The Changing Nuclear Horns: Daniel

Today’s D Brief: Coasties vs. China; UK to add nukes?; Iran’s ‘missile city’; Norway’s civilian defenders; And a bit more.

Ben WatsonMarch 15, 2021 10:30 AM ET

The U.S. Coast Guard is working 6,600 miles off the U.S. coast and about 2,700 miles off the Chinese coast, and its mission is “helping counter China’s growing naval power in the Pacific,” the Wall Street Journal reports this morning — starting with a December operation near the Pacific island nation of Palau.

• The Coast Guard’s extended reach will be nothing new to our podcast listeners, who may have heard CG Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz mention as much in our conversation last June.

There are, however, several new elements that have developed since that late spring chat, according to the Journal’s Lucy Craymer and Ben Kesling: “In the past few months, [the USCG has] based two of its most advanced new cutters in the U.S. territory of Guam, nearly 4,000 miles closer to Shanghai than it is to San Francisco. One more is due to arrive in the coming months.”

And that’s not all: “For the first time, the Coast Guard has an attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Canberra, Australia, and another attaché will move to Singapore next year…The Coast Guard is also investigating stationing a ship in American Samoa.” What’s more, “The Coast Guard is investing more than $19 billion in at least eight national-security cutters, 25 offshore-patrol cutters, and 58 fast-response cutters,” Craymer and Kesling write. If all goes to plan this year, at least eight of those ships will be deployed in a position to counter China.”

One reason to bring this all up: SecDef Lloyd Austin is in the region this week for his first overseas trip as Pentagon chief.

ICYMI: Four ways U.S. naval forces could be more “assertive” in the Western Pacific without being “aggressive,” as suggested by U.S. Navy Capt. Robert Francis, a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations,. Read that, here.

Related hearings on the Hill this week could include:

• The House’s Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations, which is hearing about “Disinformation in the Gray Zone: Opportunities, Limitations, and Challenges” at 11 a.m. on Tuesday;

• “Strategic Competition with China” is the focus of Wednesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing;

• And China could come up during Thursday’s House Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces hearing all about the U.S. Navy’s many unmanned systems.

This afternoon on the Hill (but in a closed hearing), the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is assessing “the Policy and Legal Rationale of U.S. Airstrikes in Syria” featuring Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dana Stroul; Army Lt. Gen. James Mingus of the Joint Staff; and Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood. A bit more here.

How Norway Is Folding Civilians into National Defense // Elisabeth Braw: Not even the U.S. military can be everywhere, so whole-of-society defense is gaining in importance.

The New ICBM Is a Legacy System, And Should Be Cancelled // William D. Hartung: Antiquated strategic thinking must not be allowed to drain funding that could be put toward more pressing threats.

Defense Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Biden’s flat defense budget; Lockheed on the F-35 defensive; $549M for faulty Afghan planes, and more.

How Special Ops Became the Solution to Everything // Mark Bowden, The Atlantic: They’ve become a major military player—and maybe a substitute for strategic thinking.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day 10 years ago, the Syrian civil war began after nearly a dozen children were arrested and tortured for leaving graffitti that read “The people want the fall of the regime” in the southern city of Dera’a.

When it comes to Libya, “The empty logic of military escalation has failed,” President Biden’s national security advisor said Friday after Libyan lawmakers established a Government of National Unity late last week, capping 10 years of unrest since the Arab Spring swept through the Middle East. “The new government replaces two rival administrations — one based in the East and another in the West — that have been ruling Libya since 2014,” Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported Wednesday.

“It is long past time for foreign countries sending mercenaries and weapons that harm innocent Libyans to begin their withdrawal and respect the resounding Libyan calls for a peaceful political transition,” NSA Jack Sullivan said in his White House statement on Friday. “The United States stands with all those committed to elections and, in support of United Nations mediation and together with our international partners, we will promote accountability for any parties that seek to undermine the electoral roadmap Libyans have established.”

At least five Chinese companies pose a national security threat to U.S. communications networks, the Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau announced in a statement Friday. The five companies include:

• Huawei Technologies Co.;

• ZTE Corp.;

• Hytera Communications Corp.;

• Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co.;

• And Dahua Technology Co.

Why this matters: “This list provides meaningful guidance that will ensure that as next-generation networks are built across the country, they do not repeat the mistakes of the past or use equipment or services that will pose a threat to U.S. national security or the security and safety of Americans,” FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said. More on the announcement from Reuters, here.

UK may add sub-launched nuclear warheads for first time since Cold War. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s forthcoming review of defense and foreign policy is expected to halt the decline to a cap of 180 warheads, then raise that cap, The Guardian reports.

Why? “The full reasons for the anticipated move are not yet clear but it comes amid speculation it is designed to help persuade the US to co-fund aspects of a Trident replacement warhead for the 2030s.”

The move could violate the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, said David Cullen, the director of the Nuclear Information Service: “|If they are tearing up decades of progress in reducing numbers, it will be a slap in the face to the 190 other members of the treaty, and will be regarded as a shocking breach of faith.” Read on, here.

Today Iran wants attention on a “missile city” it has created and stocked with cruise and ballistic missiles, as well as “electronic warfare” gear, according to Reuters. Not a lot more to be known just yet from that report, which originated with Iran’s government; but read on at Reuters, here.

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