Today's D Brief: Navy axes briefings; Westpac exercises; Army in Austin; Austrian spy scandal; And a bit more.

Scheduled briefings on U.S. Navy warship programs have disappeared from the agenda of Sea-Air-Space 2024, the three-day trade show that kicks off today just outside Washington, D.C.

ICYMI: Last week, the service revealed that its major shipbuilding programs are all delayed by 1.5 to three years.

Politico: Two people familiar with the issue say Navy leaders instructed the program managers not to hold their public briefings because the conference came too close to the release of the shipbuilding study, which is already sure to dominate the three-day event.”

Happening today: Our Genius Machines event returns! Join Defense One’s Science and Technology Editor Patrick Tucker this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET as he talks AI with Kimberly Sablon (principal director for Trusted Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy, Office of the Assistance Secretary of Defense for Critical Technologies) and Emelia Probasco (senior fellow, Georgetown’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology). Register here (it’s free).

Welcome to this Monday 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 1942, and after a three-month siege, the invading Japanese military seized control of Bataan in the Philippines. The 75,000 or so American and Filipino forces there surrendered the next day, and were forced to march 65 miles to Camp O'Donnell. More than 500 Americans and as many as 18,000 Filipinos perished in what has since been referred to as the Bataan Death March.

Nearly 3,500 Filipino and American soldiers began annual exercises off Luzon island Monday, fresh on the heels of wider joint drills with the Japanese and Australian military in the South China Sea. These latest U.S.-Philippine drills have more of a ground forces focus and run through April 21. 

Both exercises follow a string of harassing episodes from the Chinese Coast Guard, including an incident Thursday near Recto Bank, about 80 nautical miles of Palawan; and a separate episode on March 23 when the Chinese reportedly “attacked military-contracted vessel Unaizah May 4, with water cannons for an hour,” as Manila’s Rappler news reported. Unaizah is located near the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea, three Philippine soldiers were reportedly injured in that attack. The shoal lies inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. 

Coming up soon: The U.S. and Philippine militaries will launch their Balikatan drills, which last year featured their largest ensemble of 17,600 troops in three decades, according to Bloomberg. Those are scheduled to begin April 22 and run through May 8. Read a bit more on the U.S. Army’s preparation for that exercise, via DVIDS, here.  

By the way: President Biden welcomes Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to the White House for trilateral discussions Thursday. 

During those talks, Biden plans to “warn China about its increasingly aggressive activity in the South China Sea,” with a particular focus on the Second Thomas Shoal, the Financial Times reported Monday. Biden also plans to link the US-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty to similar future water cannon attacks, U.S. officials told FT. “China needs to examine its tactics or risk some serious blowback,” a U.S. official said. 

ICYMI: U.S. military officials met with their Chinese counterparts last Wednesday and Thursday in Hawaii. It was the latest meeting for the so-called Military Maritime Consultative Agreement working group, which resumed after a years-long hiatus following talks between the two nations’ leaders in November. 

“Open, direct, and clear communications with the [Chinese military]—and with all other military forces in the region—is of utmost importance to avoid accidents and miscommunication,” U.S. Army Col. Ian Francis of the Pentagon's Indo-Pacific Command said in a statement. “We are encouraged that the [People’s Liberation Army] is honoring its commitments to the [Military Maritime Consultative Agreement] working group and look forward to future productive discussions to safeguard the safety of our military operators in the region,” he added.

U.S. Pacific Fleet has a new commander. It’s Adm. Stephen Koehler, an F-14 pilot who comes to the job from the Joint Staff, where he was director of strategy, plans, and policy. Koehler has served multiple tours in the region, including as director of operations for INDOPACOM and deputy commander of Pacific Fleet. D1’s Jennifer Hlad covered the change-of-command ceremony, here.

The U.S. Army’s relationship with Austin, Texas, hits new stride—and snags, reports D1’s Lauren C. Williams, who saw new partnerships—and protests—during the recent SXSW festival. Read on, here.

  • By the way: Defense One’s Sam Skove is headed to the sandhills around Fayetteville, North Carolina, for discussions this week with Army officials at Fort Liberty (formerly Fort Bragg). Feel free to send your regional can’t-miss recommendations to Sam via email here. And if you’re based on Liberty and want to link up with Skove, you can use that email to connect.

A child’s death raises questions at Twentynine Palms, California. In February, 10-year-old Ryker Frost was killed in a car crash by military police speeding toward a suspected breach of the installation's Condor Gate. The breach was the most recent of several, reports. Frost’s family members believe “the base provost marshal office should have instituted security improvements and stepped up training for those responsible for preventing breaches to ensure the safety of the nearly 50,000 people who live and work at what is, by area, the world's largest Marine Corps base.” More, here.

Get up to speed on the state of the Marine Corps via our latest Defense One Radio podcast, featuring a discussion with Assistant Commandant Gen. Christopher Mahoney and Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl of Combat Development Command. Our colleagues interviewed both for our annual State of Defense event series, which you can also watch over on YouTube, here

And lastly today: Austria’s intelligence chief allegedly performed “undercover work for Russia’s military intelligence and domestic intelligence on European soil over a period of at least five years from 2017,” FT reported last week in the latest twist from the ongoing saga of Jan Marsalek, the 44-year-old current fugitive and former chief operating officer of now-defunct German payment processor Wirecard. Germany’s Der Spiegel has more on the case, here