The D Brief: Orban in Kyiv; Russia presides over UNSC; NATO’s new Kyiv posting; Army to field EW backpacks; And a bit more.

Ukrainian military chief Rustem Umerov is dropping by the Pentagon Tuesday for discussions with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his team. Umerov’s last such trip was in December as Republican lawmakers refused additional aid to Ukraine for roughly six months before overwhelmingly approving a new package in mid-April. 

Umerov’s visit comes as the NATO alliance says it will soon post a senior civilian official in Kyiv as a liaison between alliance members and Ukrainian officials, according to the Wall Street Journal reporting Monday. 

NATO is also formalizing a Ukraine-focused training command post in Wiesbaden, Germany. This effort, which is reportedly “staffed by nearly 700 U.S. and other allied personnel...will take over much of a mission that has been run by the American military” since Russia launched its full-scale invasion more than two years ago.

Contingency planning: According to former U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder, “Rather than having Washington in charge of managing the training and assistance, NATO will be in charge. So even if the U.S. reduces or withdraws support for the effort, it won’t be eliminated.” Read more, here

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban visited Ukraine for the first time in 12 years on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy announced on social media. Orban made the trip, he said on Facebook, because he just began a six-month term as president of the European Council on Monday. “The aim of the Hungarian presidency is to contribute to solving the challenges ahead of the European Union,” he wrote after landing in Kyiv. 

Orban has arguably been one of Europe’s more reluctant supporters of Ukraine since Russia invaded. The Hungarian parliament was the last to approve Sweden’s bid to join the NATO alliance, outlasting even Turkish lawmakers, whose approval for more than a year was obstructed by President Recep Erdogan as he pursued concessions from the Swedes before advancing their alliance bid. Going further, the Associated Press notes that Orban “has routinely blocked, delayed or watered down EU efforts to extend assistance to Ukraine and to sanction Moscow over its war, frustrating both Zelenskyy and other EU leaders.”

Orban pushed Zelenskyy to reach a ceasefire with the invading Russians, he told reporters Monday in Kyiv. “A ceasefire connected to a deadline would give a chance to speed up peace talks,” Orban said, according to Reuters, which noted Zelenskyy “did not respond to those comments.”  

Russia also just began its monthlong presidency of the United Nations Security Council on Monday. Observers can expect grandstanding and attempts to “further several narratives regarding Russia's desired sway in the international system” as well as “deflect[ing] responsibility for well-documented Russian violations of international law committed in Ukraine,” analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War wrote in their Monday evening assessment. 

Possibly coming soon: More air defense-related equipment for Ukraine, according to U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken, who spoke Monday at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution. 

“We’re trying to drive private sector investment into Ukraine to make sure that its economy can grow and thrive,” Blinken said without getting too terribly specific. “Now, of course, for both its military capacity and its economic capacity, you’ve got to make sure that you have air defenses in place to try to protect the areas in which you’re making investments. We’re driving that,” he said, and added, “I think you’ll see more news on that in the coming weeks as we get to the NATO summit actually next week.” 

Dispatch: Russia is suspected of targeting a specific Ukrainian air base as Kyiv anticipates the arrival of F-16 jets sometime later this month, Reuters reported Tuesday from the western Ukrainian city of Starokostiantyniv. 

And the Dutch say they’ll deliver an unspecified number of F-16s to Ukraine soon. But Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren didn’t say much more publicly in her letter to lawmakers carrying that message on Monday. The Dutch have promised two dozen F-16s to Ukraine, but it’s unclear how many will be sent in the first batch. 

Additional reading: 

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Sam Skove. Share your newsletter tips, reading recommendations, or feedback here. And if you’re not already subscribed, you can do that here. On this day in 1966, France conducted its first nuclear weapons test on the Moruroa Atoll in the southern Pacific Ocean.

Today in Washington: Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith is talking about his service’s “Force Design 2030” plan in a discussion hosted by Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. That began at 10 a.m. and runs through 11:15 a.m. ET. Additional details and livestream here

Developing: U.S. soldiers will soon get electronic warfare backpacks as the Army seeks to learn from the experience of Ukraine and Russia. The backpacks will go out to their first unit this year, with plans in place to eventually field them across the Army, Defense One’s Sam Skove reported Monday. 

The backpacks are capable of both jamming enemies and monitoring the electromagnetic spectrum to find targets. The backpacks should also give commanders an idea of their own soldiers’ electromagnetic signature, thereby preparing them for tough exercises at training centers. 

The Government Accountability Office just sent the Air Force back to the drawing board as officials struggle to award a $12 billion support contract for next-generation nuclear missiles, Nick Wakeman writes for Washington Technology.

What’s going on is a bit dizzying so buckle up: BAE Systems has held what’s known as an Integration Support Contract since 2013; that contract supports the old Minuteman III nuclear missile delivery system. However, the new contract is known as ISC 2.0, and it’s tied to the Sentinel missile program, which is replacing the Minuteman IIIs. 

BAE first won the recompete back in 2022, but a firm called Guidehouse successfully protested—leading GAO to order the Air Force to re-evaluate the pitches. After the re-evaluation, the award went to Guidehouse this past February. So BAE protested, and GAO ruled in favor of that protest...which means the Air Force must again re-evaluate its proposals.

Why all this back and forth? “Much of the dispute revolves around the evaluation of compensation plans and how the Air Force accepted changes to Guidehouse's proposal that went beyond what the GAO decision allowed,” Wakeman explains. What’s more, after looking at the proposals and the Air Force’s evaluation, GAO found several examples where the Guidehouse proposal listed a higher level of technical skills but lower-level compensation for those skills. GAO also cited another example where Guidehouse relied on subcontractors in its technical proposal, but eliminated or reduced those labor categories in its revised pricing proposal.

What now? Continue reading, here.

And lastly: The Pentagon’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Industrial Base Resilience Halimah Najieb-Locke has joined the DC-based consultants at Pallas Advisors, the firm announced Monday. 

Najieb-Locke helped draft the Pentagon’s first National Defense Industrial Strategy, which was unveiled this past January. She’s a graduate of the George Washington University Law School, where she focused on public procurement systems and procurement law. She also spent several years in staff positions at the House of Representatives where she worked on veterans’ issues and the Covid pandemic. 

“Halimah is known for bridging the gap between public and private sector companies and the Department of Defense, paving the way for innovation to thrive,” said Pallas founding partner Sally Donnelly. Najieb-Locke’s “energy and dedication to strengthening the defense industrial base will make her a valuable asset to our team,” said Donnelly.