Today's D Brief: AUSA, day 2; Does the Army belong in the Indo-Pacific?; RIP Odierno; Taliban talks in Doha; And a bit more.

Day two of AUSA’s annual convention is underway in downtown Washington, where dozens of generals, civilians, and top enlisted soldiers spent the first day talking about artificial intelligence, drones, the history of female Army leaders and the future of software and training across the force. Day two shifts to “Land Power in the Indo-Pacific,” prototype weapons, pandemics of tomorrow, new Army vehicles, installation defense, and the future of the National Guard.

One big idea from day one @ AUSA: What part would the Army play in a future Pacific conflict? The service “is analyzing its force structure, infrastructure, modernization programs, and readiness in a bid to figure out how it can best focus its limited resources to deter or if necessary fight China, its toughest near-peer challenger since the Cold War,” Defense One’s Caitlin Kenney reported Monday after Secretary Christine Wormuth opened the conference.

“I'm not convinced that we have fully thought our way through all of the challenges we may face on the future high-end battlefield if deterrence fails,” Wormuth said Monday, suggesting the U.S. “look harder at key cases, such as the Nagorno-Karabakh war between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” a conflict which the latter country effectively won thanks in part to its decisive use of drones. (FWIW, Army officials have been making this point for several months, as Foreign Policy reported in March.)

“We need to recognize that bureaucratic infighting, attachment to the way we've always done it, and reflexive skepticism of new ideas can be powerful roadblocks to progress,” Wormuth warned the audience on Monday. “The future is a lot closer than some of us think,” she continued. “So we need to be focused. We need to be strategic. And we need to be bold.” Caitlin Kenney has more, here.

Today’s high-profile events: Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville delivers the day’s keynote address at 1:30 p.m. ET. And shortly after that at 3 p.m., Secretary Wormuth and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston will join McConville for a 90-minute “townhall” discussion moderated by McConville's deputy, Army Lt. Gen. Jason Evans. 

  • What else is scheduled? Read over AUSA’s full agenda here.

The bigger picture for the Army is fairly drama-free in the short term, with no major cuts expected on any of its six main modernization priorities. But Army officials are bracing for needing to work with less money in the years ahead, Jen Judson of Defense News reported Monday after speaking with Secretary Wormuth and others. 

Perhaps the biggest question is how can the service keep its desired end strength (about 485,000 soldiers on active duty) and still budget for all the cool new stuff it wants—e.g. long-range and hypersonic missiles, replacing Bradley Fighting Vehicles, up-arming Strykers and anything else to shoot down drones, and buying more Joint Light Tactical Vehicles and next-generation helicopters? It’s a question that only grows more suspenseful as it remains unanswered, which it probably will for several more months to come. Continue reading at Defense News, here

From Defense One

US Army Is Scrutinizing Itself, Must Change Swiftly to Face China, Secretary Says // Caitlin M. Kenney: “The future is a lot closer than some of us think,” Christine Wormuth said at AUSA.

Pentagon’s Top Science Official Adds to Tech-Breakthrough Wishlist // Patrick Tucker: Heidi Shyu, R&D undersecretary, said she went looking for tech areas to trim—and found that some vital ones had been overlooked.

It’s Not Misinformation. It’s Amplified Propaganda. // Renée DiResta, The Atlantic: You don’t need fake accounts to spread ampliganda online. Real people will happily do it.

4 C’s Drive Biden Administration’s First Naval Strategic Guidance // Caitlin M. Kenney: “Expanded” posture is needed to focus on China, Navy Secretary Del Toro writes.

‘There Will Be No Withdrawal’: Syrian Allies Say US Has Promised to Keep Some Troops There  // Tara Copp: But for how long? The Kurds say uncertainty is emboldening Turkey, Russian-backed militias, and the Assad regime.

CIA Creates China Center To Shift To Great Power Competition // Jacqueline Feldscher: “It’s taking the top slot from the counterterrorism mission over the past 20 years,” said John Doyon, executive vice president of INSA.

Mind the ‘Middle Powers’ Gap // Colin P. Clarke and Mollie Saltskog: While pivoting from terrorism to great powers, the U.S. should pay far more attention those countries caught in the struggle between democracy and authoritarianism.

Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: New engines should never leave B-52 wing; AUSA next week; New Gulfstream jets; and more.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1654, the accidental detonation of 45 tons of gunpowder leveled the Dutch city of Delft, killing more than 100 people.

What’s on POTUS46’s mind this morning? Afghanistan. President Joe Biden met “virtually with G20 leaders to discuss close coordination on Afghanistan,” along with “select guests, and international financial institutions,” the White House previewed in the president’s public schedule for the day.
The Taliban held their first talks with U.S. officials since taking Kabul in mid-August. The talks were held over the weekend in Doha, Qatar, and reportedly ended "with Washington freeing up humanitarian aid to Afghanistan after agreeing not to link such assistance to formal recognition of the Taliban," the Associated Press reported Sunday. Reuters has a bit more, including the State Department working to thread the needle on helping Afghans without just yet formally recognizing the Taliban government, here.
Safe at last: An Afghan interpreter who helped rescue then-senators Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel, and John Kerry in 2008 when the helicopters they were riding in were forced to land in an Afghan valley has finally escaped the country, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
Aman Khalili and his family left Afghanistan last week by crossing the border into Pakistan, after weeks in hiding and with help from U.S. veterans, the Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum writes. “After 144 hours of driving day and night and getting through so many checkpoints, my family was so scared, but right now this is a kind of heaven. Hell was in Afghanistan,” he told Nissenbaum. Read on, here.
There are countless others still trying to flee the country. That includes some Afghan family members of U.S. troops, according to the New York Times, which reported Sunday that members of Congress are now working to try to get those stranded Afghans out. Many of them worked as interpreters or fixers for the U.S. military, then moved to the United States and enlisted, which has put their family members at risk. Read on at the Times, here.

And lastly today: RIP to retired Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, who passed away Friday at the age of 67 after a reportedly long battle with cancer. As Army chief a decade ago, Odierno “oversaw the final withdrawal of American troops from Iraq and confronted several other issues facing the military’s largest service, including troop cuts, suicides and reshaping the Army for a broader set of missions, including some in hot spots around the world where few soldiers had been deployed in the past,” the New York Times’ Eric Schmitt writes in his take on the “Big O’s” obit, published Saturday.
Odierno was notably changed by a 2004 injury to his son, who was fighting in Iraq as an Army officer, the Washington Post reported in its obit. “It affected me as a person,” he told the Post, adding, “I feel an obligation to mothers and fathers. Maybe I understand it better because it happened to me.” As a result, Odierno “adopted a less confrontational style, and made a great effort to understand the Iraqi people and their needs,” the Post’s Matt Schudel writes. Read on, here.