Today’s D Brief: ‘Worst-case’ fiscal scenario; Agencies issue shutdown guidance; Iran lasers Marine helo; Army divers best SEALs; And a bit more.

by Braxton Taylor

The U.S. government is barreling toward a partial shutdown that could begin Sunday, and some GOP lawmakers are already planning on federal workers going without pay “for at least a week or two weeks,” an anonymous Republican senator told The Hill on Thursday. 

Why all the shutdown drama? “House Republicans, led by a small faction of hardline conservatives in the chamber they control by a 221-212 margin, have rejected spending levels for fiscal year 2024 set in a deal Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated with Biden in May,” Reuters reported Thursday after the Democratic-led Senate advanced a bipartisan stopgap bill, known as a continuing resolution, to keep the government open at least a few weeks longer—while the GOP-led House, as Reuters described it, voted on “partisan Republican spending bills with no chance of becoming law.”

From the Pentagon’s POV, a shutdown would be a “worst-case scenario” for the military, Defense Department spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Thursday. “Our priority is always to make sure that we have an on-time appropriations [bill], and as bad as it could be to have a continuing resolution, which we always want to avoid, it’s even worse for the defense of the nation to have a shutdown,” she said. A CR is a legislative workaround that allows the government to continue functioning at last year’s funding levels without a new budget being passed. 

If the shutdown does begin on Sunday, “hundreds and thousands” of Defense Department civilians will be furloughed, Singh said. And while troops will be expected to continue to work, technically without pay, they would not miss a paycheck until Oct. 13.

The Navy Department (that includes the Marine Corps) expects to furlough about half its civilian workforce, it said in guidance obtained by Defense One, keeping only the “minimum number of civilian employees necessary” to continue critical activities related to national security, “safety of human life, or protection of property such as emergency response.” 

The Navy Department will also continue “activities necessary to support deployed troops and approved operations,” and will continue to defuel the tanks at Red Hill in Hawaii. Urgent medical care will continue, though “elective surgery and elective procedures will be discontinued,” the guidance states. 

In case you’re wondering: “The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration would continue maintaining nuclear weapons,” Reuters notes. As for the National Park Service: some states have additional funds to keep certain parks open—the Grand Canyon, e.g. But not every state is prepared in this way, as the New York Times reported Thursday. 

What other activities and agencies will be affected by a shutdown? Alaska’s “Fat Bear Week” is one. NPR rounded up other anticipated closures and you can review that, here. 

One last consideration: A U.S. shutdown could benefit China’s leaders, said Craig Singleton, senior China fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “China often seizes on pivotal moments like these to underscore the differences between its centralized governance model and the American democratic system,” Singleton said Friday. “A looming shutdown provides Beijing with an opening to reinforce its claim that Western-style democracies are inherently flawed and that China’s governance model is superior.”

“No doubt, China will seize on this narrative during the upcoming Belt and Road Forum,” hosted next month in China, Singleton predicted. That forum is expected to involve delegates from at least 90 countries, and that includes Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s “no-limits partner,” Vladimir Putin from Russia, said Singleton. 


Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson and Jennifer Hlad with Bradley Peniston and Caitlin Kenney. If you’re not already subscribed, you can sign up here. On this day in 1918, British, Australian and American forces began an assault that would eventually break through the German military’s heavily defended maze of fortifications in occupied northern France and Belgium known as Siegfriedstellung, or the “Hindenburg Line.” Stretching 10 miles deep and 40 miles across, the line was rotten with machine gun nests, zigzagging trenches, and dense coils of razor wire. After the Allied breakthrough, the Germans ultimately surrendered just five weeks later, ending the war with the signing of the armistice on 11 November.

Outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley bid farewell to the military Friday morning in a relinquishment of office ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson, Va. President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are in attendance, among many other top Pentagon officials. You can watch the ongoing ceremony in a livestream hosted by DVIDS, here. 

With Milley’s departure, Air Force Gen. Charles “Q” Brown, Jr., becomes the country’s 21st chairman of the Joint Chiefs. “I’ve held leadership positions focused on our five national security challenges: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and violent extremists,” he told lawmakers during his Senate confirmation hearing two months ago. “As a result, I’m mindful of the security challenges at this consequential time and a need to accelerate to stay ahead of the growing threat,” he added. 

ICYMI: Brown sat down with Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber in March to discuss his priorities for the months and years ahead. Listen to that conversation on our Defense One Radio podcast, here. 

Related reading: 

Iran’s navy shined a laser at U.S. Marines flying in a helicopter over the Arabian Gulf on Wednesday evening. Though no one was injured, “These are not the actions of a professional maritime force,” U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s Cmdr. Rick Chernitzer said in a statement Thursday. “This unsafe, unprofessional, and irresponsible behavior by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy risks U.S. and partner nation lives and needs to cease immediately,” he added. 

Developing: The Saudis are trying to finalize a defense pact with the U.S. at least partly in exchange for opening ties with Israel, Reuters reported Friday. It’s unclear precisely what arrangement is being worked out between Washington and Riyadh; but “it could be similar to a U.S. agreement with Bahrain, where the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet is based,” Reuters reports, and notes that “Such an agreement would not need congressional backing.”

The final agreement is not likely to be “a treaty alliance or anything like that,” one U.S. official said. Instead, it would more likely resemble “a mutual defense understanding,” the official said. Read more, here. 

In somewhat surprising interservice rivalry news, a duo of Green Berets beat out Navy SEALs to win a special operations competition to determine the best U.S. combat dive team, the Army announced Thursday. 

Four Navy teams and nine Army teams competed in 10 events conducted across three days this week at Naval Air Station Key West. Some of the activities included a static-line jump into a water drop zone followed by a kayak race and a 1,500-meter navigation dive in Fleming Bay, off the northwest corner of Key West.

A duo from 5th Special Forces Group – Airborne took first place. The Army’s 2nd Special Warfare Training Group took second; a 5th Special Forces Group duo took third; and Navy SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One claimed fourth place. The Army has more, here. 

And lastly this week: We say goodbye to longtime California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who passed away Thursday at the age of 90. 

A veteran of the upper chamber’s intelligence committee, Feinstein’s senate career began in 1992, and she began making history almost immediately — authoring, e.g., the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. She was also “the first woman to sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the first female chairwoman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, and the first female chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee,” CNN reports. 

Feinstein served in the Senate longer than any other woman in U.S. history. She’s also credited with creating the Amber Alert system for child abductions, ABC News reports. 

Feinstein also led “a wide-ranging, five-year investigation into CIA interrogation techniques during President George W. Bush’s administration, including waterboarding of terrorism suspects at secret overseas prisons,” the Associated Press reports. “The resulting 6,300-page ‘torture report’ concluded among other things that waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ did not provide key evidence in the hunt for [Osama] bin Laden.”

Her death leaves the Democrats with a 50-49 majority in the Senate, Politico notes. 

Have a safe weekend, everyone. And you can catch us again on Monday, even if lawmakers have shut the place down.



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