The D Brief: 16 die in Russian attack; SecDef, China talk; Missile duels’ price tag; Army recruiting, on track at last; And a bit more.

Russian missiles killed more than a dozen people in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv on Wednesday at about 9 a.m. local. An eight-floor apartment building was attacked in the barrage, which also injured at least 60 people across the city, the Associated Press reports from Kyiv. Reuters reports just three Russian cruise missiles caused Wednesday’s death and destruction across Chernihiv.

“This would not have happened if Ukraine had received a sufficient number of air defense systems and if the world's determination to counter Russian terror had been sufficient,” said Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy, writing on social media while sharing a few post-strike images from Chernihiv. 

Ukraine’s air force posted at least 15 times on Telegram, and so far all posts warn about imminent missile attacks across at least eight regions of the country. 

Context: “Ukraine is facing an acute shortage of ammunition, including air defence systems and missiles, with vital funding from the U.S. blocked by Republicans in Congress for months and the EU failing to deliver munitions on time,” Reuters writes. In the meantime, “Russia has taken advantage of these delays in recent weeks, intensifying its attacks on Ukrainian cities and targeting the energy sector and other critical infrastructure.”

Developing: House GOP chairs from six key committees urged quick passage of the supplemental aid bill for Ukraine, the chairmen said in a joint statement Tuesday evening. 

“Speaker Johnson has produced a plan that will boost U.S. national security interests in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas, the Armed Services Committee's Mike Rogers from Alabama, Intel Committee Chairman Mike Turner of Ohio, Appropriations Chairman Tom Cole from Oklahoma, the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense Chairman Ken Calvert of California, and Mario Díaz-Balart of Florida, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.

“There is nothing our adversaries would love more than if Congress were to fail to pass critical national security aid,” they said, declining to acknowledge those delays are attributable to their fellow GOP colleagues in the lower chamber. “We don’t have time to spare when it comes to our national security. We need to pass this aid package this week,” the five lawmakers said. 

The view from Kyiv: “Without this aid, we’ll have no chance of winning,” Zelenskyy told PBS Tuesday. “Today, our artillery shell ratio is 1-10. Can we hold our ground? No. In any case, with these statistics, they will be pushing us back every day,” he said. 

Frontline perspective: “We are short of everything,” one Ukrainian commander operating near the contested city of Chasiv Yar told the Wall Street Journal Wednesday. 

Read more: 

Welcome to this Wednesday 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 1970, Apollo 13 and its crew returned to Earth after nearly dying in outer space.

UK's top diplomat: Israel has decided to retaliate against Iran. After a Wednesday meeting in Israel with President Isaac Herzog, British Foreign Minister David Cameron told reporters,“It’s clear the Israelis are making a decision to act,” adding, “We hope they do so in a way that does as little to escalate this as possible” and that is “smart as well as tough.” (Times of Israel, Reuters)

Iran said on Wednesday that its military is ready to meet any attack with a “severe response.” (Reuters

Mideast missile duels have cost US Navy nearly $1B, secretary says. Defending Israel from Iranian missiles last weekend and fighting off Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping—including 130 “direct attacks” on U.S. warships since October—have required the expenditure of almost a billion dollars’ worth of missiles, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said Tuesday in a bid to convince House lawmakers to approve $95 billion in supplemental funding.

“We've been firing SM-2s, we've been firing SM-6s, and—just over the weekend—SM-3s to actually counter the ballistic missile threat that's coming from Iran. So we need this supplemental to pass this week,” during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing. The Senate passed the supplemental in February; the GOP-controlled House has yet to bring it to a vote. D1’s Lauren C. Williams has more, including a rundown on missile prices, here.

Why can the U.S. can shoot down Iranian drones over Israel but not Ukraine? There are reasons both practical and political, D1’s Patrick Tucker writes.

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin spoke to his Chinese counterpart for the first time in about 18 months Tuesday. The two conducted a video teleconference to discuss the South China Sea, Russia’s Ukraine invasion, North Korea, and Taiwan, according to the Pentagon’s readout.

According to China, Taiwan is the second-most important issue, behind a stable relationship with the U.S. Indeed, Defense Minister Admiral Dong Jun’s press team says they relayed to Austin that “the Taiwan question is the very core of China's core interests and China's core interests brook no compromise.” Minister Dong also promised a Chinese response to what he described as “any ‘Taiwan independence’ separatist activities and external supports,” according to China’s readout

From Beijing’s perspective, “The current situation in the South China Sea is generally stable,” the military said after the call with Austin Tuesday, “and regional countries have the willingness, wisdom, and capability to resolve the issue.” As a result, “The US should clearly recognize China's firm position, earnestly respect China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea,” the defense ministry said. 

China’s defense ministry made no mention of Ukraine, Russia, or North Korea, summarizing instead that the two military leaders “also exchanged views on other issues of common concern.”

Tying up the phones: Austin spoke with two other counterparts of his from around the world on Tuesday—Ukraine’s Rustem Umerov and Israel's Yoav Gallant. Austin “reiterated steadfast U.S. support for Israel's defense and reaffirmed the strategic goal of regional stability” in his call with Gallant, and he “discuss[ed] the situation on the ground and reaffirm[ed] our unwavering commitment to Ukraine's defense capabilities and fight for freedom from Russian aggression” in his call with Umerov, Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Tuesday.

Army on pace to hit recruiting goal this year, breaking a years-long streak. The service is on track to find 55,000 new soldiers this year, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said during congressional testimony Tuesday, D1’s Sam Skove writes.

In a first, Air Force will launch two programs without asking Congress. Efforts to improve GPS and track moving targets will begin under the “quick-start initiative” greenlit by lawmakers in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows service secretaries to launch new efforts as threats arise. D1’s Audrey Decker reports, here.

DOD looks to geothermal energy to ease logistics challenges. On Tuesday, the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit announced that it is doubling to six the number of technology companies involved in an initiative to use advances in geothermal energy technologies, which draws upon liquid heated by the Earth, is carbon neutral, and doesn’t require long and vulnerable supply lines. This will bring the number of bases with geothermal projects to seven, adding Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada; Naval Air Facility El Centro, California; and the Army’s Fort Bliss in Texas to existing projects at four Air Force and Army installations in Alaska, California, Idaho, and Texas. 

Ultimately, the Pentagon hopes that geothermal plants will power farflung installations around the world. D1’s Patrick Tucker has more, here.

Lastly: On Capitol Hill this morning, Defense Secretary Austin, Joint Chiefs Chairman Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., and Comptroller Mike McCord are testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense about the military’s $850 billion fiscal 2025 budget request. That began at 10 a.m ET, and has been periodically interrupted by pro-Palestinian protesters. Catch it live or in reruns, here

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and his top officer, Gen. David Allvin, joined Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman for a full House Armed Services Committee budget hearing about their FY25 budget request. Details and livestream, here