Today’s D Brief: Army revamps training; US sinks drones; Top Marine is back; Dating-app espionage; And a bit more.

by Braxton Taylor

Lessons from Ukraine are reshaping U.S. Army training, reports D1’s Sam Skove, who traveled with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George to the National Training Center in California and the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana.

The pressure starts when the troops leave their home base, and strives to mimic the always-on surveillance of the modern battlefield. “As soon as they enter the training site, soldiers find themselves under constant observation, by drone, satellite, and electronic surveillance. The cellphones they carry become potential homing beacons for enemy forces,” Skove writes. 

In another shift, “units hit by simulated enemy fire can no longer call in an easily targeted helicopter to evacuate soldiers from the exact spot where they were injured…Instead, ‘wounded’ soldiers are dragged back to casualty stations farther from the front line.” Don’t miss this unique look at the service’s new approach, here.

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 1836, the Battle of the Alamo came to an end after a nearly two-week siege.

The U.S. military destroyed three more drone boats from the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen on Tuesday. The boats were attacked in the evening along with three anti-ship missiles that all posed threats to international shipping in the Red Sea, U.S. officials at Central Command said Tuesday. 

U.S. naval forces also shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile and three one-way attack drones earlier in the day as they appeared to be headed for the USS Carney (DDG 64) in the Red Sea. Two other anti-ship cruise missiles were destroyed presumably prior to launch in the evening hours Tuesday, CENTCOM said separately. 

But the Houthis struck another commercial vessel Tuesday as well when an anti-ship ballistic missile hit the Swiss-owned container vessel M/V MSC SKY II in the late afternoon. “Initial reports indicate there were no injuries; the ship did not request assistance and continued on its way,” U.S. defense officials said. 

Related reading: Revisit the final days of the cargo ship Rubymar after it was attacked by Houthi missiles on February 18 thanks to a special report published Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Three Hours of Panic on the Red Sea” (gift link). See also a profile of the Houthis from former New York Times bureau chief Robert Worth, writing Tuesday for The Atlantic, “Have the Houthis become unstoppable?” (also a gift link)

ICYMI: CENTCOM chief Army Gen. Michael Kurilla visited Syria last week, with announced stops at al-Tanf (near Jordan), Hasekah and a site known as the Green Village in northeast Syria, as well as the al-Roj and al-Hol detention camps, where suspected family members of ISIS fighters are held. 

The visits were part of a regional swing for Kurilla and his team over the last week of February and into early March. He also visited Rafah Gate in Egypt, where he met with Egyptian army officials; and he flew to Israel and Jordan for talks with officials there. CENTCOM has more. 

Another thing: The U.S. and Jordanian militaries conducted more airdrops of humanitarian aid to Palestinians in besieged Gaza on Tuesday. “C-130s dropped over 36,800 U.S. and Jordanian meal equivalents in Northern Gaza” in the afternoon, CENTCOM announced afterward. “These airdrops are part of a sustained effort to get more aid into Gaza, including by expanding the flow of aid through land corridors,” officials added. 

A second opinion: “These meals meet the needs of less than 2% of Gazans for 1 day — and airdropping them costs 5-6x more than delivering aid by land,” noted Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute. Airdropping humanitarian aid in this manner, Lister said five days ago referring to Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza, is “not something you do to get around an ‘ally.’”

As President Biden prepares for Thursday’s State of the Union address, the Aerospace Industries Association has a multi-pronged message for lawmakers, too: “pass on-time and adequate appropriations for FY25 and beyond” instead of relying on consecutive continuing resolutions in what AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning described as a “broken budget process.” 

Fanning laid out a series of industry priorities in a letter this week to congressional leaders House Speaker Mike Johnson, Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Minority leader Mitch McConnell. Fanning also encouraged: 

  • Reforming research taxation policies (regarding amortization, for example); 
  • Loosening “compliance requirements for Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification,” which he argues, “stress an already vulnerable supply chain”; 
  • Finalizing a “five-year FAA reauthorization bill as soon as possible to provide new direction and authorities to the agency”;
  • More investments in the growing space industry;
  • Speeding up “technology release reviews,” and perhaps even creating more “international partnerships [to] enhance U.S. capabilities and alleviate industrial base shortfalls.” 

Read more from Fanning’s letter to lawmakers, here. 

Today on the Hill, the Army’s top acquisition official Douglas Bush joins Army Futures Command’s Gen. James Rainey, Maj. Gen. Michael McCurry, and Brig. Gen. David Phillips to testify before House lawmakers about “Army Aviation Rebalancing and the Path Ahead” this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. ET before the Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces. Details and livestream, here.

New: Marine commandant is back on the job. Gen. Eric Smith, who suffered a heart attack in October, resumed full duties on Tuesday, the Marines said in a statement. “The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Christopher J. Mahoney, who has been performing the duties of Commandant since November 3, continues to serve in his role as Assistant Commandant,” the release reads.

Air Force employee was leaking secrets in a dating app, the Justice Department said in a statement. David Slater, a retired Army lieutenant colonel with access to top-secret briefings, allegedly began sending classified information in 2002.

“My sweet Dave, thanks for the valuable information,” wrote Slater’s love interest wrote, who claimed to be a woman living in Ukraine, according to the statement. “It’s great that two officials from the USA are going to Kyiv.”

Slater was arrested on Saturday. “An indictment provided no details about the identity of the person with whom Slater was allegedly trading secrets and sweet nothings, although it suggested a connection to Russian intelligence,” the WSJ reported.

And lastly: Alleged greenhouse-gas smuggler arrested. Michael Hart of San Diego “is facing the first prosecution under a 2020 U.S. law aimed at phasing out some of the most potent greenhouse gases on the planet,” the Washington Post reports off a DOJ announcement.

The 58-year was allegedly bringing tanks of HFC refrigerant in from Mexico. WaPo: “The chemicals are considered climate super-pollutants because they can be thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide in warming Earth’s atmosphere.”

Tara McGrath, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California: “We are using every means possible to protect our planet from the harm caused by toxic pollutants, including bringing criminal charges.” More, here.

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