Today's D Brief: Climate crisis and the military; Brit caught spying for Russia; Wagner and war crimes; And a bit more.
The climate crisis is already disrupting the U.S. military, and it will get worse, reports Defense One’s Patrick Tucker from an interview with Richard Kidd, deputy assistant defense secretary for environment and energy resilience.
Exhibit A: the record amount of times National Guardsmen are being called upon to help fight wildfires and respond to other climate-related emergencies. “If you track the number of days the National Guard was needed to provide support for civil authorities, last year was the highest year on record,” Kidd said, thanks in part to the response to widespread civil unrest. This year has far fewer protests—yet the Guard is on track to break the record.
Key quote: “There’s an opportunity cost: If equipment and personnel are being used for that, they aren’t doing other things. They aren’t doing the sort of warfighter training that they need to do.”
Dealing with the effects of climate change will become a key area of military involvement, Kidd said. “We absolutely predict that that demand set will only increase, and yes, we can do that.”
More and more security experts agree. In June, the International Military Council on Climate and Security released its second report on the impacts of climate change on issues such as governance and civil unrest across the globe. “Respondents expect a majority of risks will pose high to catastrophic levels of risk to security. Ten and 20 years from now, respondents expect very high levels of risk along nearly every type of climate security phenomena,” the report said. More, here.
That’s because the Earth is warming and governments are not acting quickly enough to slow fossil-fuel use and other activities that produce greenhouse gases, according to the newest assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN-sponsored body that “has periodically released a synthesis of current climate science since its founding in 1988,” as The Atlantic puts it.
Action is needed, now: “There are still emissions pathways that would lead us to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees [Celsius; that’s 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit], but they require deep, rapid cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions,” said Gregory Flato, a vice chair of the group that authored the report and a senior research scientist within the Canadian government. “That leaves a glimmer of optimism that we could limit warming to levels like that.” Read on, here.
From Defense One
Climate Change Is Already Disrupting the Military. It Will Get Worse, Officials Say // Patrick Tucker: Even as wildfires drain National Guard resources, the Pentagon is racing to develop computer models that can better guide decisions about sustainability efforts.
Report: China Is Hacking Russia, Too // Patrick Tucker: Moscow may be just “waking up” to the fact that their new partner sees them as a target.
NSA Awards Secret Up-to-$10B Contract to Amazon // Frank Konkel: A Microsoft protest of the decision has revealed some details about the U.S. intelligence community's second multi-billion dollar cloud award of the year.
Globe-Spanning Wargame Puts New Naval Concepts to the Test // Caitlin M. Kenney: Large Scale Exercise 21 is connecting thousands of sailors and Marines to try out and develop warfighting concepts intended to be central to tomorrow's fight.
Pull US AI Research Out of China // Bill Drexel and Klon Kitchen: International scientific collaboration is a great thing, but not when it is fueling a despotic superpower’s oppression at home and belligerence abroad.
Welcome to this Wednesday edition of The D Brief from Brad Peniston with Ben Watson and Tara Copp. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1984, President Ronald Reagan joked to National Public Radio engineers just before he thought he was going live (when in fact he was broadcasting), “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”
German officers arrested a UK man they allege has been spying for Russia since at least November, Agence France-Presse reports. He’s reportedly an embassy staffer in Potsdam, and his arrest today was a joint operation involving German and British officials. A bit more, here.
Russia’s Wagner mercenaries appear to have carried out war crimes in Libya, according to a Samsung tablet the BBC recovered last year south of Tripoli, investigated in the intervening months, and explained in a feature report on Tuesday.
Involved: “evidence of the mercenaries’ involvement in the mining and booby-trapping of civilian areas. Placing landmines without marking them is a war crime,” the BBC writes. There’s much more (including alleged links to known Wagner fighters); though at least one document is from a Libyan intelligence source, so its veracity can’t be authenticated. Its contents, however, are almost too incredible to believe, and reportedly include a shopping list of Russian weapons and literal mentions of “Evro Polis” and “General Director,” which the BBC writes “suggest the involvement of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rich businessman close to President Vladimir Putin.” Read on, here.
If you need a refresher on Wagner and Prigozhin, remember that he’s the financier behind the group whose fighters rushed a U.S. outpost in Syria in February 2018, despite U.S. warnings about the violent consequences. Wagner did not stop, and so the U.S. responded with F-15Es, MQ-9s, B-52s, AC-130s and AH-64 Apaches and killed at least 100 of the fighters. Hear more about that episode from Defense One Radio here.
Facebook says it shut down more than 300 Russian-linked accounts spreading COVID-19 lies, specifically about the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines across the Instagram and Facebook platforms. The Associated Press has more, here.
NASA sent a Northrop Grumman-built Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station on Tuesday. (Catch video here.) The craft launched just north of Norfolk, at Wallops Island, Va. Defense One’s Tara Copp dropped by the event, and happened to bump into NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
Behind the launch: NG named the spacecraft S.S. Ellison Onizuka, after NASA’s first Asian American astronaut. Onizuka was among the crew that perished in the Challenger explosion on Jan. 28, 1986. “I have to take an extra swallow when I think of that, because Challenger blew up 10 days after we landed on Earth,” Nelson said Tuesday.
Background: In 1986, Nelson was a Florida congressman who was selected to join the crew as a civilian aboard Space Shuttle Columbia, which launched Jan. 12, 1986. “It was the first time there were two Space Shuttles on two pads. And because ours was the most delayed—four times scrubbed flight—we kept bumping up against Challenger. As a result, we landed on the 18th of January, 1986,” he said.
“Any time you can take a hero like Ellison and etch his memory by recognition such as this, I think it’s a very good thing,” Nelson said.
Don’t forget to subscribe to Tara Copp’s weekly Air & Space Brief newsletter, which lands in inboxes each Monday.
And lastly today: U.S. Army Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office Director Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood speaks at the 24th Annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala. That’s happening shortly before noon, at 11:45 a.m. EDT.
You may recall Thurgood was immersed in hypersonics R&D just last year. In fact, one year ago this week he predicted the Army would have a 50kw laser-mounted Stryker by 2022. Increasingly powerful truck-mounted lasers could be deployable a little later, by 2024, he explained at the time. Defense One’s Patrick Tucker has more on all that, here.