Today's D Brief: New aid for Taiwan; Sex-assault rules change; Chinese-malware warnings; Niger coup ultimatum; And a bit more.
The United States will send up to $345 million in unspecified weapons and military aid to Taiwan, the White House announced Friday. The package was authorized under President Biden’s drawdown authority, which has been used for Ukraine aid but not yet for Taiwan. (Congress authorized the president to provide up to $1 billion of drawdown assistance to Taiwan in the 2023 budget.)
The package “will “address critical defensive stockpiles, multi-domain awareness, anti-armor, and air defense capabilities,” a Defense Department spokesperson told the Washington Post. Reuters reported Saturday that four unarmed MQ-9A reconnaissance drones might be included; however, “their inclusion could fall through as officials work through details on removing some of the advanced equipment from the drones that only the U.S. Air Force is allowed access to.”
“I strongly support President Biden’s long-delayed choice to exercise the authority Congress provided him to arm Taiwan with real capabilities to defend itself,” Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of the Armed Services Committee said in a statement. “This is exactly why Congress passed the Taiwan Enhanced Resilience Act, which allows the administration to transfer substantial amounts of U.S. defense articles and services to Taiwan; I urge the president to make use of the remaining authority as soon as possible,” he added.
Developing: U.S. officials think Chinese hackers have embedded “malicious computer code...deep inside the networks controlling power grids, communications systems and water supplies that feed military bases in the United States and around the world,” the New York Times reported Saturday, citing several military, intelligence, and national security officials.
The code may be able to “interrupt or slow American military deployments or resupply operations by cutting off power, water and communications to U.S. military bases,” a congressional official said.
Microsoft’s announcement in late May that Guam had been hit with something new kicked off suspicions of something much larger, the Times reported. Several targets were affected in that breach, including Guam’s communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, construction, maritime, government, information technology, and education sectors, according to Microsoft. Read more, here.
One of Australia’s older MRH-90 Taipan helicopters crashed Friday evening during a large joint exercise with the U.S. military and allies known as Talisman Sabre. The aircraft went down at about 10:30 p.m. local time near Lindeman Island, in the country’s northeast, off the coast of Queensland.
All four service members on board are believed to have perished in the accident: Capt. Danniel Lyon, Lt. Maxwell Nugent, Warrant Officer Class Two Joseph Laycock, and Cpl. Alexander Naggs.
Exercise Talisman Sabre is “important for both of our defense forces; it's serious, it is dangerous, and it does carry risk,” Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said Saturday while standing beside Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, State Secretary Antony Blinken, and Blinken’s Australian counterpart, Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
“The United States is assisting with search and rescue efforts, and we will continue to help in any way that we can,” Austin said.
It’s not the first time Australia has had problems with that aircraft. “As recently as March, the fleet was pulled from the skies after an engine failure in one of the helicopters during a training exercise, forcing the crew to ditch into the sea off the coast of New South Wales,” the BBC reported Monday.
Australia has grounded its remaining MRH-90s, which number about four dozen. “We are not flying the MRH-90 today and won't until we think it is safe to do so,” army chief Lt. Gen. Simon Stuart told reporters Sunday. He had planned to keep the helos flying until next year; however, “what happens between now and then, from what we learn from this incident, is yet to be determined,” Stuart said.
- “China says US military aid to Taiwan will not deter its will to unify the island,” the Associated Press reported Saturday from Taipei;
- “Japan Warns World Facing its Greatest Post-WWII Period of Crisis,” U.S. Naval Institute News reported Friday;
- “Italy [defense] minister: joining China's Belt and Road was 'atrocious' decision,” Reuters reported Saturday from Rome;
- “Xi appoints new chief of China's nuclear arsenal,” Reuters reported Monday from Beijing;
- And don’t miss two new Defense One Radio podcast episodes, including “A brief history of China’s nuclear forces,” and “‘Oppenheimer,’ explored.”
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 here. On this day in 1849: Benjamin Chambers received a patent for a breech-loading cannon.
Niger’s coup leaders have until next Sunday to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum—or else West African nations say they’ll use force “to restore constitutional order,” the Associated Press reported Monday from Niger’s capital city of Niamey.
The threat came from the bloc of regional states known as the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS. At least officially, its members include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. However, several of these nations have also been hit with coups in the last few years, including Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
Chadian President Mahamat Idriss Deby visited the coup leaders in Niamey on Sunday hoping to broker some kind of peace deal; he does not appear to have been successful. Deby also met with detained President Bazoum, and the two appeared in a photo released publicly.
Worth noting: Niger is “the world's seventh-biggest producer of uranium, the radioactive metal widely used for nuclear energy and treating cancer,” Reuters reminds us. France and the U.S. also maintain military bases in Niger.
Coup leaders say they’re preparing for France to attempt to free detained President Bazoum. And “On Sunday, supporters of the junta burned French flags and attacked the French embassy in Niger's capital Niamey, drawing tear gas from police,” Reuters reports.
From the region:
- “French embassy in Niger is attacked as protesters waving Russian flags march through capital,” AP reported Sunday from Niamey;
- “Pro-coup protesters in Niger shout ‘long live Putin’ as new leaders face calls to cede power,” CNN reported Monday from the capital;
- “How Wagner is providing cover for Putin in crisis-hit Niger,” Sky News reported Monday;
- “Wagner-backed CAR leader asks voters to abolish term limits,” the BBC reported Sunday;
- And “Prigozhin hails Niger coup, touts Wagner services,” Reuters reported Saturday from Moscow.
President Biden on Friday signed an executive order that removes prosecution authority from the military chain of command in cases of sexual assault, domestic violence and other serious offenses. Some observers celebrated the order for closing a prosecutorial loophole, while others praised it as “the most transformative military justice reform in our nation’s history.”
The order moves final approval for “removing judicial functions and prosecutorial decisions regarding the most serious crimes from the chain of command and [puts that authority] in the hands of independent, trained professionals,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said in a statement Friday. “While it will take time to see the results of these changes, these measures will instill more trust, professionalism, and confidence in the system,” she said.
The order also establishes rules governing Offices of Special Trial Counsel, and creates a uniform evidence standard for non-judicial punishment actions, among other changes. These reforms “will better protect victims and ensure prosecutorial decisions are fully independent from the chain of command,” according to the White House.
Nancy Parrish, founder of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders, thanked Biden for the changes in a statement Friday. “I founded Protect Our Defenders over a decade ago with the aim to enact a professional and more fair U.S. Military Justice System,” she said, and added, “This is a historic moment.” Read more from Protect Our Defenders, here.
ICYMI: Defense One’s three-part look at efforts to reduce sexual assault in the military came out in December, via Jennifer Hlad.
Lastly today: A retired U.S. Army major general died when his private plane crashed on Thursday. Anthony Pott had been alone at the controls of a Piper PA-28 whose wreckage was found near Havre de Grace, Maryland. The recently retired three-star served as Program Executive Officer for Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical at Aberdeen Proving Ground. Military.com has a bit more.