Today's D Brief: Army adds teeth to vax mandate; China's 'secret' UAE facility; New life in Mosul; And a bit more.
Unvaccinated and in the Army? American soldiers may not be both of those things much longer if they can’t obtain a waiver for their mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations, according to a new memo (PDF) from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth distributed to the force this week.
One big reason this matters: It applies to active-duty troops as well as reservists and National Guardsmen, including those serving in states whose governors do not require the vaccine—like Oklahoma, for example, Defense One’s Tara Copp reported after obtaining the memo Thursday.
About those deadlines: Active duty soldiers have until Dec. 15 to get their shots; reservists and guard troops have until June 30.
What the memo says: “I authorize commanders to impose bars to continued service…for all soldiers who refuse the mandatory vaccine order without an approved exemption or pending exemption request,” Wormuth wrote in the memo. “The soldier will remain flagged until they are fully vaccinated, receive an approved medical or administrative exemption, or are separated from the Army.”
For the record: 72 percent of the Army is completely vaccinated, according to Army data. “Many of the unvaccinated soldiers are in the National Guard or reserves,” Copp reports.
But just 52 percent of the Army National Guard is fully vaccinated, and that covers almost 330,000 of them across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Read on for more, including affected soldiers’ options after refusal, here.
From Defense One
EXCLUSIVE: Army to Begin Forcing Out Soldiers Who Refuse COVID Vaccine, Including Guardsmen // Tara Copp: New policy bars unvaccinated soldiers from re-enlistment, promotions as Oklahoma governor says National Guard need not obey Biden's vax mandate.
No Pentagon Wrong-Doing in Jan. 6 Reaction, Inspector General Finds // Patrick Tucker: “DOD officials did not delay or obstruct” Guard troops who arrived at the U.S. Capitol hours after insurrectionists stormed it.
'Information Disorder' Is Biggest Social Danger, Commission Warns // Patience Wait: "When bad information becomes as prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good information, it creates a chain reaction of harm,” an Aspen Institute report begins.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1941, the German navy raider ship Kormoran encountered the Australian navy light cruiser HMAS Sydney about 170 miles from the coast of Western Australia. After more than a half hour of communication from the Aussies and deception from ze Germans, the two ships began exchanging fire around 6 p.m. local. Thirty minutes later, both ships were destroyed. But over the next several hours, the Germans were largely able to evacuate via rafts and lifeboats. The Australians, on the other hand—all 645 of them—perished at sea.
Chinese developers were building an allegedly “secretive” military port facility in the UAE—until the Biden administration noticed back in the spring and later warned the Emirates that the project could hurt the U.S.-UAE relationship. Now construction at the site has been halted, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Location: “Khalifa port, about 50 miles north of Abu Dhabi, where China’s giant COSCO shipping conglomerate had built and now operates a commercial container terminal,” the Journal’s Gordon Lubold and Warren Strobel write.
Among some of the suggestive clues picked up in U.S. satellite imagery: “the excavation of a huge hole to accommodate a multistory building and the erection of girders,” as well as placing a cover over the site allegedly “to prevent scrutiny.”
You may recall the Biden administration had paused a $23 billion arms deal with the Emirates that had been negotiated in the troubled final days of the Trump administration. The Biden White House lifted that hold in mid-April. However, U.S. officials didn’t brief the Emiratis on the Khalifa intelligence until late September, according to the Journal, and that trip included Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan.
Also making this newsworthy: SecDef Austin is traveling to the UAE and Bahrain this weekend—hot on the heels of travels to Dubai by White House Middle East Envoy Brett McGurk and Mira Resnick of the Pentagon. Continue reading, here.
Iran allegedly attacked U.S. troops in southern Syria in response to a recent Israeli strike in that country (or several from mid-October), the New York Times reported Thursday citing U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials.
If true, that chain of events would be a first, the Times writes, calling it “an escalation of Iran’s shadow war with Israel that poses new dangers to U.S. forces in the Middle East.”
Israel and the UAE just signed a deal to develop drones to fend off submarines, Reuters reported Thursday from the closing sidelines of the Dubai Air Show.
The drones could also be used for petroleum exploration, as well as, of course, “intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, mine detection and sweeping,” Reuters writes. Tiny bit more, here.
From China to the Air Force, via Texas. A 32-year-old man from Celeste, Texas, pleaded guilty this week to selling bad body armor and helmets to the State Department, U.S. Air Force, and National Guard units during a three-year period ending in 2020.
He ran the companies from his home, where the Justice Department said Tuesday that his firms “Top Body Armor, LLC USA” and “Bullet Proof Armor LLC” were the lowest bidder for “contracts to supply the Department of State with helmets and body armor, including to personnel guarding the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, and to foreign law enforcement partners in Latin America.” That equipment has since been isolated and removed.
His “testing” company, Texas Ballistics LLC, was also fake, as were the documents Tanner Jackson admitted to falsifying, which claimed the armor was much stronger than it actually was.
To further the deception, he’d also “author email exchanges between himself and the bogus employees, while copying government contracting officers, to explain away shipping delays from China with cover stories such as truck accidents and COVID outbreaks at the warehouse.” He could face as many as 20 years in prison. More here.
And lastly this week: Nearly seven years after it was destroyed by ISIS, Mosul University’s Central Library has been restored. Omar Mohammed of Mosul Eye tweeted out before and after photos today.
“I am also happy to announce that Marie Colvin’s family donated to us some of her books,” Mohammed added. “We will place them in the library in a special section dedicated for her and Freedom.”
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!