The D Brief: Gaza pier opens; Israel closes border crossing; Russia’s space-nuke R&D; Congressional split; And a bit more.

The U.S. military says its temporary pier to deliver aid to Gaza is now complete. Central Command personnel anchored the pier to the beach at 7:40 a.m. local, U.S. officials announced Thursday. That’s almost exactly what military officials had predicted shortly after the project was announced by President Biden in March. 

The project is known as JLOTS, or a Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore capability. And it’s designed to accommodate U.S. or allied forces at a “floating platform,” or an at-sea assembly point, a few miles off the coast of Gaza. Those troops link up with sorted and palletized aid bundles delivered by ships traveling 200 miles by sea from Cyprus. “The aid goes from the floating platform to trucks,” and then from the trucks “to the floating causeway, down the causeway on the land and then the commodities are dropped off,” CENTCOM’s Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper told reporters on Thursday.  

Critical element of the pier plan: No U.S. troops are expected on the ground at Gaza (tying down equipment or fixing anchors, etc.) at any point in the process, White House and military officials have repeatedly stressed over the past two months. 

“We've been working closely with the Israeli Defense Forces for six weeks to ensure every aspect of logistics, operations, command and control communications, and force protection are in place,” Cooper said. U.S.-trained Israeli engineers “prepared the beach of Gaza and secured the temporary pier to the beach,” he explained.

Next up: Trucks carrying about 500 tons of humanitarian assistance are expected to begin moving ashore in the coming days, CENTCOM and U.S. officials said Thursday. United Nations personnel are then planning to receive                                           the aid and coordinate its distribution into Gaza.

How badly does Gaza need more humanitarian aid? The northern part of Gaza is currently experiencing a “full-blown famine,” UN officials said last week. 

Can those aid trucks even get to Gazans? It’s not 100% clear, U.S. officials said Thursday. After all, “There is a very insecure operating environment. And the deconfliction measures are not where they need to be yet given the complexity of the environment,” Sonali Korde, the assistant to the administrator of USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, told reporters.

Complicating matters, the Israeli military last week closed a key border crossing in Rafah, in the southern portion of Gaza, which has also limited the delivery aid into the region. “What I can say is that there's been a series of things that have happened and which have exacerbated the [humanitarian] needs in the past few weeks and we need to have everything open, all routes open, all crossings open. They need to be maximally utilized. And the maritime corridor is a very important new route to get additional assistance,” Korde said.

Developing: Israel’s military chief released a rare message of dissent Wednesday, expressing Defence Minister Yoav Gallant’s reservations about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans—or apparent lack of plans—for post-war Gaza. 

“We must dismantle Hamas’ governing capabilities in Gaza, [and] the key to this goal is military action, and the establishment of a governing alternative in Gaza,” Gallant said in a televised message. “In the absence of such an alternative, only two negative options remain: Hamas' rule in Gaza or Israeli military rule in Gaza,” he said, and added he would not support Israeli military of Gaza since functioning as an occupying force could very likely foment insurgency. Reuters has more.  

In case you missed it: The White House is moving forward with nearly $1 billion in arms sales to Israel, including $700 million in tank ammunition, $500 million in tactical vehicles and $60 million in mortar rounds, the Wall Street Journal and Associated Press reported this week. 

Big-picture consideration: “Seven months into the war, Hamas is far from defeated, stoking fears in Israel that it is walking into a forever war,” the Journal reported separately on Wednesday. “Even if you erode the terror activity, still you have the societal structures, the sense of Islamic brotherhood, the ideological and religious elements,” said a former chief of Israeli military intelligence. “That’s not something that can be rooted out.”

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston and Patrick Tucker. 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 1966, China’s Communist Party leadership issued its secretive “May 16 Notice,” marking the start of Mao Zedong’s especially deadly Cultural Revolution—portrayals of which remain controversial inside China still today, as varied reactions to Netflix’s series “3 Body Problem” illustrate.

Air Force picks homes for expeditionary ‘Air Task Forces.” In October 2025, the service will deploy the first of a new type of unit intended to help the Air Force learn how to deploy wings that have trained together before arriving in theater. D1’s Audrey Decker has their initial locations, here.

The Air Force needs more in-house coders. “While we still rely on industry to produce the vast majority of our software, we need enough government expertise to really be a good customer for that,”  Andrew Hunter, the service’s top weapons buyer, said during a Senate Appropriations Committee panel hearing. D1’s Lauren C. Williams has more, here.

Russia launched satellite for ASAT nuke R&D two years ago, U.S. officials say. Wall Street Journal: “The satellite in question, known as Cosmos-2553, was launched on Feb. 5, 2022, and is still traveling around the Earth in an unusual orbit. It has been secretly operating as a research and development platform for nonnuclear components of the new weapon system, which Russia has yet to deploy, other officials said.” Read on, here.

See also: “Putin could now defeat Ukraine within months,” a former British army officer warned in the op-ed pages of The Telegraph on Wednesday.

In this season’s defense budget negotiations, a familiar fault line is emerging once again in Congress: Top Republicans are clamoring for more military spending—e.g., “This is the most dangerous time in the world since the Berlin Wall came down,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week—while key Democrats are asking for parallel increased spending at home—“To make sure we are providing for our children and families and keeping them safe,” as top Senate appropriator Patty Murray said recently. 

One particularly limiting factor in this season’s talks: “inflationary increases related to fuel, pay and health care,” the New York Times reports. Murray’s GOP counterpart on the Appropriations Committee, Susan Collins, says the White House’s budget proposal this year for the Pentagon comes up at least $14 billion short on account of inflation alone. 

However, “Most lawmakers now expect major decisions on spending to be punted until after voting” in November, since “current funding levels extended beyond the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30,” the Times notes. Read on, here

Today on the Hill, Navy leaders are discussing their annual budget request before lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee. That one began at 9:30 a.m. ET. Catch it in ongoing discussions via SASC’s livestream here

And we invite you to join us for our latest “Service Branch Spotlight” virtual discussion featuring the Air Force’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Cyber Effects Operations Lt. Gen. Leah Lauderback. That one’s scheduled for 2 p.m. ET. Registration is required (it’s free); details here.

ICYMI: Catch our prior service spotlight events in reruns, including the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and the Space Force.