trying to remove some of the mercenaries, the foreign fighters," Special Envoy for Libya Richard Norland told reporters Monday, helping the newly elected government be fully empowered, credible and legitimate government. 

This week: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Second Berlin Conference on Libya.

ICYMI: “Libya has suffered a decade of chaos and violence since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising ousted the then head of state Muammar Gaddafi, but its two main warring sides this year consented to a new government,” Reuters wrote, here.

Simple network-security measures could have reduced the severity of the SolarWinds attack, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency acting Director Brandon Wales told Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., in a June 3 letter. “CISA agrees that a firewall blocking all outgoing connections to the internet would have neutralized the malware,” Wales wrote in the letter, which was provided to The Hill.

But, Wales continued, a firewall doesn’t stop everything — and indeed isn’t practical for some federal agencies that provide public services through websites. “The effectiveness of this preventative measure is not applicable to all types of intrusions and may not be feasible given operational requirements for some agencies,” he wrote.

CISA doesn’t yet know how many agencies use firewalls, or how many should, Wales wrote. But he said CISA is “making ‘urgent improvements’ to increase its understanding of cyber threats to federal networks, including using some of the $650 million included in the American Rescue Plan Act to move security protections inside of agency networks instead of just guarding the perimeters,” The Hill reported.

Lastly today: Anti-drone concept video. A Conex-sized microwave weapon called THOR has downed hundreds of small attack drones in tests, the Air Force said in a June 21 release. You can’t watch video of the thing in action yet, but you can get the idea in this two-minute animation. (Trigger warning: standard pulse-pounding electronica.) H/t And we’ll see you on Wednesday.