Today's D Brief: Vax to be required for feds; Cybersecurity push; Jan. 6 ‘terrorism’; China, Taliban talk; And a bit more.

COVID vaccinations are about to be required for U.S. federal workers, though that does not include the military, multiple news outlets reported Tuesday. (For some perspective, there are 2.2 million civilians in the federal government, including at least 759,000 civilians working for the Defense Department—a total that does not include contractors.)

Non-military feds who decline vaccination won’t be fired, but they should expect “a number of restrictions on them as a way to encourage them to receive one of the vaccines that have received emergency-use authorization,” according to the Washington Post. Those restrictions include regular virus testing, according to CNN.  

Why? Because of the fast spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which has led to a new wave of infections and deaths as the virus mutates. 

Also new: Vaccinated Americans living in hot zones are gonna want to put their masks on indoors again, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Tuesday. The New York Times reports the House of Representatives is already moving back to an indoor mask mandate.

  • What states would benefit most from the new mask guidance? View the CDC’s national map here

“The most important protection we have against the Delta variant is to get vaccinated,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Tuesday. He also told reporters Tuesday at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, “If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.” 

The view from the Pentagon: “There has been no change to our use of the vaccine as a voluntary measure of protection. We continue to urge everyone in the department to get vaccinated,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement to Defense One. 

But the California National Guard is different. Its troops will be required to be vaccinated by Aug. 2 or get tested every week, reports. The California plan to require shots or regular tests for all state employees is the first like it in the U.S. 

And the U.S. political divide over vaccines? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried somewhat to mitigate that in remarks to Reuters on Tuesday, “Not enough people are vaccinated. So we’re trying to get them to reconsider and get back on the path to get us to some level of herd immunity.”

About that divide: “About 40% of Republicans are uncertain about the vaccine or are unwilling to be vaccinated,” and that’s “more than double the 16% of Democrats who voiced those concerns,” Reuters reported, citing polling data published by the Morning Consult.

Said political strategist Frank Luntz: “Political messages won’t work, unless you’re Donald Trump. If Trump were to say to them: ‘Hey, get the vaccine.’ That would make a difference. But he doesn’t do that. All he does is complain about the election.” More from Reuters, here.

Reopen the U.S.-Canada border? Not so fast, Canadian workers say. Canadian border agents may begin striking next week, thwarting the planned reopening of the U.S.-Canada border, Politico reports

Background: The Canadian government recently announced that fully vaccinated Americans will be allowed to enter Canada beginning Aug. 9. But unions that represent thousands of border agency employees “have voted ‘overwhelmingly’ in favor of strike actions” that could start Aug. 6, according to Politico. Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said there is no detailed plan or strategy yet, but that the strike actions could create “‘dramatic disruptions’ to the flow of goods, services, and people entering Canada.” More, here.

From Defense One

White House Asks CISA, NIST to Set Cybersecurity Performance Goals for Critical Infrastructure Operators // Mariam Baksh: The initiative will not result in mandatory measures for the private sector, but the administration hopes to signal its commitment to cybersecurity and maybe get a little help from Congress on that front.

Why Isn’t the Military Mandating COVID-19 Vaccines? // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: Service members need to be protected against the coronavirus. This isn’t a close call.

VA Mandates Vaccines for Health Care Workers // Courtney Bublé: “It’s the best way to keep veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough.

Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson, Jennifer Hlad and Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1945, a B-25 bomber crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building.

The Taliban are in China today for talks with Communist party leaders in Beijing, Agence France-Presse reports. The Taliban delegation met with China’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who told reporters afterward, “The Taliban are a pivotal military and political force in Afghanistan and are expected to play an important role in the process of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction.” The Associated Press has a bit more on today’s talks, here.
The view from Kabul: “Afghans queue up for [an] escape lifeline,” AFP reports in a nearly two-minute video, which includes shots of “thousands of Afghans... waiting outside the country's main passport office” trying to flee the country. See that via Twitter, here.

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a terrorist act, a D.C. policeman told lawmakers during a Tuesday hearing on Capitol Hill. “I can see why someone would take issue with the title of terrorist. It’s gained a lot of notoriety in our vocabulary in the past few decades, and we’d like to believe that no, that couldn’t happen here. No domestic terrorism. No homegrown threats,” said Daniel Hodges, a Metropolitan Police officer “who was among scores wounded by pro-Trump insurrectionists at the Capitol,” Politico reported.
Definition of “domestic terrorism.” Hodges read U.S. Code Title 18, Chapter 113b, Section 2331, which defines the term as “activities that involve acts dangerous to human life” that violate criminal law and “appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion.”
Hodges was one of four police officers who testified about their experiences during the riot, “interspersed with video showing rioters physically and verbally assaulting the police who stood in their way,” the Washington Post reported. Another was Capitol Police Officer Aquilino Gonell, one of an estimated 140 officers injured in the riot. Gonell, a naturalized American citizen and Army veteran who served in Iraq, characterized the bedlam as like something from “a medieval battle.” Read on, here.

Boeing notched its first profitable quarter in nearly two years, and now it’s leaning on China’s purchases to keep it out of the red for the years to come, company officials said Wednesday.
One big reason for the profitability? Defense. “The company’s commercial airplanes unit reported an operating loss of $472 million in the quarter, but its defense business rebounded to earn $958 million and services generated $531 million,” according to the Wall Street Journal. ABC News has a bit more here.
Boeing is also one of the largest companies to resume giving money to Republican politicians who voted to reject lawful votes in the 2020 election. Quartz, here.
By the way: Ford, Tesla, and Apple are all experiencing chip shortages that could imperil their product lines, the Journal reported separately here and here

The White House’s new cybersecurity push: “performance goals” for the private sector and America’s critical infrastructure. The idea is to establish a broad but thorough set of expectations for cybersecurity across all sectors of critical infrastructure, a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday. NextGov unpacks the new measures, here. Or read the White House’s Fact Sheet, here.

And lastly today: A phone security tip via Senate Intelligence Committee member Angus King. “​​Step One: Turn off phone. Step Two: Turn it back on,” according to AP’s reporting Wednesday. That’s it, really. Read on, here.