Today's D Brief: US strikes Somalia; Austin, Milley at the Pentagon; Nuclear football, under review; And a bit more.

The U.S. military just carried out its first airstrike in Somalia since President Biden took office, the New York Times reported Tuesday. It was a single strike, and it targeted al-Shabab fighters attacking a U.S.-trained unit of Somali army commandos near the north-central city of Galkayo, the Defense Department said in an email to reporters. 

A note on location: Galkayo “is a divided town that straddles a border between rival clans and sits on a major smuggling route used by militants,” Stars and Stripes reports.

Bigger picture: This was just the seventh strike so far this year; the six others all occurred in January. Last year, AFRICOM carried out 63 airstrikes in Somalia. But the Biden administration placed new limits on drone strikes during its first day, the Times reminds us. Since then, the White House “rejected a handful of requests by the military’s Africa Command to carry out drone strikes against Shabab targets in Somalia because they did not meet the new standards.”

Background: Recall that POTUS45 ordered America’s 700 or so troops out of Somalia, which was a task completed just days before the previous known strikes inside Somalia back in Jan. 18 and 19, Stripes reports. That withdrawal decision is now under review under POTUS46, the Times adds. Learn a bit more about that U.S.-trained unit of Somali commandos, Danab, in our 2019 podcast on the U.S. military in Somalia, here

Today at the Pentagon: SecDef Lloyd Austin and CJCS Army Gen. Mark Milley are slated to brief reporters in a rare joint appearance. That’s scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Catch it live on DVIDS, here.


From Defense One

Transfers Alone Won’t Close Guantanamo Bay // Jacqueline Feldscher: Legal experts say the Biden administration must fix the sluggish trial process to actually close the military prison.

US Navy’s Shipbuilding Plan Doesn’t Meet Congress’ Needs, Lawmakers Say // Caitlin M. Kenney: The past few have come with a “check-the-box mentality,” Rep. Wittman said.

Bird-Mimicking Electric Drone Hits New Endurance Record // Patrick Tucker: As the military grapples with connecting more things over longer distances, recent flight reveals a way forward.

The Automation Gap in Biden’s Cybersecurity Order // Kevin Tonkin: Network defense in the 21st century requires AI-powered penetration testing.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with editing by Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here


CVN-78 update: The USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier has had more operational time over the past year than most other ships in the fleet, and that’s due to its rigorous testing and training regimen, said Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, during an event Tuesday ahead of the 2021 Sea Air Space conference in August.
The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier has been at sea half of the last year, and because of that, it’s been the go-to carrier for training off the East Coast, Gilday said.
Up next: The ship just completed its second round of full ship shock trials and will undergo its third round later this month, Defense One’s Caitlin Kenny reports.

Jordan’s King Abdullah dropped by the Pentagon on Tuesday, one day after he met with President Biden on the other side of the Potomac. Among the issues flagged in the White House’s readout of the meeting on Monday: “U.S. support for the modernization of Jordan’s fleet of F-16 fighter jets.” (Those aircraft made a particularly memorable appearance in early 2015 during the war on ISIS, as the BBC recalls here.) There’s not a great deal to be gleaned from the Pentagon’s readout of Austin’s visit Tuesday with the King, but you can read that over here.

For your eyes only: PBS Frontline this week took a look at Iranian pressures on Afghanistan as America leaves the country after 20 years of war. Catch that 25-minute segment, here.

Get a better handle on America’s “military operations and coercive diplomacy in the post-Cold War era” thanks to the Stimson Center’s Defense Strategy and Planning program. Stimson’s James Siebens, Ryan Lucas, and Jocelyn Wang crunched the numbers on U.S. forces stationed abroad since 1991, and now you can look it over year by year all the way to 2020, with Germany and Japan hosting the lion’s share of Americans. Dive in, here.

Happening today: Deputy U.S. Navy chiefs of operations Vice Adm. Randy Crites and Vice Adm. James Kilby and Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. David Nahom are testifying at a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing on Navy and Air Force weapons systems divestments. That began at 10 a.m. ET. Catch it live (or in reruns) here.
Also today: Rear Adm. William Houston, director of the Navy’s undersea warfare division, and Rear Adm. Jeffrey Jablon, commander of Pacific Fleet’s submarine force, will discuss submarine and undersea warfare during the online Navy League Sea-Air-Space Symposium “Prequel” at 1 p.m.
And Gen. Richard Clarke, head of Special Operations Command, and Joseph McMenamin, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for counternarcotics and global threats, will testify before the House Armed Services intelligence and special operations subcommittee on the fiscal 2022 budget for U.S. Special Operations Forces and Command. That’s set for 3 p.m.

And finally today: The U.S. military is reviewing its “nuclear football” procedures since it got so suspenseful during the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol Building. “The objective of this evaluation is to determine the extent that DOD processes and procedures are in place and adequate to alert DOD officials in the event that the Presidential Emergency Satchel is lost, stolen, or compromised,” said the Defense Department’s Inspector General in a brief report this week. CNN and NBC News have more here and here, respectively. 

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