Today's D Brief: Another US sub in Korea; Russia, Ukraine exchange drone strikes; CNO nom announced; Giant defense-contractor settlement; And a bit more.

An American fast attack submarine visited the South Korean island of Jeju on Monday. The USS Annapolis’s replenishment stop occurred less than a week after USS Kentucky became the first nuclear-armed sub since 1981 to stop by South Korea. The Kentucky, which visited the southern port city of Busan last Tuesday, has since departed.

But you can watch a report on its visit courtesy of ABC News, whose Martha Raddatz visited the sub in Busan for a report published Thursday. U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Chris Cavanaugh told Raddatz the Busan visit “represents our enduring relationship with the Republic of Korea, our security commitment and our extended deterrence. It assures our allies and it deters any potential adversaries.” 

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol also boarded the missile sub on Wednesday, along with his wife. Yoon told media at Busan that he was the “first leader of an ally” nation to board a U.S. boomer, and declared, “This means North Korea can’t even dream of a nuclear provocation” since “such a provocation would spell the end of the regime.” 

As for the Annapolis, which is nuclear-powered but not nuclear-armed, Yoon said its arrival will help the U.S. and South Korea bolster their “combined defense posture” and help “commemorate the 70th anniversary of the alliance,” Seoul’s navy said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.  

The sub visits come amid what may seem like perpetually rising tensions with North Korea. Pyongyang launched two ballistic missiles into the East Sea on Wednesday, shortly after the Kentucky visited Busan. North Korea later launched several cruise missiles into the Yellow Sea, on its western coast, early Saturday morning. 

And U.S.-Korea tensions recently ratcheted up a notch with the unauthorized crossing of U.S. soldier Travis King over the DMZ just last week. But conversations about King’s status have begun at last, United Nations Command officials confirmed Monday. Reuters has a tiny bit more out of that new development, here; the Associated Press and CNN have similar coverage. 

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston and Jennifer Hlad. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, you can do that quickly here. On this day in 1950, the U.S. launched its first-ever object from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (now Space Force Station) using a captured German V-2 rocket.

Russia used Iranian-made exploding drones to attack another Ukrainian port city, this time in Reni. After the four-hour attack, which wounded at least seven people, “a grain hangar was destroyed, tanks for storing other types of cargo were damaged, and a fire broke out in one of the production premises,” Ukraine’s military said Monday. 

Reni is located right beside Romania, on the storied Danube river. That river could be a future route for Ukrainian efforts to ship its grain to global markets after Russia withdrew from a UN-brokered deal last week. 

“Food terrorism” is what Ukraine’s top diplomat called the strikes at Reni and other Ukrainian ports last week. “I urge all nations, particularly those in Africa and Asia who are most affected by rising food prices, to mount a united global response to food terrorism,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on social media Monday. 

Ukraine launched its own drone attack on occupied Crimea early Monday. The strikes, allegedly involving 17 drones, hit an ammunition depot in the city of Dzhankoi, prompting evacuations for anyone living within 3 miles of the site, Reuters reports.

Another apparent Ukrainian drone attack hit Moscow, including one building near Defense Minister headquarters on Monday. “Roads nearby were temporarily closed, windows on the top two floors of an office building struck by a second drone in another Moscow district were blown out, and debris was scattered on the ground,” Reuters reported separately from the Russian capital. 

Russia attacked Ukraine with 17 cruise missiles and 2 ballistic missiles on Sunday. Just nine of the cruise missiles were shot down before hitting their targets, according to Kyiv’s military.

Ukrainian ground forces are advancing “gradually but confidently” around the destroyed city of Bakhmut, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday on Telegram. “In one week, 4 of territory was liberated in the Bakhmut direction,” she said. And “In total, during the offensive in this direction, the liberated area was 35,” she added. 

Ukraine has clawed back 192 square km of occupied territory since June, Maliar said. U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken said Sunday that Ukraine has “already taken back about 50 percent of what was initially seized” by Russia’s invasion forces—though Blinken did not elaborate. “Now they’re in a very hard fight to take back more,” he said. 

“These are still relatively early days of the counteroffensive,” said Blinken. “It is tough. The Russians have put in place strong defenses...But it will not play out over the next week or two; we’re still looking, I think, at several months.”

Russian leader Vladimir Putin said this weekend that Ukraine’s counteroffensive “has failed.” Putin was standing beside his fellow autocrat Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus when they spoke to reporters Sunday in St. Petersburg. “There is no counteroffensive,” Lukashenko said proudly. “It exists, but it has failed,” Putin replied. 

Related reading: 

Vice CNO would break two glass ceilings if confirmed for the top job. The White House said Friday that President Joe Biden intends to nominate Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti as the next chief of naval operations. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Franchetti will become the first woman to serve as the Navy’s top officer, and the first to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But Franchetti may first join a less exclusive club: the group of senior defense and military nominees—275 as of last week—held up by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who is protesting Pentagon reproductive-healthcare policies by refusing to allow the promotions. The Marine Corps is currently without a confirmed top officer for the first time in a century, the Army will lose its current chief of staff on Aug. 4, and CNO Adm. Michael Gilday will retire on Aug. 22, as required by law.

“Franchetti would take the helm as the Navy faces increasing aggression from China, and confronts mounting problems in the shipbuilding industry—from the lack of capacity in shipyards to a ship maintenance backlog,” wrote D1’s Caitlin M. Kenney, here

Other upcoming Navy noms announced: Vice Adm. James Kilby to replace Franchetti as vice CNO, Adm. Samuel Paparo to head U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Vice Adm. Stephen “Web” Koehler to lead U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Booz Allen Hamilton to settle false-charges lawsuit by paying $377 million to U.S. government. Six years after the Justice Department began investigating allegations that the defense contractor overcharged the U.S. government to help cover losses in other areas of its business, Booz Allen has agreed to pay up. The Washington Post reports that the $377 million settlement “represents one of the largest financial settlements for a defense company under the federal False Claims Act, officials said.” Here's the DOJ statement.

A Booz Allen spokeswoman told the Post that company officials believe they acted lawfully and responsibly, but decided to settle for “pragmatic business reasons” to avoid the delay, uncertainty, and expense of protracted litigation. More, here

And lastly: President Biden just re-elevated CIA Director William Burns to his cabinet, which was common practice until 2005, when the then-newly-established director of national intelligence had assumed the cabinet position. Former President Donald Trump renewed the practice during his term in office; but Biden reverted it back upon his inauguration. 

“Working in lockstep with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Bill has harnessed intelligence to give our country a critical strategic advantage,” Biden said in a statement Friday. “Under his leadership, the CIA is delivering a clear-eyed, long-term approach to our nation’s top national security challenges—from tackling Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine, to managing responsible competition with the People’s Republic of China, to addressing the opportunities and risks of emerging technology,” the president added. 

Does it matter? The New York Times calls the change “largely symbolic” and “a credibility boost for the agency after coming under intense criticism for intelligence failures before the terror attacks two decades ago.” Read more, here.

Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated who sued contractor Booz Allen Hamilton over allegations that it falsely charged the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars.