Today's D Brief: Shutdown averted?; Ukraine aid in limbo; Houthi attacks, mapped; Indian Ocean drone force; And a bit more.

Developing: Shutdown averted? President Joe Biden said Tuesday that congressional leaders “have come to an agreement...on a path forward for the remaining full-year funding bills” that would head off the partial government shutdown currently slated to begin on Friday. 

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson confirmed the development in a post on social media Tuesday morning, noting the final hurdle—how to fund the Department of Homeland Security—appears to have been overcome by negotiators. How that obstacle was circumvented is not yet known. 

“An agreement has been reached for DHS appropriations, which will allow completion of the FY24 appropriations process,” Johnson wrote in his Tuesday post. “House and Senate committees have begun drafting bill text to be prepared for release and consideration by the full House and Senate as soon as possible.”

Context: “After months of averting shutdowns at the eleventh hour with stopgap bills, Congress finally passed a package of six bills in early March to fund a slate of government agencies for the rest of the fiscal year—but the work isn’t over yet,” CNN reported Monday night, as rumors surfaced over the possible DHS breakthrough. That’s because “A number of key government operations still need to be funded by the end of the day on Friday, March 22, including the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, State, and the legislative branch.”

Caveat: “Lawmakers could still find themselves needing to pass a short-term continuing resolution before Friday to keep the lights on in Washington as they finish considering the funding legislation” praised by President Biden and Speaker Johnson, The Hill reports.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback for the year ahead here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 2003, the U.S. military invaded Iraq, bringing with it elements of the British, Australian, and Polish armed forces in support of what would eventually be recognized as among the most disastrous foreign policy decisions in American history. 

Any possible future U.S. aid to Ukraine may have to wait three weeks before it’s even considered by House lawmakers, Speaker Johnson indicated ahead of the lower chamber’s two-week recess, which begins next week. 

Despite pressure from Ukraine’s supporters in Congress, Johnson said Wednesday he’s looking to avoid a shutdown first before pivoting to national-security legislation like the supplemental bill passed by the Senate more than a month ago. That bill contained $60 billion for Ukraine (including nearly $20 billion to restock U.S. weapons), and more than $30 billion spread across the Asia-Pacific (for submarines and to replace weapons sold to Taiwan) and the Middle East (for Israel’s war in Gaza and U.S. forces defending commercial shipping off the coast of Yemen).  

Now live: A new searchable website that centralizes the most recent U.S. oversight reports of aid to Ukraine. It’s the congressionally-mandated work of the Defense Department’s special inspector general for the military’s European and Ukraine-focused work, which formally falls under the name Operation Atlantic Resolve. The public-facing site was ordered as part of the FY 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. 

There’s even an interactive, somewhat customizable hub, Oversight Dashboard, which allows data to be searched by year and agency. Check out the broader site for yourself at

Now available for purchase and download: The Ukrainian drone pilot’s digital experience. It’s been turned into a $10 video game on the Steam platform entitled, “Death from Above.” Sales opened on Feb. 22, which was the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale Ukraine invasion.

The tease: “You are a lone Ukrainian military drone operator battling Russian occupation forces. Hidden deep behind enemy lines, you operate your drone to seek and destroy tanks and armored vehicles, shatter communication lines, and recover stolen goods. Slava Ukraini!” (Your D Brief-ers are not big gamers, but the sanitized experience does look kinda fun.) 

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin is in Germany for the latest meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. With current U.S. aid dried up, Austin encouraged others present to find “creative, adaptable and sustainable ways” to keep Ukraine afloat after two years of war with Russia. 

“At least 315,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded since Putin's all-out invasion in February 2022,” Austin said Tuesday at Ramstein Air Base. “Russia has squandered up to $211 billion to equip, deploy, maintain, and sustain its imperial aggression against Ukraine, [and] Putin's war of choice will cost Russia $1.3 trillion in previously anticipated economic growth through 2026,” he said. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, let's not kid ourselves: Putin will not stop at Ukraine,” said Austin. “So we will continue to stand together to resist Putin's campaign of conquest. And we will continue to keep the faith with the people of Ukraine,” he added before taking the rest of the meeting behind closed doors. 

Related reading: 

U.S. Army aims to equip a division with hand-held counter-drone gear. The service’s 2025 budget request includes $13.5 million for hand-held anti-drone devices to equip a division and $54.2 million for backpack-size jammers, an Army spokesperson said Thursday. But one expert said the service may have underestimated just how much that will cost. D1’s Sam Skove reports, here.

The U.S. military on Monday destroyed seven anti-ship missiles from the Iran-backed Houthis, three aerial drones, and three weapons storage containers located in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, defense officials at Central Command announced in the evening. 

Visualized: Check out a map of Houthi attacks along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden thanks to robust graphic created by geointelligence researcher Damien Symon. Since the Houthis first hijacked the Galaxy Leader on 19 November in the Red Sea, there have been nearly 70 other documented attacks or threats to commercial and military naval vessels in the nearby waterways, with the bulk occurring north of Djibouti and south of Saudi Arabia. (Thanks, Damien, for putting in the work.)

Maldives bought a bunch of Turkish drones. The Indian Ocean country’s ministry of defense didn’t say how many Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 they bought for their brand-new Maldivian National Defence Force Air Corps, but said they would increase “security of our ocean resources and counter any unlawful activities in our territorial waters.”

Wider context: “The launch of the new MNDF aviation arm also comes days after Maldives signed a defence agreement with China, adding to anxiety in New Delhi about the archipelago nation’s security tilt, and increasing distance from India’s sphere of influence,” The Morning, a Sri Lankan news site, wrote on Sunday.

China’s moon plans worry Space Force. “From a military perspective, I am curious about, are there attack vectors that we haven't considered or that we need to consider, whether it's xGEO or cislunar or otherwise?” Brig. Gen. Anthony Mastalir, commander of U.S. Space Forces Indo-Pacific, said on Monday. Still, he said, the Space Force remains focused on “deterring a terrestrial bad actor” and conflicts on Earth, D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here.

AI-powered disinformation. Chinese state TV just published an “AI-generated animation showing workers across America striking and rioting as a result of income inequality and democratic crisis,” David Rennie of the Economist noticed Monday, and shared a link to the video on social media. “First time I’ve seen this,” Rennie said. 

Related reading: 

This afternoon: Watch Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Christopher Mahoney as he discusses the future of the force with Defense One’s Sam Skove. It's our latest digital event on the State of Defense, and it begins at 2 p.m. ET.

And less than an hour later, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl will speak with D1’s Jennifer Hlad about the Corps’ role as America’s crisis response force as the service undergoes force design changes. Registration required (it’s free). Details, here.

Related reading: Does TikTok need a new parent company? Senate mulls implications,” D1s Lauren C. Williams reports.