Today's D Brief: Outbreak at Okinawa; WH tackles omicron; Russia's militarizing society; And a bit more.

President Joe Biden wants about 1,000 military medical workers on standby so they can surge to hospitals across the country to help the fight against the coronavirus’s new omicron variant, the White House announced in a preview Tuesday morning. 

That includes “military doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other medical personnel” who could be on duty “as needed” through February, according to the White House. 

Also in the works: U.S. officials are “setting up new federal testing sites, deploying hundreds of federal vaccinators and buying 500 million rapid tests to distribute free to the public,” though those won’t be available until January, the New York Times reports

Biden is expected to announce those measures in public remarks planned for 2:30 p.m. ET. Catch it live on C-Span, here.

Meanwhile OCONUS, at least 180 people linked to a U.S. Marine Corps base on the Japanese island of Okinawa have coronavirus, including Japanese workers and U.S. Marines who recently arrived on the island as part of a rotational deployment, Reuters and Stars & Stripes reported Monday. 

The outbreak at Camp Hansen has again raised fears about community spread in Okinawa, which is known for its large population of centenarians. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary visited the U.S. Air Force base on Okinawa this weekend and said he would “pressure the U.S. military to take more thorough mitigation measures and ‘ease the concern of local people,’” Stripes reports, adding that the Japanese government wants the U.S. to restrict movement on and off Camp Hansen. 

FWIW: Marine officials had only recently relaxed strict COVID-19-related restrictions for Marines and their families, and have now re-imposed a mask mandate and again banned indoor dining. More, here


From Defense One

One Social-Media ‘Like’ Doesn’t Say Much About a Potential Extremist // Patrick Tucker: Data from open-source social media is generally only helpful in combination with other information

China’s PLA Is a Peasant Army No More // Graham Allison: The Pentagon cannot hope to prevail merely by outspending Beijing.

Click ‘Like’, Get Punished Under Pentagon’s New Anti-Extremism Policy // Tara Copp: First update since 2012 adds rules for social-media behavior.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with editing by Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. 


Russia’s autocratic president is preparing his country for a possible war, the New York Times reports in a #LongRead from three different reporters working out of Moscow.
Consider, for example, “A $185 million four-year program started by the Kremlin this year aims to drastically increase Russians’ ‘patriotic education,’ including a plan to attract at least 600,000 children as young as 8 to join the ranks of a uniformed Youth Army.”
See also: “The conviction across society that Russia is not the aggressor reflects a core ideology dating to Soviet times: that the country only fights defensive wars,” the Times writes. To that end, “The government has even earmarked money for movies that explore that theme: In April, the Culture Ministry decreed that ‘Russia’s historical victories’ and ‘Russia’s peacekeeping mission’ were among the priority topics for film producers seeking government funding.” Read on, here.
Speaking of Soviets: Russia’s hockey team donned USSR jerseys in a weekend game against Finland. Guess who won? Moscow Times has the answer in its headline, here.
Is Russia sending more equipment closer to its border with Ukraine? It appears that way, judging by this video making the rounds on social media Monday.
Defending Ukraine’s cyber front. British and American cyber experts are helping Kyiv defend against attacks that could “take down the electrical grid, the banking system, and other critical components of Ukraine’s economy and government” in an effort to make Ukraine’s president “look inept and defenseless,” the New York Times’ David Sanger and Julian Barnes reported Monday.
Rewind: Russian hackers attacked Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016, Barnes and Sanger remind us. And now experts believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is planning more cyber attacks, possibly to “provide an excuse for an invasion.” More, here.
This week in wag-the-dog headlines:U.S. Mercenaries Preparing Donbass 'Provocation'—Russian Defense Chief,” via Moscow Times, reporting Tuesday.
And don’t miss:UK unlikely to send troops if Russia invades Ukraine,” via The Guardian, reporting Saturday. 

The Saudi-led coalition struck six sites at the Sanaa airport in Yemen’s capital city on Monday, Reuters reported. The Iran-backed Houthi rebels have held Sanaa since 2015, when the Saudis launched their air war on Yemen, to little effect. Riyadh claims Houthis used the airport to launch drone attacks against the Saudi regime.
The Saudis even announced strikes at the airport shortly before, in an apparent effort to minimize casualties. The Houthis said afterward that the airport is no longer usable; the Saudis disagreed. 
By the way: The Houthis have doubled their attacks on Saudi Arabia since 2020, from about 40 attacks per month to now about 80, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing data from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Context: “Riyadh has been struggling to defend against such attacks, and, as The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, Saudi supplies of Patriot missile interceptors are beginning to run low,” WSJ’s Gordon Lubold writes. “The interceptors, at about $1 million per interceptor, are considered by military specialists to be the wrong weapon to defend against small drones, which are relatively inexpensive and widely available.” More behind the paywall, here.
Dive deeper: Review “10 key events and trends in the Middle East and North Africa in 2021” from more than a dozen analysts at the Middle East Institute. 

Lastly, today—and with an eye to the year ahead: Iran-backed groups in the Middle East may try to attack U.S. officials or equipment sometime around early January, U.S. officials told NBC News. The prediction comes partly from the formal end of the U.S. military’s combat mission in Iraq, which is set for Dec. 31.
After all, Jan. 3 is the anniversary of the U.S. military’s fatal airstrike on Qasem Soleimani, former Quds force commander for Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
But at least one Iraqi analyst isn’t expecting Iran-backed groups to seek high-profile attacks to mark either of those days above. Instead, said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, “My gut feeling is they are going to try to do non-lethal things—to do the minimum to placate the support base.”
Some U.S. hawks, meanwhile, say high-profile drills rehearsing conflict with Iran is just what America needs. That was one of the messages included in a statement Friday from former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, former Undersecretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, retired Gen. David Petraeus, and others.
For the record: “The U.S. still has about 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria,” NBC News reports, and adds that, “While some equipment and capabilities have shifted in recent weeks, there are no plans to change the footprint in either country,” according to U.S. officials.
ICYMI: “Israel lacks the ability to pull off an assault that could destroy, or even significantly delay, Iran’s nuclear program, at least not anytime soon,” and that includes underground facilities at Natanz and Fordow, the New York Times reported Saturday. “In the world we live in, the only air force that can maintain a campaign is the U.S. Air Force,” according to Relik Shafir, a retired Israeli Air Force general.

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