Today's D Brief: Shutdown watch; US tanks in Ukraine; Russia’s wartime adjustments; China’s maritime tactics; And a bit more.
Half of DOD civilians would get furloughed in a shutdown, according to the Defense Department’s most recently posted contingency plans. Here’s an agency-by-agency rundown from Defense One sister pub GovExec.
Lawmakers have just five days to make a deal, so the Senate is moving to advance a stopgap bill while House Republicans still can’t coalesce around a single plan just yet, The Hill reports.
President Joe Biden and top administration officials are warning about the various effects of a shutdown. “Both the president and the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, made public calls for Republicans to resolve their differences before next Sunday, when federal funding is set to lapse. They noted that a shutdown would mean that members of the military would go without paychecks, air travelers could experience disruptions and a variety of programs safeguarding the public would be shuttered.” (New York Times)
Read more: Axios has a “history of government shutdowns and how long they last,” here.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1890, the U.S. formally established Sequoia National Park along a portion of California’s eastern mountainous region. The park includes the highest point in the contiguous U.S., Mount Whitney, whose peak by 1890 was a designated military reservation under the control of the Army’s Signal Corps. The park also contains its namesake trees, with one in particular—the General Sherman Tree—that’s more than 2,000 years old and is often referred to as the largest tree on the planet (by trunk volume).
U.S.-provided Abrams tanks “are already in Ukraine and are preparing to reinforce our brigades,” President Volodymir Zelenskyy announced Monday on social media. “We are looking for new contracts and expanding the geography of supply,” he added.
It’s unclear exactly how many of the 31 promised Abrams have made it to Ukraine; it’s also unclear how Ukraine may choose to use them since the country’s military intelligence chief told The Drive last week, “if they are used at the front line and just in a combined arms fight, they will not live very long on the battlefield.”
How has the Russian military adapted its tactics during its ongoing Ukraine invasion? The Wall Street Journal on Sunday tallied a little more than half a dozen different adjustments Moscow has implemented since trying and failing to take control of the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv almost 580 days ago.
Examples include less risky jet piloting, launching missiles from much farther back, hiding vehicles in tree lines, moving ammo depots farther back from frontlines, and nearly doubling tank and artillery shell production. But on the tank note, one defense official predicted it will still take Russia about a decade to make up its tank losses, which number around 2,000 so far. Story, here.
Another recent adjustment: “Russia has placed layers of barriers, nets, and barges at the entrance to Sevastopol harbor in Crimea,” Brady Africk of the American Enterprise Institute noted Sunday on social media, after weeks of Ukrainian naval drone attacks on Russian vessels in the region.
It’s often said that defending on the battlefield is much easier than going on the offense. And indeed, “Over the last nine months, the Russian force in Ukraine has proved itself capable of conducting stalwart defensive operations,” the British military said Monday. “However, [Russia’s military] continues to display only minimal capability on the offensive. Commanders struggle to orchestrate complex joint effects, to concentrate sufficient artillery ammunition, and to maintain high morale and offensive spirit,” they added.
Developing: Ukrainian strikes on Russian naval facilities in occupied Crimea on Friday allegedly killed 34 Russian officers, including the fleet's commander, and injured 105 others—that is, according to Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces Command, writing Monday on Facebook. The Washington-based Institute for the Study of War has a bit more on those strikes, which reportedly included drones in an initial wave, writing Friday evening, here.
NATO scrambled two Italian F-35s from a base in Poland to escort two Russian Su-30 Flanker fighter jets over the Baltic Sea back toward Russia’s borders on Thursday. Details, here.
For your ears only: Learn what “national security” means for eastern Europe in our latest Defense One Radio podcast, featuring staff reporter Sam Skove, who recently returned from a trip to Poland, Estonia, and London.
- “Ukraine is building an advanced army of drones. For now, pilots improvise with duct tape and bombs,” the Associated Press reported Monday from Luhansk, Ukraine;
- “U.S. Army Hospital in Germany Is Treating Americans Hurt Fighting in Ukraine,” the New York Times reported Saturday.
Almost exactly two months after the Niger coup, France says it’s officially pulling its 1,500 or so troops out of the country, as well as sending its ambassador back home to Paris, President Emmanuel Macron announced in a televised interview Monday.
The military withdrawal is expected to take a few months to complete, but should be done “by the end of the year,” Macron said. Agence France-Presse has a bit more, here.
From the region: “Mali's Junta Delays February Presidential Election,” AFP reported separately on Monday.
The Philippine Coast Guard says it just removed a floating barrier that China installed at a disputed fishing hole in the South China Sea. See imagery of the floating barrier, which stretched about 1,000 feet in the Scarborough Shoal, via the Coast Guard’s Facebook page, here.
“The barrier posed a hazard to navigation, a clear violation of international law,” Manila’s coast guard said in a statement Monday. “It also hinders the conduct of fishing and livelihood activities of Filipino fisherfolk,” the officials added. CNN and Reuters have a bit more.
From the region:
- “Blasting Bullhorns and Water Cannons, Chinese Ships Wall Off the Sea,” the New York Times reported in a special feature Saturday;
- “Taiwan is using generative AI to fight Chinese disinfo,” Defense One’s Patrick Tucker reported Friday;
- And “EU trade chief warns businesses questioning future in China,” AFP reported Monday from Beijing.
President Biden today is hosting a Pacific Islands Forum of regional leaders as part of the White House’s larger U.S.-Pacific Islands Forum Summit, which is the second of its kind in two years.
Participants include: Australia, the Cook Islands, Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
And the four-nation group known as “the Quad” plans to bring its maritime domain awareness initiative to the Pacific Islands in the coming months, according to the White House. That program is “worth more than $10 million,” and “will be the first official partnership between the Quad and a Pacific Island institution,” U.S. officials said. The White House is also planning a “secure undersea cable” project for Pacific Island nations; though it’s not clear just yet who is included and who is not.
- “Biden Pacific summit suffers setback as Solomon Islands PM skips meeting,” the Guardian reported Saturday.
Lastly: Boeing used Fortnite’s game engine to test new B-52 engines. The planemaker built virtual versions of its six-decade-old bomber using Unreal Engine 5, the software engine that drives the popular multiplayer shoot-’em-up.
The game engine’s 3D environment lets pilots and maintainers virtually interact with a digital representation of the upgraded B-52, like starting up and shutting down the planes’ new Rolls-Royce F-130 engines. It’s a “really impressive, powerful tool,” said Jennifer Wong, Boeing’s senior director for bombers. Defense One’s Audrey Decker has more, here.