Today's D Brief: Subs and TLAMs to the Aussies; France is angry; EU's new Pacific strategy; Cyber spies go rogue; And a bit more.
Australia will eventually get its first nuclear-powered submarines and Tomahawk cruise missiles in a three-country agreement announced Wednesday by the leaders of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States—or, “AUKUS,” for those who adore acronyms. Exactly when Australia will get the subs is unclear, since the country has no relevant nuclear infrastructure; officials said an initial assessment could take as long as 18 months.
Why this matters: It will put even more subs that are quiet and long-range in the waters close to China’s growing navy, Defense One’s Jacqueline Feldscher reports. (BTW: none of the three leaders uttered the word “China” once during Wednesday’s three-way announcement.) Beyond just subs, the trilateral deal “will include increased cooperation on cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, as well as more integration of industrial bases and supply chains,” Feldscher writes.
Said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison: “Our world is becoming more complex, especially here in our region, the Indo-Pacific. This affects us all. The future of the Indo-Pacific will impact all our futures.”
- Related reading: “Why Australia Bet the House on Lasting American Power in Asia,” via the New York Times.
Chinese officials called the deal a product of “Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice,” and said that the AUKUS nations are “severely damaging regional peace and stability, intensifying an arms race, and damaging international nuclear non-proliferation efforts,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told Reuters on Thursday.
FWIW: New Zealand doesn’t want the nuclear-powered subs in its waters, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement Thursday, emphasizing that that was official policy before the announcement and nothing’s changed there.
Panning out: The deal “kicks off what is expected to be a flurry of diplomatic engagements for Biden this autumn,” CNN reports, from next week’s scheduled United Nations meetings and QUAD leader summit, to Group of 20 talks in Rome next month—all ahead of the White House’s summit for democracy, slated for December.
Back stateside, conservatives like Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Brent Sadler praised the deal—with the former calling it “a clear message of strength to Chairman Xi,” and the latter flagging its “good strategic sense. However,” Sadler said, “any meaningful outcome is contingent on due diligence being done to address myriad engineering, manufacturing, and information sharing issues that have doomed past efforts. If pursued, an Australian nuclear submarine program represents a generational commitment of significant resources to deliver.”
In case you’re wondering, “The only country that the United States has shared, traditionally, this kind of nuclear technology for propulsion is Great Britain, and that arrangement dates back to 1958,” a U.S. official told reporters Wednesday.
Industry watch: U.S. firms General Dynamics Corp (GD.N) and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc (HII.N) could win big with the AUKUS plans, Reuters reports, noting, “critical subsystems such as electronics and nuclear power plants are made by BWX Technologies Inc (BWXT.N)” Coverage continues below the fold.
From Defense One
Australia Will Get Nuclear-Powered Subs In New Partnership With US, UK // Jacqueline Feldscher: Dubbed AUKUS, the new security partnership will increase focus on the Indo-Pacific.
Milley’s China Calls During Trump Defeat Were ‘Lawful,’ Conveyed Reassurance, Pentagon Says // Tara Copp and Jacqueline Feldscher: Some Republicans are seeking his ouster, but the Joint Chiefs chairman is the first to serve a guaranteed four years.
Tell Us Why Small Businesses Can't Get Contracts, Pentagon Asks // Courtney Bublé: The department has met its goals in that area, but is looking to do even better.
The Marines Are Copying the Air Force's Efforts to Counter Online Disinformation // Brandi Vincent: Meanwhile, the Army is trying to get inside perpetrators' OODA loops.
Five Ways 9/11 Changed the Defense Industry // Marcus Weisgerber: More outsourcing, more services contracts, more generals on corporate boards—and that's just for starters.
The U.S. Should Get Serious About Submarine Cable Security // Justin Sherman, Council on Foreign Relations: Three trends are accelerating risks to underwater cables’ security and resilience.
Congress’ Afghanistan Oversight Marred By Politics // Jacqueline Feldscher: Lawmakers overwhelmingly postured instead of asking America’s top diplomat real questions.
Will Congress Ever Repeal Its Post-9/11 War Authorizations? // Jacqueline Feldscher: The passage of two decades since the Sept. 11 terror attacks might be a “wake-up call” for lawmakers.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1955, the Soviet Union became the first nation to launch a ballistic missile from a submarine. The U.S. had launched cruise missiles from its submarines previously, but not ballistic missiles. The U.S., however, would become the first nation to launch a ballistic missile from a submerged submarine in July 1960. The Soviets repeated this feat just 40 days later.
Paris snubbed? For the past five years, Australian officials had been in discussions to buy about a dozen conventional subs from French shipbuilder Naval Group for $40 billion, according to Reuters (CNN put the price tag at $90 billion), even though those talks appeared to be on shaky ground as recently as June. Now it appears that the French program will be canceled so Canberra can get the nuclear subs instead.
“Speaking politely, it's a real stab in the back,” said French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian Thursday on French news radio. “We had established a relationship of trust with Australia, this trust has been betrayed...This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do. I am angry and bitter. This isn’t done between allies.”
Said EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell: “We must survive on our own, as others do.”
EU’s new plan: The bloc officially pledged to send more ships to the Pacific as part of a new deterrence strategy aimed at curbing China’s rise, Reuters reports from Brussels. That could mean “dispatching ships through the South China Sea, or putting Europeans on Australian patrols,” but it’s unclear just yet.
ICYMI: Watch South Korea’s new submarine-launched ballistic missile in Seoul’s first known successful test Wednesday, making it the eighth nation in the world with the technology, which “rais[es] the prospect of a regional arms race,” Agence France-Presse reported Wednesday.
For the record, other nations with SLBM capabilities include North Korea, the U.S., Russia, China, India, Britain, and France.
Taiwan wants to spend about $9 billion to pay for “homegrown precision missiles, high-performance naval ships, and weapons systems for existing warships...to deter an attack from China,” the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The plans cover the next five years of spending for the island, which China still claims as its own.
By comparison, Chinese officials announced six months ago that they plan to increase military spending by about 7%, “to $208 billion for 2021—more than 13 times the size of Taiwan’s regular military budget.”
ICYMI: China’s “air force flew 19 warplanes into Taiwan’s air-defense identification zone on Sunday, its largest show of aerial force against the island in more than two months,” the Journal reports, citing data from Taiwan’s Defense Ministry. Read on, here.
The French military says it killed the leader of ISIS in the Sahel, according to President Emanuel Macron, who tweeted the news Wednesday evening ET.
A French drone strike hit Adnan Abou Walid al Sahraoui as he was travelling on a motorbike with two others in Mali back in mid-August. If his name sounds familiar, CNN reports “In 2017, al Sahraoui claimed responsibility for the ambush of United States forces in Niger that killed four American soldiers.” He also had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head, according to Sky News.
And lastly today: Three former U.S. cyber spies admitted to violating U.S. laws by illegally hacking for the UAE, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Their names are Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gericke. And they worked for DarkMatter, “a company that is effectively an arm of the Emirati government,” the Times writes. “If the men comply with the agreement, the Justice Department will drop the criminal prosecution. Each man will also pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. The men will also never be able to receive a U.S. government security clearance.”
Why this matters: “[T]he charges made public on Tuesday could be something of an opening salvo by the government in a battle to deter former American spies from becoming guns for hire overseas.” Read on, here; and read why their fines are very likely a “slap on the wrist,” according to the Times’ Nicole Perlroth, here.