Today's D Brief: Brown on tap for CJCS; Russian glide bombs; Ukraine aid totals; F-35 Band-Aid; And a bit more.
The Air Force's chief will be President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Joint Chiefs. When Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. led Pacific Air Forces for two years beginning in 2018, the fighter pilot brought an innovative approach to confronting China, which officials at the Pentagon have for the last few years called America's “pacing threat.” That got Brown the top job in the Air Force, and later today, Biden’s nomination to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The president is expected to formally announce his intent to nominate Brown in a White House ceremony slated for 1:45 p.m. ET at the Rose Garden. Brown is the first African American to lead a U.S. military service, and if confirmed, would be America's second Black Joint Chief—after Colin Powell. “I believe that young people only aspire to be what they see," Brown said in an event Monday hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. "And if they don’t have a chance to see the opportunities in serving in the military, then they’re not inclined.”
“Brown is known as a changemaker, having instituted the concept of ‘agile combat employment’ during his time at PACAF, and then expanding the concept throughout the Air Force as chief,” writes Defense One’s Audrey Decker. “That concept, as well as his ‘Accelerate Change or Lose’ doctrine, is part of the service’s pivot towards higher-end aircraft and technology that officials say are needed to keep up with China.”
Brown’s nomination will then head to the Senate, where Defense One’s Kevin Baron foresees at least some resistance. “I expect extreme-right Senators will challenge the Black chief of the Air Force on his support for DEI, [or Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] alone,” Baron tweeted.
From Defense One
F-35 Program Completes Band-Aid Fix for Engine // Audrey Decker: All jets had received the modification earlier this month, but the Pentagon is still trying to figure out why a mysterious vibration is happening.
Space Force Will Look At How to Hack Targets From Space // Patrick Tucker: “We're laying the groundwork for starting to figure that,” said the leader of Space Operations Command.
White House Releases Guidelines for Responsible AI Development // Alexandra Kelley: The Biden administration lists its priorities for federal R&D in artificial intelligence—and asks for suggestions about allaying the risks.
DOD Wants AI to Help Automate Records Management // Chris Riotta: A new strategy seeks "an environment where DoD records are automatically identified and captured, expertly curated, and systemically governed."
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Bradley Peniston and Audrey Decker, with Ben Watson and Jennifer Hlad. On this day in 1999, House investigators released the alarming Cox Committee report, which detailed China's nuclear espionage against the U.S. going back to the 1970s.
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks this week visited Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright, to see what troops and families there need, and to learn more about operations in the Arctic. Afterward, Hicks visited an Army research facility to “gain an understanding of the impact of permafrost thaw on sustainability of infrastructure, construction, and environmental conditions affecting operations in the Arctic,” the Defense Department said.
Her visit followed a huge U.S. military command-and-control exercise near Alaska called Northern Edge, which featured elements of the Pentagon’s connect-everything plan, known as Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2. The exercise included F-117 Nighthawks, which are officially retired, as well as A-10s, Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reported.
Russia was possibly somewhat interested in that exercise, as NORAD tracked a Russian military aircraft flying in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone as it was underway. That incident came just a month after a similar incident in which two Russian bombers were intercepted in the ADIZ.
Update: Ukraine’s allies have pledged more than $65 billion in security aid to help Kyiv defend against the full-scale Russian military invasion that began 15 months ago. That includes $38 billion from the U.S. alone, according to the Defense Department (PDF). Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin highlighted the collective total during remarks Thursday at the latest virtual meeting of the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which features nearly 50 of Ukraine’s allies from around the globe.
Austin also rang his counterparts in Denmark and the Netherlands Thursday. Both of those nations are among America’s NATO allies that have F-16s available for possible use by Ukraine’s air force in the coming months, since both of those allies are also recent F-35 customers. “We hope this training will begin in the coming weeks,” Austin said Thursday.
“Everyone here knows what the Ukrainians are up against,” he continued. “Russia has renewed its shocking and shameful barrage of missile attacks that threaten innocent Ukrainian civilians, including hypersonic missiles aimed at Kyiv.”
“The stakes are high, but the cause is just and our will is strong,” Austin added, and stressed in closing, “We’ll continue to stand up for an open world of rules and rights. And we will stand up for a free and sovereign Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
New: The U.S. may soon sell Ukraine a National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, also known as NASAMS, which are a ground-based air defense system. The likely sale would come in at about $285 million, according to the Pentagon’s security cooperation arm, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Details, here.
New, but also quite old, too: Russia has modified many of its Soviet-era bombs with glide devices and satellite navigation systems that are making them harder to shoot down, according to the New York Times, reporting Thursday.
Moscow’s jets release the bombs over Russian territory, and they “glide 20 miles or more, crossing the frontline” before they hit their targets, the Times reports. “The bombs are aloft for only 70 seconds or less,” and register as “little dots on radar screens that soon disappear after being dropped.”
Why bring it up? Ukrainian officials say those promised F-16s could help chase the jets away, and potentially lessen the devastation from Russia’s ongoing invasion. Read more, here.
Also from the NYTs (and CNN): U.S. officials say they believe Ukraine’s intelligence services or special forces were most likely responsible for the two drones that targeted the Kremlin on May 3.
Caveat: “U.S. officials say their level of confidence that the Ukrainian government directly authorized the Kremlin drone attack is ‘low’,” the Times reports, “but that is because intelligence agencies do not yet have specific evidence identifying which government officials, Ukrainian units or operatives were involved.”
Today in maps: See exactly where the anti-Putin Russian forces carried out their raid of Russian villages in the border region of Belgorod, not far from Kharkiv, Ukraine, via an annotated new Google map created by Mark Krutov from Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.
- “Militias used US armoured vehicles in attack over Russian border,” the Financial Times reported Tuesday;
- “Russia signs deal to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus,” the Associated Press reported Thursday from Estonia;
- “The cyber gulag: How Russia tracks, censors and controls its citizens,” AP reported Tuesday, also from Estonia;
- “36 Hours in Bakhmut: One Unit’s Desperate Battle to Hold Back the Russians,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday;
- And don’t miss “From Russia with gold: UAE cashes in as sanctions bite,” from Reuters, reporting Thursday from London.
And lastly: Microsoft says it uncovered a Chinese hacking campaign targeting critical infrastructure across the U.S., including in the Pacific island territory of Guam. The culprits are known as Volt Typhoon, and they’ve been active for at least two years, Microsoft announced Wednesday on its security blog.
The company says it has “moderate confidence” that the Chinese hackers were looking to “disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises.” And many observers have noted that Guam would likely be among China’s first targets should a conflict break out over the self-governing island of Taiwan.
The hackers didn’t seem to discriminate much, aiming at targets across sectors as diverse as “communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, construction, maritime, government, information technology, and education,” according to Microsoft.
Advice for those affected: “Close or change credentials for all compromised accounts,” and do so as soon as possible. More, here.
- “Malware Discovered in Guam Raises a Question: Is China Prepping the Battlefield?” David Sanger of the New York Times asked Wednesday;
- See also “Chinese hackers attacked Kenyan government as debt strains grew,” via Reuters, reporting Wednesday from Nairobi.