Today's D Brief: State of Defense 2023; Scholz to the WH; Counter-ISIS war grinds on; Paris Davis to receive MOH; And a bit more.

Get a bit smarter on the near-term future of U.S. national defense: Military leaders remain mostly focused on trying to deter a future conflict with China, despite Russia’s ongoing Ukraine invasion. That’s the topline read from Defense One’s newest “State of Defense” special report, published Thursday. 

The Army, for example, has lots of plans for the future and a new method of wargaming. It’s also rapidly expanding its exercises with allies in the Asia-Pacific region. But it’s still got one big problem on its hands: too few young Americans want to join the Army. Defense One’s Ben Watson has more, here

The Navy has been through “several years of rip-it-up-and-start-over” with its 30-year shipbuilding plan, and last year presented three possible options for how it will proceed after 2027, in what may be a “somewhat desperate attempt to chart a course that the Navy and its contractors can follow for at least a few budget cycles,” writes Defense One’s Bradley Peniston. But the central problem remains that the Navy will need significantly more ships that it has now to keep up with China, and recent budgets simply would not support those numbers. Read State of the Navy, here

The Marine Corps is six years out from 2030, the stated end goal for its Force Design 2030 vision, and continues to focus on building its presence in the Pacific while reorganizing its organizations across the globe as quickly as possible. “We are done divesting. We went quickly as the Secretary of Defense guided all of us to do in the planning guidance and National Defense Strategy,” Commandant Gen. David Berger told Defense One’s Caitlin Kenney. “So now we’re stable. And now as fast as we can go, modernize the force and get the capabilities into the field, now. Not in five years or seven years—now. Which we’re doing.” Read State of the Marine Corps, here

The Air Force is continuing its own transformational initiatives while keeping a watchful eye on China. “My goal is to be ready today, tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade,” Air Force Chief Gen. C.Q. Brown said recently. At the same time, the Space Force is working on building its resiliency and building a “combat credible” force that can defend U.S. space assets against attack. Defense One’s Jennifer Hlad has more in State of the Air Force and Space Force, here

From Defense One

Commission Looks for Ways to Speed Up Pentagon Budget Process to Keep Pace With China // Marcus Weisgerber: The goal of the review is to adapt a decades-old way of doing things for the modern era.

State of Defense 2023 // Kevin Baron: A year into a war on European soil, U.S. defense planners remain fixated on China.

State of the Army 2023 // Ben Watson: The service is prepping for war in the Pacific—and hoping its recruiting problems won’t continue for a fourth consecutive year.

State of the Navy 2023 // Bradley Peniston: Has the fleet settled on a consensus shipbuilding plan just in time to be disrupted by the unmanned revolution?

State of the Air Force and Space Force 2023 // Jennifer Hlad: Training airmen to act more autonomously—and gearing up for more autonomous systems.

State of the Marine Corps 2023 // Caitlin M. Kenney: Efforts to fulfill the vision of Force Design 2030 are hitting a groove. But who will replace its architect?

New National Cyber Strategy: Raise Defensive Baseline for Critical Infrastructure // Alexandra Kelley: The White House wants to get electrical systems, gas pipelines, water treatment plants, and more up to a consistent level of cybersecurity.

Welcome to this Friday 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 1949, American journalist and historian Ronald Chernow was born in Brooklyn, New York. 

President Joe Biden welcomes German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to the White House this afternoon. The two leaders plan to discuss the war in Ukraine, as well as “shared challenges posed by China and our cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” according to a White House preview.

  • Next Friday: European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen plans to visit Biden at the White House on March 10.

New: The U.S. is about to send Ukraine “eight armored vehicles that can launch bridges and allow troops to cross rivers or other gaps,” Lita Baldor of the Associated Press reported Friday. “The vehicle bridges and ammunition in the package will be taken from Pentagon stocks through the presidential drawdown authority, so they will be able to be delivered quickly to the warfront,” Baldor writes.
The U.S. is helping Ukraine prepare for the next phases of war with Russia via tabletop exercises in Germany, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday from Wiesbaden. “No one is sitting there telling the Ukrainians, go left and go right, or do this or do that,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley said. “All we are doing is setting up the framework and the dynamics to allow the Ukrainians to self-learn,” he said.
Russia’s defense industry is traveling the world selling weapon systems that would seem to be quite useful in Ukraine, according to the British military. Case in point is the Arena-E “active protection system,” or APS, which is “designed to improve the survivability of armored vehicles,” the Brits noted on Twitter on Friday. According to the sales pamphlet, the system “defeats the threats that are most dangerous for armored vehicles…if you value your armor and crews you need Arena-E.” However, the Brits point out that “There has been no evidence of Arena-E systems being installed on Russia’s own vehicles in Ukraine, where it has lost over 5,000 armored vehicles.”
Related reading: 

The U.S. military carried out almost 50 missions to kill or capture alleged ISIS terrorists across Iraq and Syria in February, officials from the Tampa-based Central Command announced Friday. That includes 48 operations with partner forces like the Iraqi military, Kurdish Peshmerga, and the Syrian Democratic Forces; and two others that involved only U.S. forces (both in Syria).
Twenty-two suspected ISIS fighters were killed in those raids, and 25 others were detained, according to CENTCOM. Four Americans were injured (along with one working dog) over the course of those 50 raids; and all of those injuries happened during the same operation about two weeks ago. 
“The fight against ISIS continues,” said U.S. Army Gen. Michael Kurilla, who commands CENTCOM. “While we have significantly degraded the group’s capability, it retains the ability to direct, inspire, organize, and lead attacks in the region and abroad,” he said in a statement, and emphasized that “the group’s vile ideology remains uncontained and unconstrained.”

And lastly, a long-overdue congratulations to Paris Davis, a retired Army colonel who will receive the Medal of Honor today, nearly 60 years after he was first nominated. Davis was a captain, serving as commander of Detachment A-321, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), 1st Special Forces, in Vietnam in June 1965 when the “inexperienced South Vietnamese regional raiding force learned that a vastly superior North Vietnamese enemy force was operating in the area,” according to the White House.
Despite sustaining several injuries during the battle, he was able to kill multiple enemy soldiers, engage in hand-to-hand combat, lead others to destroy enemy gun emplacements, capture enemy troops, and rescue two Americans from enemy fire. He called in helicopters to evacuate the wounded, but refused to leave the battlefield until he had called in tactical air and artillery fire, “ensuring the destruction of the enemy force,” the White House said.
Davis, who is Black, was first nominated by his commander for the Medal of Honor in 1965, but the Army said the documents were lost, the Washington Post reported Friday. A second award package in 1969 was also “lost.”
“After years of pondering, I’ve come to the conclusion that the delay was due to the fact that he was Black, because I can’t find any other reason someone would lose two recommendations for the Medal of Honor,” Ron Deis, one of only three people from Davis’s 1965 team who is still alive, told the Post

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!

NEXT STORY: State of Defense 2023