Today's D Brief: Lawmakers talk Ukraine oversight; Russia discourages future aid to Kyiv; China security issues hit primetime; USAF fires two Minot officers; And a bit more.
It’s a two-fer Tuesday in terms of Ukraine aid oversight on Capitol Hill. The Pentagon’s #3 official Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl joins Inspector General Robert Storch, and Army Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims from the Joint Staff to discuss accountability and tracking measures for U.S. military assistance to Ukraine. That started at 10 a.m. ET before the House Armed Services Committee; catch the livestream via YouTube, here.
And the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense will discuss the same matter with the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander and Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims once again. That’s scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET; details and livestream, here.
In the upper chamber, two academics and a retired three-star general are talking more broadly about Ukraine with the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning. That lineup includes Angela Stent of the Georgetown University Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies; Dara Massicot of RAND Corporation; and retired Army Lt. Gen Keith Kellogg, from the Center for American Security's America First Policy Institute. That one’s not livestreamed, unfortunately. But we have the opening statements from Chairman Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island.
“NATO is in the midst of the greatest test it has ever faced,” Reed said. “To date, the United States has committed more than $30 billion in security assistance, including 10,000 Javelin and Stinger systems, 160 howitzers, 38 HIMARS, 109 Bradley fighting vehicles, 31 Abrams tanks, one million rounds of artillery, hundreds of air defense systems and UAVs, and hundreds of thousands of other pieces of equipment and ammunition,” he reminded his audience.
But “This war has exposed a poorly led and poorly trained Russian army with corrupt leadership at every level,” including “poor tactics and communications, and woeful logistics,” Reed said. And Russia’s leader continues to signal to outsiders that they’re sitting on the world’s largest nuclear weapons arsenal. “This battle is one of the few times in the ‘Atomic Age’ that we have had a surrogate fight with the potential to draw nuclear powers into a confrontation,” said Reed. That nuclear concern is front and center in his mind; and it’s one of the big issues he’d like to hear more about in today’s hearing.
For HASC’s leading Republican, “This conflict must end, and the President must be willing to do what it takes to end it,” Rep. Mike Rogers said in his opening statement Tuesday. Because for the election denier and committee chairman from Alabama, “Oversight is about more than just accounting; it’s about ensuring the administration is setting strategic goals and implementing a policy to achieve them. That is where I have very real concerns,” Rogers said. Again, the link to that livestream, which you can also catch in reruns on YouTube, is here.
Developing: Russian officials are working overtime trying to discourage more Western aid to Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War wrote in their Monday evening assessment. “These statements are likely meant to discourage the West from providing long-range systems to Ukraine by suggesting that the provision of such systems will protract the war by ‘forcing’ Russia to take more Ukrainian territory to be ‘safe,’” ISW writes.
A top Ukrainian intelligence official says Kyiv wants to “split the Russian frontline between Crimea and mainland Russia” with the upcoming Ukrainian spring offensive, expected in the coming weeks, according to ISW. But that seems like a fairly ambitious goal at this point, especially since Ukrainian forces in the eastern city of Bakhmut are nearly surrounded by encroaching Russian forces, President Voldymir Zelenskyy said Monday. The BBC and Reuters have more.
Update: The roads to Russian-occupied Crimea are becoming riddled with still more barriers and trenches, Brady Africk of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute noticed and flagged Monday on Twitter.
Bad news for fans of Ukraine: Allied tank donations aren’t rolling into Kyiv at any sort of impressive rate—and that doesn’t seem poised to really change anytime soon, the New York Times reported Tuesday from Berlin.
Belarussian activists claim to have immobilized a Russian A-50 MAINSTAY Airborne Early Warning aircraft in a drone attack as the plane staged at Belarus’s Maschulishchy air base on Sunday. The A-50 acts as a kind of midair quarterback, coordinating intelligence for friendly fighter jets, the British military said Tuesday on Twitter. The plane in question flew joint drills with Russia between 16 January and 1 February, as amateur planespotters noticed at the time.
The alleged drone attack damage Sunday appears to have been concentrated in the A-50’s front and middle sections, as well as its radar antennae. “Attribution and damage has not been officially corroborated,” the Brits noted; “However, the loss of an A-50 MAINSTAY would be significant as it is critical to Russian air operations for providing an air battlespace picture…likely leav[ing] 6 operational A-50s in service, further constraining Russian air operations.”
Hats off to Microsoft, which recently added the world’s largest aircraft to its legendary “Flight Simulator” software. You may recall Russian strikes destroyed the An-225 Mriya during the opening salvos of Putin’s Ukraine invasion. Catch a nearly two-minute video of the newly-available aircraft, posted to YouTube by Microsoft’s Xbox on Monday, here.
- “Putin orders Ukraine border tightening as drones hit Russia,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday from Kyiv;
- State Secretary Antony “Blinken in Central Asia to boost ties amid Russia-Ukraine war,” al-Jazeera reported Tuesday;
- Treasury Secretary Janet “Yellen in surprise visit to Kyiv to reaffirm U.S. economic aid to Ukraine,” Reuters reported Monday from the capital;
- And “Viral conspiracy theories falsely claim the war is fake,” the BBC reported Monday.
From Defense One
Intelligence Agencies Seek Better Ways to Buy IT and Emerging Tech // Chris Riotta: Many contracting offices are short-staffed, even though nearly 80% of the IC's budget goes to contractors.
U.S. Lacked ‘Political Will’, Resources To Build Up Afghan Forces, Report Finds // Lauren C. Williams: Biden, Trump administrations didn’t account for low morale, which was “one of the main contributors” to the collapse of Afghan National Defense and Security Forces amid the U.S. military withdrawal in 2021.
Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense Business Brief: End of Super Hornet production nears; New Navy hospital ships; Leidos names new CEO; and more.
Biden's New Border Crackdown Flouts US Treaty Obligations // Karen Musalo: A law professor explains how.
Cutting Pentagon Jobs Won't Stop the Real Waste, Union Says // Erich Wagner: Lawmakers should reject pressure to fund underperforming weapons and service contracts, AFGE officials said.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1983, the final episode of “M*A*S*H” aired, and still holds the record for most-viewed finale in TV history.
Americans will get two chances to hear about the allegedly looming threats posed by China’s Communist Party (CCP) leaders in two different House hearings today on Capitol Hill. The first began at 10 a.m. ET, and involves officials from the State Department, USAID, Development Finance Corporation, and Commerce Department. They’re speaking to lawmakers from the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee. Details and livestream, here.
And this evening in primetime, the House’s Select Committee on the CCP has invited former President Donald Trump’s first National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. You can catch that on C-Span beginning at 7 p.m. ET, here.
- “Pentagon to Reap Rewards From $53 Billion Chips Act,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday;
- “Huawei Export Licenses Could be Revoked by U.S.,” the Journal reported separately on Tuesday;
- “US Navy reconnaissance flight over Taiwan Strait draws angry response from China,” CNN reported Tuesday from Seoul;
- And “China’s CCP warns Elon Musk against sharing Wuhan lab leak report,” CNBC reported Tuesday.
The State Department just authorized Australia to purchase $506 million in U.S. missiles designed to target air defense systems. They’re known as Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles-Extended Range, and they work “by suppressing and destroying land or sea-based radar emitters…thereby improving the survivability of Australia’s tactical aircraft,” the State Department’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced Monday. Additional details, here.
And lastly: The Air Force has relieved two commanding officers at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. The commanders of the 5th Mission Support Group and the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron, as well as “four additional subordinate leaders” were relieved “due to a loss of confidence in their ability to complete their assigned duties,” the Air Force announced Monday.
“These personnel actions were necessary to maintain the very high standards we demand of those units entrusted with supporting our nation’s nuclear mission,” 8th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Andrew Gebara said in a statement. Stars and Stripes has a few more details, here.