Fdd's overnight brief

March 5, 2020

In The News


A military linguist was charged with providing classified information, including the real names of people spying for the U.S., to a Lebanese man connected to the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group. – Wall Street Journal 

The coronavirus outbreak sweeping through Iran has delivered a jarring blow to the senior ranks of its government, infecting about two dozen members of parliament and at least 15 other current or former top figures, according to official reports. […]Iran’s health system was already battered by broad U.S. economic sanctions that have curbed the country’s ability to finance humanitarian imports. – Washington Post

Iran says requests from the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog for information and access to Iran’s nuclear sites must have a legal basis, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported Wednesday. – Associated Press

The mother of an American imprisoned in Iran said Wednesday she fears her son is at risk of contracting the coronavirus given the scale of the outbreak in the country and reports that the illness has spread to a major prison where he was held temporarily. […]Iran has denied any mistreatment of foreign prisoners or that it withholds adequate medical care. – NBC News

The family of a graduate student killed when Iran shot down a commercial plane two months ago has fled to Canada, alleging they were being threatened by authorities. – Global News

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne on Wednesday urged Tehran to allow access to the black boxes from a Ukrainian passenger plane that was accidentally shot down over Iran in January. – Reuters  

Iran’s trade with its main partners dropped dramatically in January 2020 compared with last year when U.S. sanctions on oil exports were only partial. […]Iran stopped issuing any economic and trade figures in March 2019, and periodically selected numbers are announced unofficially. – Radio Farda 

Simon Henderson writes: In recent years, Tehran’s nuclear activities and destabilizing regional behavior have spurred Israel and the Gulf states to expand their security ties. But these nascent or previously clandestine relations are far from a full-fledged alliance capable of stopping Iran […]U.S. diplomacy is therefore central to blocking or delaying further proliferation—though even that may not be enough. The latest IAEA reports should serve as a reason to boost the effort, particularly in regard to Iran. – Washington Institute


Three top U.S. officials toured Turkey’s border with Syria on Tuesday, even briefly crossing into Syrian territory, in a concerted effort to underscore one point: The United States is throwing its full support behind its NATO ally in its new fight against the Syrian government and its Russian backers. – Washington Post 

In Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria’s nearly decade-long civil war, airstrikes have razed villages to the ground and displaced populations are being forced into smaller and smaller areas, as their camps balloon and overtake farmland, according to newly revealed satellite imagery. – NPR 

Syrian air defenses responded to attacks allegedly launched by Israel in southern and central Syria on Wednesday night, according to Syrian state news agency SANA. The Step News Agency reported that the airstrikes in Homs targeted a site belonging to the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist group and the Dabaa Military Airfield. – Jerusalem Post 

Russian air strikes Thursday killed at least 15 civilians including a child in the last major opposition bastion of Idlib in northwestern Syria, a Britain-based war monitor said. The strikes after midnight targeted an area where displaced Syrians had gathered outside the town of Maaret Misrin in Idlib province, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. – Agence France-Presse

The Russian military is accusing its Turkish counterpart of embedding its armed forces among militant positions in an insurgent-held corner of Syria as violence escalates one day before a critical summit between Moscow and Ankara’s heads of state. The two sides are also accusing enemy forces of plotting chemical attacks. – Newsweek

Asli Aydintasbas writes: More urgently, Washington must use its existing channels with the Russians in Syria to ask for de-escalation. While Pentagon officials have made clear that the United States will not get involved in a new front against Russia or Syria over Idlib, or enforce a no-fly zone, they should do more, and do so publicly, to demonstrate to the Turkish public that their country’s interests lie in staying within the Western alliance, not in seeking an unstable partnership with Russia. – Washington Post 

Gönül Tol writes: Erdogan is going to Moscow with a weak hand. In the past, he played Russia and the West off against each other, but this time he managed to anger both sides, and Donald Trump has no desire to come to Turkey’s rescue. Putin might still choose to de-escalate, but it will likely be on his own terms if he does. Whatever solution is found in Moscow to the current tension, it will likely be a short-term fix. In the long run, Idlib will keep exposing Turkey’s foreign policy missteps and all the troubles the war in Syria has caused for Erdogan at home. – Middle East Institute 


A day after an attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, he received a supportive phone call from a surprising source. Russian President Vladimir Putin reached out even before Turkey’s Western allies. – Washington Post 

Turkey demanded EU help on Wednesday for its mission in Syria as the price of resolving a fresh migrant crisis on its border with Greece, but rejected European accusations that it was ‘blackmailing’ the bloc. Clashes have broken out between police and refugees at the Turkey-Greece border where thousands of migrants have gathered since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave them the green light to leave for Europe last week. Erdogan’s move came after Russian-backed Syrian forces killed 34 Turkish troops in northern Syria, prompting him to seek greater assistance from the international community. – Agence France-Presse

Turkey has vowed to seek justice for a migrant it says was killed on the border with Greece after Greek authorities fired tear gas and stun grenades to push back dozens of people attempting to cross over. Greece had denied that anyone was killed in the clashes. – Associated Press

Turkey’s drone program has developed, over years, several armed drones that are rough analogs to American-operated models like the Reaper, Predator and Shadow. […]With the capabilities of its drones proven in combat, Turkey joins the United States, United Kingdom, France, Israel, China and Iran as drone-armed nations. A swarm the recent strike was not, but for the people targeted on the ground, a remotely piloted salvo is just as deadly a proposition. – C4ISRNET 

Jonathan Marcus writes: President Recep Tayip Erdogan of Turkey needs to extricate himself from a difficult situation in Syria so he heads for the one capital that matters, not Washington but Moscow. […]But barring any fundamental shift on the part of Mr Putin – and many analysts see his antipathy towards the West as part of his broader effort to mobilise support and to retain power – there is unlikely to be any broader rapprochement between Russia and the West, at least for now. – BBC 

Soner Cagaptay writes: Given the current circumstances, Putin will likely offer Erdogan a new deal whereby Assad retakes the bulk of Idlib’s territory while Turkey ends up with the fragment containing the bulk of the province’s displaced civilian population. Erdogan may not accept these terms right away, but the two leaders will at least begin discussing the parameters of a new power-sharing agreement in Idlib. Obviously, however, this arrangement will hardly resolve the broader Idlib problem. – Washington Institute 


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party won the most parliamentary seats in Israel’s national election on Monday—the country’s third in less than a year—but his right-wing bloc fell short of a majority, leaving no clear winner and raising the specter of a fourth election. – Wall Street Journal

When the Israeli right won a narrow lead in the country’s general election on Monday, Yousef Jabareen, an Arab lawmaker, grimaced — but also smiled. […]Counterintuitive as it may initially seem, the two results were in fact intertwined. – New York Times 

Palestinians have launched protests in the occupied West Bank after Israeli bulldozers began clearing land in what villagers fear is an attempt to confiscate it for future Jewish settlements. – Reuters 

The Israel Defense Forces called off a major air defense exercise with the United States on Wednesday night, a day after it launched, following stricter safety restrictions issued by the Health Ministry aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. – Times of Israel 

An Arabic-language Canadian newspaper published an article by a Hamas official that glorified terrorists and accused Israel of stealing the organs of Palestinian prisoners, prompting a police complaint. According to B’nai Brith Canada, on Feb. 28 the paper al-Meshwar, whose publisher Nazih Khatatba has denied the Holocaust, published an article by Dr. Mustafa Yusuf al-Lidawi titled, “The Abuse of the Martyrs and the Manipulation of Their Bodies Are Jewish Commandments and Israeli Directives.” – Algemeiner

Israel has been cleared to buy the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker-transport aircraft, with US State Department approval being announced on 3 March. – Jane’s 360 

Patrick Kingsley and Mohammed Najib write: When the Israeli right won a narrow lead in the country’s general election on Monday, Yousef Jabareen, an Arab lawmaker, grimaced — but also smiled. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing bloc won seats in part because of hard-line policies that have disenfranchised Arab Israelis and further delayed a peace deal with the Palestinians. But so did Mr. Jabareen’s Joint List, an alliance of Arab-led parties that had its best election ever. – New York Times

Arabian Peninsula

A federal judge has ordered lawyers for 9/11 families suing Saudi Arabia to detail threats allegedly made against witnesses they may depose as part of their effort to prove the kingdom was involved in the 2001 terrorist attacks. – Washington Post 

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen said it had foiled an attack on an oil tanker off Yemen’s coast on the Arabian Sea, the Saudi state news agency SPA reported on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The Huthi rebels arrived without warning, heavily armed and in a furious mood, as they barged into Ophelia, the only cafe for women in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, and demanded it be shut down immediately. […]Much of the crackdown has been rolled out without any official decree or documentation, but AFP saw a copy of a Huthi letter sent to non-government groups, illustrating the new mood as it laid out rules for workshops. – Agence France-Presse

Editorial: In a perfect world, that is not the type of regime one would want to get close to. But this is not a perfect world. And in a highly imperfect Middle East threatened by Iran on one side, and radical Islamic fundamentalism on the other, being able to work with Saudi Arabia is very much in Israel’s interests – just as working with Jerusalem is very much in Riyadh’s interests. Israel wants better and more open relations with the Saudis – warts and all. Visits such as that by the CoP help develop those relations. – Jerusalem Post 

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt on Wednesday executed one of its most high-profile militant leaders, the military said, after his conviction for his role in planning scores of deadly attacks against the country’s security forces. […]He has been a valuable target for Egyptian security forces eager to obtain valuable intelligence for its years-long fight against militants. – Times of Israel

Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz warned that Israeli annexation of the Jordan Valley and parts of the West Bank risks putting the country’s long-standing peace treaty with Jerusalem in “deep freeze mode.” Jordanian relations with Israel are at their “lowest level” since the 1994 treaty between the two countries was inked, Razzaz told CNN’s Becky Anderson. – Jewish Insider

The “real concerns” for US authorities over Oman are the country’s financial ties with Iran, including entities that were under US sanctions prior to the 2015 nuclear deal, according to a new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington DC-based policy institute. – Al Arabiya 

Yousef Al Otaiba writes: Peaceful nuclear technology is critical to the world’s energy mix, particularly now that lower-carbon alternatives are required. But a greener world shouldn’t become a pretext for a more dangerous one. The U.S.-U.A.E. nuclear deal has worked. New and better rules have delivered a new huge source of clean power and reduced the risk of nuclear proliferation. – Wall Street Journal 

Korean Peninsula

When the U.S. seized control of one of North Korea’s largest cargo ships last year, American authorities said the loss would significantly disrupt Pyongyang’s ability to flout sanctions and keep exporting commodities such as coal. – Wall Street Journal 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed the hope that neighboring South Korea will overcome a coronavirus outbreak, President Moon Jae-in’s office said on Thursday. – Reuters 

The coronavirus epidemic, which was first detected in Wuhan, China, is having a rapidly intensifying political impact on neighboring countries. […]Even before the outbreak, Moon’s once overwhelming popularity had dropped significantly over the past year, and he had struggled to deliver one of his central goals: peace with North Korea. On Monday, adding to Moon’s political problems, North Korea launched two missiles for the first time this year. – New Yorker  


US officials on Wednesday stepped up warnings about the potential security risks from the fast-growing, Chinese-owned TikTok as a lawmaker unveiled legislation to ban the social media app from government devices. At a Senate hearing, officials from the FBI, the Justice Department and Homeland Security said the video-sharing app could become another tool exploited by Chinese intelligence services. – Agence France-Presse

Yet the mostly Muslim ethnic Uighurs who labor in the factory are isolated within a walled compound that is fortified with security cameras and guards at the entrance. […]Over the past four years, the Chinese government has detained more than a million people from the far west Xinjiang region, most of them Uighurs, in internment camps and prisons where they go through forced ideological and behavioral re-education. – Associated Press 

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan has been postponed because both countries have agreed to prioritize the fight against the coronavirus outbreak, Japan’s top government spokesman said on Thursday. – Reuters 

China’s Xinhua on Wednesday issued a statement protesting against the United States’ demand to cut the number of its U.S.-based journalists in a limited time, the country’s official news agency said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has asked the US for a “clear explanation” after claims the CIA had been hacking targets in China for at least 11 years. – BBC 

Benedict Rogers writes: The sentencing of bookseller Gui Minhai to 10 years in Chinese prison is another example of the Chinese Communist Party’s willingness to trample on the rule of law and thumb its nose at the world. […]But Gui’s case reveals that Beijing is prepared to reach across borders, across diplomatic norms and far beyond legal limits to silence critics. – Wall Street Journal 

Angela Gui writes: If there’s a lesson to be learned from what my father has been put through, let it be that holding China accountable for its crimes requires matching words with actions. At the very least, governments should start by issuing travel advisories to let their citizens know they are not protected from arbitrary detention and imprisonment in China — so that we can do our best to protect ourselves in a world that is growing increasingly unsafe. – Washington Post 

Emily de La Bruyere and Nathan Picarsic writes: Coronavirus is a crisis. States, companies, and peoples (including the U.S. and China) should work together to face it. That’s what responsible stakeholders do in times of crisis. But responsible parties also learn from what crises reveal. Beijing’s malpractice vis-a-vis coronavirus should be a wake-up call. So should the web of dependence that the epidemic outlines. – Washington Examiner


The Taliban have resumed attacks against Afghan forces soon after signing a deal to end their war with the U.S. military, raising concerns that the Americans are leaving their Afghan allies vulnerable to an insurgency unwilling to let go of violence as its main leverage. – New York Times

Judges are set to rule on an appeal by International Criminal Court prosecutors against a decision rejecting an investigation into atrocities committed by all sides in the Afghanistan conflict — including U.S. forces. – Associated Press 

Just hours after the U.S. military launched an airstrike targeting Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, top defense leaders told Congress that the results of the peace deal signed on Saturday have been mixed, but the insurgent group is abiding by much of the accord. – Associated Press 

Josh Rogin writes: There may be valid reasons to keep some details of the agreement out of public view. But the Trump administration is asking Congress and the American people to trust it to verify Taliban compliance. The administration’s track record with Congress doesn’t automatically justify such trust. That’s why calls for more transparency from the U.S. government and more accountability for the Taliban aren’t going away anytime soon. – Washington Post 

Susan E. Rice writes: In committing to the Taliban to end the American military presence and drop sanctions, the United States also sacrificed its remaining leverage to help the government in intra-Afghan negotiations achieve critical shared objectives, like protecting democratic gains and preserving the rights of women. Given that intra-Afghan talks will take many months, if not years, to yield any progress, the United States is likely to withdraw before any deal is done, abandoning Afghanistan to the Taliban wolves. – New York Times 

John Ismay writes: On Saturday, the United States and the Taliban signed a historic peace agreement, theoretically bringing to an end the nearly two-decades-long conflict in Afghanistan that killed more than more than 2,400 American service members. As officials prepare to implement the terms of that deal, American veterans who served in the country are left to grapple with the provisions that may result in more uncertainty than stability for the people of Afghanistan they once fought to protect. – New York Times

Ted Gover writes: Put simply, US national security will require continued involvement in Afghanistan and the Middle East until the behavior of terrorist groups and rogue regimes change. […]It bears saying that a large American footprint in Afghanistan is not necessary in order to protect US security interests. A variety of residual US force structures that combine both special operations and air-strike capabilities are sufficient to manage the lingering challenge posed by the Taliban. – Jerusalem Post 

South Asia

India lifted some restrictions on internet access in Kashmir on Wednesday, including allowing access to social media websites for the first time since the restive Himalayan region was locked down and its autonomy revoked in August. – Reuters 

Samir Ahmad and Yelena Biberman write: India insists that the Kashmir conflict is a bilateral dispute, rejecting third-party intervention. Pakistan’s foreign office spokeswoman, on the other hand, expressed hope that Trump’s recent trip to India would yield “some concrete practical steps” toward U.S. mediation of the conflict. […]We conducted our survey at a time when the vast majority of Kashmiris likely felt disaffected and angry toward India. Yet when we asked what it would take to bring long-lasting peace to Kashmir, our survey respondents expressed hope, rather than rage. – Washington Post 

Dr. Akah Goel writes: Millions of Indians now fear they will be targeted for mass detention or deportation. In the history of modern India, this legislation has been the first to explicitly target a religious minority, a sea change in India’s standing as a secular democracy. […]If India won’t honor the pluralism that comes with an inclusive, multicultural democracy, the U.S. and others should do more to safeguard these norms. The wounds of partition are only now healing, and it would be a grave mistake to reopen them. – The Hill


As pressure rose last month to seal Hong Kong’s border with China to stop the coronavirus, a worker found two homemade bombs in a plastic bag left on a train that serves mainland commuters. One exploded while it sat on the station platform. It was the fourth incident involving homemade explosives in a week in what police called a continuing bombing campaign. – Wall Street Journal 

Peace talks with the main insurgent group in southern Thailand have made progress, the government said on Wednesday after the two sides met in Kuala Lumpur earlier in the week. – Reuters 

The United States will “redouble” its efforts to ensure Taiwan’s participation on the global stage, a senior U.S. official told President Tsai Ing-wen on Thursday, amid Chinese efforts to prevent the island from having any international footprint. – Reuters 

Faced with a possible two-year production pause in the wake of the Trump administratoin’s fiscal 2021 budget request, Northrop Grumman is offering to accelerate MQ-4C Triton drone production for Australia at what it says is the lowest price it has ever offered for an unmanned platform. – Defense News 


Russia on Wednesday opposed a Saudi plan that would ask OPEC and its allies to make drastic crude-production cuts, people familiar with the matter said, as the coronavirus outbreak further erodes demand amid a global oil glut. […]Despite its opposition, Russia is likely to back down and accept a production cut because it is dependant on higher prices to cover its military operations abroad, Helima Croft, the chief strategist at Canadian broker RBC, said in a recent note. – Wall Street Journal 

Russia has been targeted from abroad by foes spreading fake news about the coronavirus to sow panic, President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

A court in Russian-controlled Crimea jailed a Jehovah’s Witness for six years on Thursday after convicting him of organizing activities for the religious group, which is banned in Russia, the Interfax news agency reported. – Reuters 

Russia is racing to reinforce its troops in Syria by sea and air before talks between the Russian and Turkish leaders in Moscow on Thursday, flight data and shipping movements show. – Reuters


The European Union has announced plans to reinforce security at the Greek border to stop a new wave of migrants — and warned Turkey not to use the migrants as political pawns. Ankara on Wednesday countered that the Europeans were violating their professed moral values. – Washington Post 

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, fired his cabinet of ministers on Wednesday after suggesting in a speech that they had become overly solicitous of Western nations that financially support Ukraine by appointing foreigners to the boards of state companies. – New York Times

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Wednesday a new wave of migrants trying to cross the border from Turkey into the European Union must be stopped as far south as possible and his government was ready to help frontline Greece. – Reuters 

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he told Turkey on Wednesday that the situation at the border with Greece was unacceptable and Turkey should not encourage further movement of migrants toward the border with EU states. – Reuters 

Therese Raphael writes: For both countries, however, the chief motivation is political. Johnson sees the U.S. deal as the first major purchase using Britain’s much-vaunted Brexit dividend, sovereignty. Should trade talks with the EU break down, as is very possible, the U.S. ones offer a handy distraction. […]Meanwhile, disagreements over Huawei, policy toward Iran and other issues are a reminder that however special the relationship with the U.S., interests are not always aligned. – Bloomberg 

Natia Chankvetadze and Ketevan Murusidze write: Russia’s political engagement and military dominance in the Black Sea conflicts limit the space for Turkey and Western allies to have a constructive influence on peace and security in the region. However, there is some unexplored potential for supporting peacebuilding processes in these conflict-torn societies. Moreover, promoting peace is a pragmatic response to Russia’s strategy of exploiting protracted conflicts, both in the Black Sea and beyond. – Middle East Institute 


The U.N. envoy for South Sudan said Wednesday that the country’s new coalition government faces “a daunting array of challenges” that will test its unity after six years of civil war. […]The U.N. envoy welcomed the unity government, saying that while courage is often talked about in war, “peace also requires courage.” – Associated Press

China is close to giving the go-ahead for some of its biggest state-owned companies to develop the giant Simandou iron ore mine in Guinea, potentially paving the way for the project to be built after years of legal wrangling. – Bloomberg 

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is maneuvering to prevent the Trump administration from reducing the U.S. military footprint in Africa, an issue that has sparked political blowback on Capitol Hill against Defense Secretary Mark Esper. – Foreign Policy 

The Americas

While insisting that a policy that has forced 60,000 asylum seekers to wait in Mexico violates United States law, a federal appeals court on Wednesday granted the Trump administration’s request to keep the “Remain in Mexico” restrictions in effect until March 11 for review by the Supreme Court. – New York Times

Haitian Prime Minister Joseph Jouthe said on Wednesday during his first public appearance since his appointment by presidential decree that he would focus on fighting insecurity and inequality while boosting the economy. […]The U.S. Embassy in Haiti said in a statement it would work with Moise and Jouthe but urged them to improve security and economic growth, and organize “free, fair and credible legislative elections as soon as technically feasible”. – Reuters 

Peace eludes many parts of Colombia and conditions worsened in 2019 as forced displacements and attacks against medical missions increased, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

Ilan Berman writes: Over the past three years, the Maduro regime has presided over a full-blown economic and political meltdown that has left Venezuelans penniless, hungry and increasingly driven to abandon the nation as a failed state. Yet, despite all this, Maduro himself shows no signs of leaving the political scene, thanks in large part to extensive support from international partners like Russia and China. […]For now, the international community needs to focus on mitigating the effects of Venezuela’s refugee emergency before it becomes a truly Hemispheric one. – The Hill


To thwart increasingly dangerous cybercriminals, law enforcement agents are working to “burn down their infrastructure” and take out the tools that allow them carry out their devastating attacks, FBI Director Christopher Wray said March 4. – Associated Press

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission will recommend that the Department of State establish a bureau focused on international cybersecurity efforts and emerging technologies as part of its forthcoming report, commissioners said March 3 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. – Fifth Domain 

The busiest primary day of the election cycle started early for the director of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency. […]The day was marked by a natural disaster, the California secretary of state website going down, IT pitfalls and robocalls spreading false information in Texas — though a senior CISA official said the calls could have been an accident. – Fifth Domain 

Mark Jamison writes: The regulations would slow new technology adoption in Germany and create market silos and technological dead ends. […]Even though the laws target US and Chinese tech companies, smaller German companies would also suffer. Not only would they find fewer international leaders to do business in Germany, but they likely would get swept up in the regulations, according to business advisory firm Hogan Lovells. Germany would do well to study the effects of regulation and seek to become a business leader rather than a regulatory powerhouse. – American Enterprise Institute 

Brendan Bordelon writes: The decision by the United Kingdom in January to bring cheap Chinese telecommunications equipment into its network—despite earlier threats by the U.S. to halt intelligence-sharing with the U.K. if it did so—revealed what little stock Europe places in warnings that Huawei is a backdoor for Beijing’s spies, and how defiant even America’s closest allies can be in the face of U.S. pressure. – National Journal 


The future force must transform into one that’s jointly trained and integrated across all warfighting domains and with regional allies and partners to counter threats including China’s growing military and global influence, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific said on Tuesday. – USNI News 

The U.S. Department of Defense will not fund a replacement for the OC-135 Open Skies aircraft until it is decided if the country will remain in the arms control treaty, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Wednesday. – Defense News 

China is not only a pacing threat to the U.S. naval fleet but also to the American shipbuilding industry and supply chain, Navy leaders and lawmakers said today during a Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee hearing. – USNI News 

Days after billionaire SpaceX founder Elon Musk shocked the defense community by criticizing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Pentagon’s head of the F-35 program countered that the jet will be relevant for decades to come. – Defense News 

Restoring funding for a second Virginia-class fast-attack submarine in Fiscal Year 2021 tops the list of priorities when lawmakers form the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act, said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee. – USNI News 

The newly establish United States Space Force is expected to deliver a report outlining its acquisition plans to Congress by the end of the month, but in a series of hearings this week lawmakers got a first look at how Space Force leadership is approaching the problem. – C4ISRNET 

The global spread of the coronavirus is impacting work at two key nodes in the global supply chain of the F-35, a top Pentagon official revealed Wednesday. – Defense News 

A recent pilot program tested in the fleet to provide information systems training virtually to shipboard sailors proved promising enough that the Navy plans to implement it sometime this summer. The new regime is enabling students to learn and work on the exact IT systems they will operate on their ships, said the commander of Naval Information Forces. – USNI News 

Without top-line growth in the U.S. Army’s future budgets, the service is headed toward a “collision course,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said March 4 at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference. – Defense News 

The future location of U.S. Space Command, and all its associated jobs and dollars, won’t be coming before the November election, thanks to a directive by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to relaunch the department’s search process. – Defense News 

UMS Skeldar has developed a new enhanced variant of its V-150 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), the company announced on 3 March. – Jane’s 360 

Missile Defense

The delayed request for proposals to industry for the Missile Defense Agency’s Next-Generation Interceptor has been anticipated for several months but, according to the agency’s director, its release is “imminent.” – Defense News 

The U.S. State Department has approved the potential $100 million sale to Poland of 180 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and associated equipment, the Defence Security Cooperation Agency said. – Defense Post 

Michael Peck writes: That’s the sort of networked command and targeting in which the U.S. excels. As the U.S. military develops its own hypersonic missiles, the life expectancy of Russian warships will be that much smaller. Operating in confined waters near the Russian coast, with plentiful support from land-based aircraft and radars, Zircon-armed Russian ships would be formidable. But Russian missile boats in the vast North Atlantic would be a different matter. – The National Interest 

Long War

The Justice Department inspector general on Wednesday chided the FBI for failing to fully address weaknesses in how it assesses possible homegrown terrorists — an area in which officials have been working to improve after several attacks by suspects previously known to law enforcement. – Washington Post 

A Missouri man accused of plotting a terrorist attack with who he believed to be members of the Islamic State but who were in reality undercover FBI agents was sentenced Wednesday to 19 years in prison. – Fox News 

A veteran airline mechanic was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison for sabotaging an American Airlines jetliner with 150 people aboard in a bid to earn overtime fixing the plane. […]Prosecutors said he has a brother in Iraq who may be involved with the Islamic State group and that Alani had made statements wishing Allah would use “divine powers” to harm non-Muslims. There were also Islamic State videos found on his cellphone, they said. – Associated Press