Today's D Brief: Next AF chief tapped; SecDef in Indo-Pac; Ops in Africa; What if AI gets dumber? And a bit more.

Air Force’s No. 2 tapped as service’s next chief of staff. Gen. Dave Allvin, who is currently serving as the service’s vice chief, could replace Gen. CQ Brown, who is President Joe Biden’s pick to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Defense One’s Audrey Decker has more, here.

The Tuberville hold continues: Allvin is likely to join the 100-plus senior Air Force and Space Force officers whose promotions and jobs are being held up by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, in protest of DOD abortion policies. 

These holds “pose challenges to our nation’s ability to assure allies and partners during a strategically critical time and deter adversaries who may seek to exploit our inability to effectively transition our nation’s most senior military leaders,” an Air Force spokesperson said. Decker has details, here.

For what it's worth: Parts of Tuberville’s oft-told tales about his father’s World War II service don’t stand up to scrutiny, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Welcome to The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you haven’t subscribed to this newsletter yet, you can do that quickly here. On this day 75 years ago, President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981, ending racial segregation in the U.S. military. We discussed some of these difficult issues in a Defense One Radio podcast this past November featuring celebrated historian Matthew Delmont. 

“The end of segregation throughout the Department of Defense was a major step toward fulfilling America's founding promises of liberty and equality under law,” Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said in a statement Wednesday. “As we reflect on the tremendous progress that our country has made over the past 75 years, we recommit ourselves to continue the noble work of all those who broke down barriers, fought prejudice, and worked to ensure that America's peerless military embodies the democratic ideals that it so proudly defends,” he said. 

“President Truman’s actions have created progress well beyond this Department; any legal or moral justification for segregation crumbled in the wake of it,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said in her own statement. “In the decades that followed, segregation in the nation’s public schools and public spaces also came to an end,” she said, and added, “These decisions moved the entire nation closer to the promise of racial equality.” 

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is visiting the Pacific region this week, which is his eighth trip as Pentagon chief. His destinations include Australia and, in a first for a U.S. defense secretary, Papua New Guinea. 

Austin will meet with military leaders in Papua New Guinea’s capital city of Port Moresby, where they’ll begin working through two recently-signed deals—a U.S.-Papua New Guinea Defense Cooperation Agreement, and an Agreement Concerning Counter Illicit Transnational Maritime Activity Operations. The latter involves the U.S. Coast Guard’s Shiprider program, which is designed to help fight illegal fishing—an activity that recently “replaced piracy as the leading global maritime security threat,” according to a Coast Guard official, speaking last April. 

Austin will also meet up with State Secretary Antony Blinken in Australia for the 33rd Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations. Austin later plans to visit troops participating in this year’s Talisman Sabre exercises, which are the largest U.S.-Australian drills to date, according to the Pentagon. 

Allied forces from Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and the UK will join the Sabre drills. And for the first time, troops from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Tonga will be involved as well. 

Read more: 

The Pentagon could move more quickly to replace arms sent to Ukraine. At least, that’s the view of the CEO of RTX, the weapons-maker formerly known as Raytheon. The company has received about $2 billion in contracts to replace missiles pulled from U.S. military stocks over the past year and a half, but expects another $2.5 billion in orders over the next year, CEO Greg Hayes said during a quarterly earnings conference call Tuesday.

“If you think about this $30-some billion of the weapons that we've supplied to Ukraine, we've only got $2 billion of that under contract today,” RTX CEO Hayes told Defense One in a June interview. More, here.

Two weeks after reporting from America’s so-called “secret war in Somalia,” NBC News visited Niger and Benin over the last few days to report on another low-profile U.S. military training mission in Africa, which the network calls “new frontline in the war on terror.” 

You’ll see several hallmarks of America’s Global War on Terror in NBC’s report, including desert-like environs; assault training around Hesco barriers and through skeletal wooden buildings; medical evacuation drills; and roadside bomb disposal. There’s little that’s particularly new in NBC’s report; still it’s an admirable reminder that the U.S. military persists in fighting terrorism overseas, including with its 1,100 troops presently based in Niger. 

The baddest bad guys in the region are the al -Qaida-affiliated Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin group and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, according to a biannual United Nations report (PDF) published in late June. Indeed, as U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Khaled Khiari said on June 20, “Africa has emerged as the key battleground for terrorism, with a major increase in the number of active groups operating on the continent.” (African leaders told the UN Security Council much the same thing during a special meeting in late March.) 

“The violence, coupled with rising food prices, had led to further deterioration in the humanitarian situation, resulting in 37.7 million people in the Sahel requiring humanitarian assistance or protection and forcing the closure of approximately 10,000 schools across Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria,” the UN said this week. 

The collapse of Libya in 2011 and the fall of ISIS in 2017 have contributed to growing terrorism activity across Africa, particularly affecting Burkina Faso and Mali (both run by military juntas), Niger, Chad, Sudan, Mozambique, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Somalia, and elsewhere. UN officials are now monitoring what they describe as a “southward expansion of terrorism towards coastal countries” like Benin and Togo. 

But many other factors have contributed as well, including organized crime, armed rebellion, unconstitutional changes of government, piracy, climate-induced migration, food crises, and fake news are often converging to degrade security in the region, Omar Touray, president of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States known as ECOWAS, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday. 

Related reading: 

And lastly: OpenAI’s integrity loss could spook U.S. military leaders. Artificial intelligence models don’t always improve in accuracy over time, a recent Stanford study shows—a big potential turnoff for the Pentagon as it experiments with large language models like ChatGPT and tries to predict how adversaries might use such tools, Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reported Tuesday. 

What’s going on: The Stanford paper showed OpenAI’s GPT-4 performed less well than GPT-3.5 on difficult math problems—and that it actually got worse at math between March and June. “GPT-4’s accuracy dropped from 97.6% in March to 2.4% in June, and there was a large improvement of GPT-3.5’s accuracy, from 7.4% to 86.8%,” the Stanford researchers write.

“This is bad news for the military, for which continual improvement of large language models would be critical,” Tucker reports. Read the rest, here.