Today's D Brief: Conscientious objections and the jab; New first for the National Guard?; Sloppy spycraft; And a bit more.

Conscientious objection to vaccines? The archbishop for the military services says Catholic troops should be allowed to pass on the COVID-19 “if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” regardless of whether the vaccine in question was created or tested using abortion-related tissue, Defense One’s Elizabeth Howe reported Tuesday.

What’s going on: Timothy Broglio, who has supported the mandatory vaccination order for U.S. troops in the past, said in a letter (PDF) Tuesday that while he still encourages followers and troops to get vaccinated, some troops have questioned if the church’s permission to get vaccinated outweighed their own conscious objections to it. “Broglio believes it does not,” Howe writes.  

Background: Broglio was appointed to the position by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. Pope Francis has urged people to get the vaccine, calling it an “act of love,” and Broglio in August spoke in favor of the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate. His Tuesday statement explains that the vaccine is “morally permissible,” but says troops may still have an conscience-based objection to the jab, and shouldn’t be forced to act against their beliefs. “The denial of religious accommodations, or punitive or adverse personnel actions taken against those who raise earnest, conscience-based objections, would be contrary to federal law and morally reprehensible,” according to Broglio. Continue reading, here.

ICYMI: The Massachusetts National Guard is now helping with COVID testing in schools after Gov. Charlie Baker made the call on Tuesday. About 200 soldiers will assist in the effort, which reaches K-12 public schools across the state. Another 250 could help with the state department of corrections.  

The Mass. Guard was already helping bus students to school across at least nine different communities. “People with knowledge of National Guard missions in the state say they can’t recall another time when soldiers have played this kind of role,” the Washington Post reported last week from Chelsea, Mass. 

From Defense One

The Biggest Lesson from the Army’s Connect-Everything Experiment // Patrick Tucker: New labs to test interconnections are the key to joint all-domain command and control.

Catholic Troops Can Refuse COVID Vaccine, Archbishop Declares // Elizabeth Howe: “No one should be forced to receive a COVID-19 vaccine if it would violate the sanctity of his or her conscience,” Broglio wrote.

General Makes Case For Army’s Role In The Indo-Pacific // Caitlin M. Kenney: “By putting boots on the ground,” Gen. Charles Flynn said, “we're demonstrating the will of the United States.”

Defense Firms Pitch Arms, Gear to an Army Looking for Relevance in the Pacific // Marcus Weisgerber: On Wednesday, Lockheed Martin will attempt to fire a new weapon nearly 500 kilometers.

Taliban Takeover Of Afghanistan Is Inspiring Americans Online, FBI Says // Jacqueline Feldscher: “That’s where they see this rallying cry and their opportunity. Now it’s ‘time to buy a gun, run people over with a car,’ do whatever they’re going to do,” an FBI official said Tuesday.

How China Is Planning For a Tech Decoupling // Peter W. Singer and Alex Stone: PLA strategists are already working on counters to anticipated U.S. moves.

Keep Your Eyes on Afghanistan’s ISIS-K  // Jason M. Blazakis: The Taliban’s victory was local. ISIS still wants the world.

Welcome to this Wednesday 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 POTUS46’s mind today: Supply chain security. This afternoon, President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet with officials to talk about “global transportation supply chain bottlenecks,” according to the White House’s public schedule.
Biden’s national security advisor called up his South Korean counterpart on Tuesday. According to the White House’s readout of the call, Suh Hoon of Seoul and Jake Sullivan of Washington discussed “5G, resilient supply chains, and global health.”
The two men also “called on [North Korea] to enter into serious and sustained diplomacy towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” which if you’ve been watching the peninsula for the last several years you know is a non-starter for Pyongyang, as Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has been saying for at least the past three U.S. administrations. 
BTW: North Korea just celebrated the 76th anniversary of its ruling Communist Workers’ Party on Sunday, a first under the 10-year tenure of dictator Kim Jong Un. It then hosted a “self-defense expo” this week in Pyongyang, somewhat like the AUSA convention in D.C. NKNews’ Colin Zwerko unpacked what he spotted at that expo (behind a paywall) here, and in a non-paywalled Twitter thread, here.
Call me maybe? Kim delivered a speech Monday in which he explained why North Korea isn’t interested in talking to U.S. officials, and Ankit isolated the key line for that message, here. The Associated Press has more from that speech, here.
ICYMI:The Air Force is testing a new bunker-busting bomb that could counter North Korea and Iran,” Air Force Times reported Tuesday, sounding a bit like the 2015 Politico report which author Michael Crowley tited, “Plan B for Iran,” all about the “Massive Ordnance Penetrator.”
Involved: “A GBU-72 Advanced 5K Penetrator bomb [dropped] from 35,000 feet” about a week ago in Florida, AFT’s Rachel Cohen writes. The service plans to buy about 125 of these at a cost of around $36 million. How does it compare to the so-called “Mother of All Bombs”? Read on, here.

If you can’t beat ‘em in 15 years, quit now? A Pentagon official is leaving in part because he says the military’s “kindergarten-level” cyber defense is no match for China, Business Insider reported Monday.
The gist: “Nicolas Chaillan joined the US Air Force as its first chief software officer in August 2018...However, Chaillan quit on September 2, citing the Pentagon’s reluctance to make cybersecurity and AI a priority in his departing LinkedIn Post.” He also railed against JADC2 development efforts as well as declining U.S. population rates, and he highlighted a desire to spend more time with his young children as they grow up. But Chaillan also spoke to FT about his decision, which he described by saying, “We have no competing fighting chance against China in fifteen to twenty years. Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion.” 

And lastly today. After just five years of service, a former U.S. Navy engineer appears to have tried to cash out (spoiler: he failed) by selling classified information on Virginia-class submarine reactors to what he thought was a foreign government—dropping data in memory cards hidden inside a band-aid wrapper and even a peanut butter sandwich before the FBI arrested him in a sting operation Saturday in West Virginia. 

  • You may remember nuclear propulsion made headlines recently when the United States agreed to provide Australia with the technology, triggering that submarine drama between the White House and French President Emmanuel Macron. 

“Sloppy” is how the New York Times described the behavior of the accused and his wife, which the FBI laid out in court documents (PDF) here, where the action picks up around bullet point 35 (pg 11). But the sloppiness was there from the very beginning, including the way the Annapolis-based couple tried to solicit the foreign government back in April 2020. “I apologize for this poor translation into your language,” read their initial letter. “Please forward this letter to your military intelligence agency. I believe this information will be of great value to your nation. This is not a hoax.” That unnamed government seems to have weighed the offer over a period of about eight months before passing the package onto the FBI.
And that cooperation is especially remarkable. The solicited country even allowed its embassy in D.C. to be used for a kind of trust signal to the accused over the Memorial Day weekend (bullets 22-27).
However, “the big questions surrounding the couple—what country they are accused of trying to sell the nuclear secrets to, and what motivated them to take the risk—remain unanswered,” the Times writes. The Washington Post has more, here.