Today's D Brief: More arms to Ukraine; Misfiring cannons; Military noms, from USMC to NSA; More Guardsmen to the border; And a bit more.
The Pentagon announced another $300 million in weapons headed to Ukraine, including lots more ammunition for various air defense systems including Patriot rounds, AIM-7 missiles, Avenger air defense systems, and even unspecified “munitions for Unmanned Aerial Systems.” There’s more artillery in there, too, as well as tank rounds, AT-4 anti-tank weapons, Stinger anti-aircraft weapons, aircraft rockets, mine-clearing equipment, more night vision gear, and more.
By the way: The U.S. initially sent Ukraine several weapons that were so poorly maintained in Kuwait that they could have hurt and possibly even killed Ukrainian forces if used. That’s according to a recent report by the Defense Department’s inspector general, which Defense One’s Sam Skove unpacked Wednesday.
For the record: It’s not the first time the Pentagon’s IG has faulted the parties involved—Army’s 401st Army Field Support Battalion and the contractor Amentum Services—for inadequate maintenance. Read on for details.
Good news, North American defense contractors: Officials in Canada and the U.S. are working together to draft identical cyber security certification processes, Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand announced Wednesday. The two countries plan to finalize those requirements by the end of next year, Reuters reported from Ottawa. Tiny bit more, here.
Meanwhile in Alaska, suspected Chinese spies “have made several attempts in recent years to gain access to military facilities” across the state, including Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook reported Wednesday from Anchorage. “Details about the incidents remain mostly classified,” he noted.
The incident echoes earlier Chinese probes, like the one at a sensitive naval base in Norfolk, Virginia, revealed in a New York Times report from December 2019.
Bigger-picture considerations: “Alaska has seen the Pentagon increasingly funnel resources and troops to the state in recent years as competition in the Arctic heats up,” Vanden Brook writes. “The state is also seen as key to homeland defense given its proximity to Russia, the ballistic missile threat from North Korea and, increasingly, China.” Read on, here.
Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin met with Japanese leaders Thursday in Tokyo, which followed just a few weeks on the heels of President Joe Biden’s visit to Hiroshima. Austin held meetings with his counterpart, Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu, as well as Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa, and National Security Advisor Akiba Takeo, the Pentagon announced in a somewhat unusually lengthy readout.
And in case you missed it, Taiwan’s de facto Ambassador to the U.S. Bi-khim Hsiao this week became the latest official from Taipei to link Russia’s Ukraine invasion with China’s interest in reunifying the island by force, if necessary.
“[P]ushing back on aggression is the key message that will help to deter any consideration or miscalculation that an invasion can be conducted unpunished, without costs, in a rapid way,” Hsiao said Tuesday at an event in Washington organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “We must ensure that anyone contemplating the possibility of an invasion understands that, and that is why Ukraine’s success in defending against aggression is so important also for Taiwan,” she said. Read more from CSM, here.
America’s top diplomat is meeting with NATO counterparts today in Oslo. The foreign ministers are discussing Ukraine’s possible future membership in the alliance, State Secretary Antony Blinken told reporters Thursday in Norway. However, Blinken cautioned, that isn’t likely to happen “until the time is right.” And with Ukraine under daily missile attacks from Russia, now is most definitely not a good time. The Times has a tiny bit more from Oslo, here; and Reuters has this.
Related reading from this week’s GLOBSEC in Bratislava, Slovakia:
- Macron Will Push NATO For ‘Concrete’ Security Guarantee for Ukraine, Defense One
- Estonia Will Ask For a Clearer Path for Ukraine to Join NATO, Defense One
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson, with Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1980, CNN started broadcasting for the first time, beginning our current era of round-the-clock news. For a review of some of the top stories of that year, check out this retrospective published by the Christian Science Monitor.
President Joe Biden is visiting the U.S. Air Force Academy today. He’s scheduled to deliver the commencement address shortly before noon ET.
From the Marine Corps to the NSA, lawmakers now have several proposed leaders across the military to weigh in on. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday announced President Biden’s picks to lead not just the Joint Chiefs (as we witnessed last Thursday), but also North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command (a joint position); the Missile Defense Agency; Cyber Command and the NSA (also a joint position); the Defense Intelligence Agency; and the Marines.
The Marines’ current assistant commandant Gen. Eric Smith is Biden’s pick to lead the Corps after Gen. David Berger’s eventual departure. Defense One’s Caitlin Kenney has a bit more on Smith’s background, here.
NORAD/NorthCom could soon be led by Air Force Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot, who is currently the deputy commander at Central Command down in Tampa.
Cyber Command’s deputy chief Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh has been tapped to succeed his current boss, Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, at the NSA/CyberCom.
The MDA could see Air Force Maj. Gen. Heath Collins in charge, provided he’s confirmed by lawmakers and transfers from his current job at Alabama’s Redstone Arsenal.
DIA may be under the leadership of Air Force Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kruse, who would have to transfer out of his current posting at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Worth noting: Of Biden’s eight new nominations announced Wednesday, six are from the Air Force. Read more, here.
The Virginia National Guard has been ordered to send 100 troops to Texas’s border with Mexico in response to a request from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. Abbott spoke with his GOP colleague, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, ahead of Youngkin’s order, which his office announced Wednesday.
“Fentanyl and illicit drugs flowing over our border are devastating Virginia families and communities, [while] an average of five Virginians die per day from fentanyl,” Youngkin’s team said. The Virginia governor himself is quoted saying, “The ongoing border crisis facing our nation has turned every state into a border state.”
In case you missed it: Abbott’s border-focused “Operation Lonestar” has led to a flood of “frustration, anxiety and anger” among the Texas Air National Guard troops assigned to the mission, according to a joint report by the Texas Tribune and Military Times published in late February.
Lastly today: The U.S. Army will soon rename its large Louisiana base at Fort Polk to honor Black American Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a North Carolina soldier who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions against German troops while serving with the 369th U.S. Infantry Regiment in France during World War I.
Fort Polk will become Fort Johnson in about two weeks, on Tuesday June 13, Army officials announced Wednesday. Since 1993, Polk has been known as the home of the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center, where soldiers often meet annual training requirements before deploying overseas.
“Sgt. William Henry Johnson embodied the warrior spirit, and we are deeply honored to bear his name at the Home of Heroes,” Polk’s current commander, Army Brig. Gen. David Gardner, said in a statement.
JRTC will remain the same; but the base, named for the Confederate Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk, is the latest of nine bases that are undergoing Congressionally-mandated name changes to better reflect the 21st-century values of the U.S. military. Those changes are expected to be completed by the end of the calendar year.
Next up: North Carolina’s Fort Bragg will become Fort Liberty on Friday. North Carolina public radio has more on that event, here. Others that have already changed names include:
- Fort Cavazos, formerly Fort Hood, Texas;
- Fort Barfoot, formerly Fort Pickett, Va.;
- Fort Novosel, formerly Fort Rucker, Ala.;
- Fort Gregg-Adams, formerly Fort Lee, Va.;
- Fort Moore, formerly Fort Benning, Ga.
Two bases have yet to set dates for their name changes. Those include: