Fdd's overnight brief

May 7, 2020

FDD Research & Analysis

In The News


Iran and the United States are negotiating a deal that would release a United States Navy veteran held by the Iranian authorities in exchange for an Iranian-American doctor detained by the Americans, according to a senior Iranian official and a spokesman for the veteran’s family. – New York Times 

President Trump on Wednesday vetoed a war-powers resolution that would limit the president’s ability to take military action against Iran without approval from Congress, dismissing the measure as an effort to divide Republicans ahead of the coming election. – Wall Street Journal 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened a “crushing response” on Wednesday if the United States goes ahead with plans to extend an embargo on Iranian trade of conventional arms, which the United Nations is set to lift later this year. – Reuters 

New coronavirus cases in Iran are rising again after lockdown measures were relaxed. […]Iran has relaxed restrictions on businesses and some schools in an effort to keep afloat a cash-strapped economy saddled with U.S. sanctions. – Bloomberg 

Iran’s hardliner election watchdog has opposed a last-ditch effort by the outgoing parliament to boost political competitiveness in the country’s closed electoral system. […]This is one of the many mechanisms in the Islamic Republic to control the political establishment in the country and not allow any dissenting voice to gain political office. – Radio Farda 

Switzerland, which represents the United States in Iran, has asked Tehran to extend the medical furlough from detention of U.S. Navy veteran Michael White, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday, as the coronavirus continues spreading. – Reuters 

Iran’s Judiciary Spokesman on Tuesday said they have advised authorities to deal with labor protests leniently while new charges of “propaganda against the regime” were brought against a prominent jailed labor activist. – Radio Farda 

The high death toll in Iran, combined with a lack of accountability from the Iranian regime, created unrest that could lead to more riots or, in a less likely scenario, to the collapse of the Ayatollah regime, said Mohsen Sazegara President of the Research Institute on Contemporary Iran. – Jerusalem Post 

Seth J.Frantzman writes: The message of the article is intended to convey that Iran’s missile experts are at the forefront of their field in the region and that they are on par with other major powers. […]Despite sanctions and concerns from Washington, the IRGC message is that it is moving forward with new tests, missiles and satellites. – Jerusalem Post


Russia is sending Syrian fighters into Libya to back rebel commander Khalifa Haftar, according to a U.N. probe that suggests desperate militants left over from the Syrian civil war are now being paid to fight on opposite sides of Libya’s conflict. – Washington Times 

Speaking to the state-owned Kan 11 news channel on Tuesday following airstrikes in the north of Syria that killed at least 14 fighters, Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel will keep up its operations in Syria until Iran is driven out. – Radio Farda 

An unprecedented dispute within Syria’s secretive ruling clan has blown open, pitting a billionaire against his cousin — who happens to be the president. After nine years below the radar while controlling a sprawling business empire, Rami Makhlouf, maternal first cousin of president Bashar al-Assad and the civil war-torn country’s most powerful tycoon, last week filmed himself making an unexpected claim — that Syrian authorities are ransacking his businesses and secret police are targeting his employees. – Financial Times

Tom Rollins writes: The Syrian government has also taken it upon itself to use HLP legislation authorizing rubble clearance, destruction of damaged property, or expropriation of property owned by terrorism suspects to raze buildings that could have been salvaged. This legislation is already being used to arbitrarily punish and disown perceived supporters of the opposition in different areas of Damascus. – Middle East Institute 

Danny Makki writes: Even arresting Makhlouf — if he’s still in Syria — wouldn’t solve the problem either because he will remain a symbol of someone who could defend himself and stand up against the Syrian president. And if he were harmed or killed in the process, Makhlouf might become a martyr figure and this could create rifts that are beyond repair. – Middle East Institute 


Israel’s top court ruled that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can form a government while under indictment, removing a final hurdle in the incumbent’s bid to remain in power as he goes on trial later this month on corruption charges. – Wall Street Journal 

Israel will lease unmanned aerial vehicles to Greece, in the first agreement reached between the two countries’ defense ministries. – Bloomberg 

A former Palestinian terrorist filed has filed a petition with the High Court of  Justice over the lack of oversight in the transfer of funds to the Palestinian Authority. The former Fatah member alleged the money is being used to fund terror activity and corruption within Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s government. – Ynet 

Monthly budget documents prepared by the Palestinian Authority for 2020 show that it is attempting to hide the salaries it pays terrorists from international donors, making a sham of its commitment to financial transparency. – Jerusalem Post

Palestinians affiliated with terrorist groups may participate in EU activities, EU Representative to West Bank and Gaza Sven Kuhn von Burgsdorff wrote in an official letter obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Thursday. – Jerusalem Post

Ambassador Danny Danon told a video press briefing that Israel will insist that peacekeepers have access to all sites, that they have freedom of movement, and that any time they are being blocked the U.N. Security Council must be immediately informed. – Ynet

The Foreign Ministry summoned EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret for a reprimand over a letter stating that Palestinians affiliated with terrorist groups may participate in EU activities. – Jerusalem Post

The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday accused US Ambassador to Israel David Freidman of making “false” statements about Israel’s plan to apply Israeli law to parts of the West Bank. – Jerusalem Post

Alex Fishman writes: A shortsighted policy based on the conception that Iran has been pushed out of the region is a reminder for Israelis that those in leadership, especially in positions that could determine whether there will be war, must not regard their current tole in government as a political stepping-stone. – Ynet 

Scott Abramson writes: Yet whatever one’s opinion of Trump’s bid at peacemaking, Washington is powerless to end this tragic and bloody battle of wills unless either the Israelis or the Palestinians renounce what is dearest to them: Zionism or the right of return. Until then, the two sides are fated to remain caught, to adapt an idiom common both to Hebrew and Arabic, between the hammer of conflict and the anvil of compromise. – The National Interest


Iraq’s Parliament chose an American-backed former intelligence chief as the new prime minister early Thursday morning, giving the country its first real government in more than five months as it confronts an array of potentially crippling crises. – New York Times 

The United States will grant a 120-day waiver for Iraq to continue importing electricity from Iran to help the new Iraqi government succeed, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the newly installed Iraqi prime minister. – Reuters

Iraq’s outgoing premier Adel Abdel Mahdi was seen as an independent who could unite rival factions and revive the economy, but he leaves office amid a fiscal calamity and brewing geopolitical tensions. – Agence France-Presse

Gulf States

In the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, foreigners also make up the vast majority of the population. […]These living conditions have made them vulnerable to the fast-spreading disease known as COVID-19. That has made them a target for some. – Associated Press 

The United States on Wednesday announced it will provide $225 million in emergency aid to Yemen to support food programs, and called on the Houthis to do more to allow aid operations to operate “independently and neutrally”. – Reuters

A senior United Arab Emirates official on Wednesday stressed the need for de-escalation in the region to allow countries to focus on “the hurricane” caused by the coronavirus pandemic and review development models. – Reuters

Karen E. Young writes:  Economic hardship and a strong nationalist justification could play to the crown prince’s strengths. But there will be many wealthy, well-connected Saudis, including members of the ruling family, who see his leadership in the oil price feud and opulent project spending as evidence of a failed transition. They have the most to lose in the coming hard recovery. – Al Monitor


Russian private military contractor Wagner Group has up to 1,200 people deployed in Libya, strengthening the forces of eastern-based military leader Khalifa Haftar, according to a confidential United Nations report seen by Reuters on Wednesday. – Reuters

Bobby Ghosh writes: Under the circumstances, Erdogan can’t afford a greater commitment to Libya. His only consolation is that Haftar’s backers face economic difficulties, too: The UAE and Egypt (which, along with Saudi Arabia, are the Arab world’s three largest economies) are reeling from the effects of the pandemic. Russia, too, is feeling the strain. The contest for Libya is a long way from over. At least for now, however, Erdogan can savor some quiet — and rare — satisfaction from a foreign-policy call that seems to be going right. – Bloomberg

Ben Fishman and Conor Hiney write: Given their limited options for low-cost escalation, Ankara and Abu Dhabi may be receptive to a renewed press for a durable ceasefire line that protects civilians in and around Tripoli. Whether or not the Berlin process or GNA-LNA military dialogue can be revived, the perpetually divided UN Security Council needs to show greater unity for a ceasefire to have a chance. – Washington Institute

Middle East & North Africa

The executive board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will meet on May 11 to consider Egypt’s request for a Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) loan, according to the board’s calendar. – Reuters

Major parts of the Lebanese government’s plan for pulling the country out of a financial crisis will require new legislation, as will any deal with the IMF, a senior MP said on Wednesday, signalling that those parts will still require debate in parliament. – Reuters

Editorial: The Trump administration had pushed for Ms. Desouky’s release, especially after the death of Kassem triggered protests from Congress and new questions about U.S. aid to Egypt. But the release of one American should not spare the Sissi regime from consequences for its unconscionable treatment of political prisoners. – Washington Post 

Lina Mounzer writes: After the usual infighting, last week the government announced its economic “rescue plan,” which consists of appealing to the International Monetary Fund for a loan. Should the I.M.F. approve the request, we will have to contend with austerity measures that will only increase poverty. But that is if the notoriously corrupt Lebanese state can even meet the minimum reforms that the I.M.F. requires. – New York Times 

Kemal Kirisci writes: Yet if Erdoğan continues to offer more of his authoritarian, one-man rule, recovery will be doubly difficult and likely result in an inward-looking Turkey, bogged down in its own problems and unable to play a constructive role in reconstituting a post–COVID world order that cherishes democracy, the rule of law and sustainable economic development. – The National Interest


Relations between the U.S. and China, strained for years, have deteriorated at a rapid clip in recent months, leaving the two nations with fewer shared interests and a growing list of conflicts. […]The coronavirus pandemic has deepened the rancor, bringing relations between the two to a modern-day nadir. – Wall Street Journal 

China challenged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to present evidence that would back his recent claim that the new coronavirus came from a Chinese laboratory. The comment by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying was the first official Chinese government reaction to Mr. Pompeo’s statement. – Wall Street Journal 

China’s leading chip maker is preparing for a multibillion-dollar stock sale, as the country tries to build up its semiconductor capabilities during a heated trade conflict and tech battle with the U.S. – Wall Street Journal 

A Chinese spaceship is working normally in orbit, with its solar panels in position and a communication link established, the government said Thursday. […]China is working on a permanent orbiting station after being excluded from the International Space Station, largely because of U.S. objections. – Associated Press 

China’s trade surplus with the United States stood at $22.87 billion in April, Reuters calculation based on Chinese customs data showed on Thursday. […]Darkening the trade outlook, the Trump administration is “turbocharging” an initiative to remove global industrial supply chains from China as it weighs new tariffs to punish Beijing for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. – Reuters

Top Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators will speak as soon as next week on progress in implementing a phase-one deal after President Donald Trump threatened to “terminate” the agreement if Beijing wasn’t adhering to the terms. – Bloomberg 

Rising tensions between China and the United States are problematic for all sides and not conducive for the broad multinational cooperation needed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the European Union’s ambassador to China said on Thursday. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would be able to report in about a week or two whether China is fulfilling its obligations under a Phase 1 trade deal the two countries sign. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday renewed his aggressive criticism of China, blaming it for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from the coronavirus and demanding again that it share information about the outbreak. – Reuters

The U.S.-China relationship is one of disappointment and frustration, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Wednesday, highlighting a deepening rift between Washington and Beijing over the deadly coronavirus. – Reuters

As Washington and Beijing trade barbs over the coronavirus pandemic, a longer-term struggle between the two Pacific powers is at a turning point, as the United States rolls out new weapons and strategy in a bid to close a wide missile gap with China. – Reuters 

The European Union ambassador to China said on Thursday it was “regrettable” that part of an opinion piece co-authored by 27 European ambassadors and published in the official China Daily had been removed before publication. – Reuters

Editorial: The world has a responsibility to help prevent the next pandemic by understanding how this one started. China’s cover-up is cause for suspicion, and Messrs. Trump and Pompeo are right to press the question. But until they produce the evidence they’re alluding to, the Wuhan lab theory will remain just that. – Wall Street Journal 

Joseph Bosco writes: As with the people of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the West can play a strong supportive role by providing the Chinese with the ultimate instrument of change their rulers deny them: the truth. The pandemic must not be suffered in vain. This tectonic historical event provides both an opportunity and an obligation for the West to help the people of China rid themselves and the world of the underlying scourge that afflicts us all. – The Hill

Andreas Kluth writes: Even on the assumption that the real target of China’s infantile propaganda campaign is its domestic audience or the Chinese diaspora, this “diplomacy” can’t exactly pass as brilliant strategy. If it reflects the quality of Beijing’s statecraft, fears of China’s rise may have been greatly exaggerated. – Bloomberg


Afghanistan and Iran have launched a joint investigation into allegations that dozens of Afghan migrants who crossed illegally into Iran were tortured by Iranian border guards and thrown into a river, where at least 16 drowned. – Washington Post 

The U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan is on a mission to press Taliban negotiators in Doha and officials in India and Pakistan to support reduced violence, speeding up intra-Afghan peace talks and cooperating on the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department said on Wednesday. – Reuters 

As the U.S. continues down the perilous path to peace in Afghanistan a number of spoilers threaten to upend America’s goal to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan and end its longest war. – Military Times

Khawaga Ghani and Diaa Hadid write: In Afghanistan, humanitarian engagement may prove more productive than the political pressure strategy focused on a cease-fire. Aid donors and agencies would do well to openly acknowledge that the insurgency has an essential role to play and call on it to take concrete, specific actions to halt the virus’s spread and facilitate health work. If they refuse to cooperate, however, the Taliban must be publicly criticized for their complicity in the deaths that are sure to follow. – Foreign Policy

Andrew Watkins writes: The pandemic complicates the fragile Afghan peace process, but the Taliban want the process to succeed. It accomplishes a long-held goal, he says: “Kick out the foreign troops.” But if large numbers of Taliban prisoners get sick or die, the prisoner exchanges may get thrown off, and along with them, so might hopes for peace. – NPR


A fight over whether Taiwan can participate in a World Health Organization conference on the coronavirus pandemic later this month is escalating a bitter tug of war between the U.S. and China over leadership within the U.N. system. – Wall Street Journal 

The United States has reached a settlement to recover more than $49 million involving Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, the Department of Justice said. – Reuters

The U.S. State Department is delaying a report to Congress assessing whether Hong Kong enjoys sufficient autonomy from China to continue receiving special treatment from the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday. – Reuters

South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd said a gas leak at its plant in southern India had been brought under control, after an incident on Thursday that police estimate killed at least nine people and resulted in hundreds of casualties. – Reuters

The U.S. aircraft carrier forward deployed to Japan is back at sea for trials after its annual repair period and ahead of its spring patrol in the Western Pacific, USNI News has learned. […]The underway comes as senior leaders have warned of increased Chinese military activity in the South China Sea.- USNI News 

The deployment of a US Marine Corps rotational training force to northern Australia has been reinstated just five weeks after it was cancelled due restrictions designed to slow the spread of Covid-19 coronavirus in the country, Australian Defence Minister Linda Reynolds announced on 6 May. – Jane’s 360 

Adam Taylor writes: Among the ambassadors stuck in Washington during the coronavirus pandemic, Stanley Kao is in a unique position. […]But from an official U.S. perspective, he isn’t actually an ambassador. Instead, as representative for the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, he’s a diplomat in a de facto sense, working out of a relatively modest Tenleytown office. – Washington Post  

Tom Rogan writes: Duterte’s war on his people’s ability to choose what they hear and watch shouldn’t be viewed in a vacuum. It fits with the president’s increasingly surreal approach to governing. Duterte is breaking his great nation. Rather than maintain the alliance that liberated his nation and has secured its prosperity since, Duterte has made himself a happy serf for Chinese President Xi Jinping (fortunately, the Filipino people retain national resolve). – Washington Examiner

Michael Mazza writes: There are three primary similarities between the dynamics at play in 1956 and the dynamics that would be in play in a hypothetical Taiwan scenario involving Chinese military action. […]And although many US actions (arms sales, for example) make clear American interests in Taiwan’s continued de facto independence, the United States has refrained from the sorts of actions that would signal clearer intent to come to Taiwan’s aid—for example, frequent and intensive combined military training involving all three services. – Global Taiwan Institute


Russia’s largest gas producer Gazprom said on Wednesday it was supplying natural gas to China as planned after the company’s contractor said it was suspending works at a China-assigned field. […]The Siberian gas field was launched in December to move gas supplies via pipeline to China for the first time. – Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the next steps on arms control issues in a call with his Russian counterpart on Wednesday, the U.S. State Department said in a statement but gave no other details. – Reuters

The Kremlin on Wednesday said a U.S.-proposed legal blueprint for mining on the moon would need to be analysed thoroughly to check if it complies with international law. – Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval rating has slipped to its lowest level in more than two decades amid the coronavirus crisis, even as support for his plan to extend his rule for years ahead has risen, a poll showed on Wednesday. – Reuters


European Union leaders on Wednesday insisted that six countries of the Western Balkans have a future in the bloc’s midst and offered them fresh financial aid as they struggle to cope with the impact of the coronavirus on their economies. – Associated Press 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his British counterpart Dominic Raab discussed relations between Moscow and London and voiced intention to improve cooperations, the Russian foreign ministry said on Wednesday. – Reuters

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) says it has detained an alleged spy accused of collecting data on a “modern missile system” on behalf of Russia. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

The European Union’s 27 leaders on Wednesday gave their “unequivocal support” for the six Balkan countries to eventually become members of the bloc and offered them more financial support as Brussels seeks to check Chinese largesse. – Reuters

Business activity across Europe almost ground to a halt last month as government-imposed lockdowns to stop the spread of the coronavirus forced factories, shops and restaurants to close and many leisure activities to cease, a survey showed. – Reuters

The euro zone economy will contract by a record 7.7% this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation will almost disappear and public debt and budget deficits will balloon, the European Commission forecast on Wednesday. – Reuters

Poland’s ruling party leader and a partner in the governing coalition announced an agreement late Wednesday to postpone Sunday’s presidential election, saying a new date will be chosen later. – Associated Press 

When U.S. leaders talk about the promise of artificial intelligence, one application they regularly discuss is cybersecurity. But experts say European countries have thus far proven to be more measured in their approach to AI, fearing the technology is not yet reliable enough to remove human analysts. – Fifth Domain 

Two B-1B Lancer bombers flew from Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to the Baltic region Tuesday to take part in a Bomber Task Force mission and train with the Danish air force. – Air Force Times 

As a gesture of solidarity Iran has sent medical items to Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Germany recently. Iran will keep lending a helping hand to nations in need,” Mousavi tweeted on Wednesday. A consignment of COVID-19 diagnostic kits manufactured by an Iranian knowledge-based company has been exported to Germany. – Tehran Times 

The leader of the parliamentary group of Germany’s main far-right party has publicly mourned the victory over the Nazi German regime by Allied forces on May 8, 1945 as “a day of absolute defeat, a day of the loss of large parts of Germany and the loss of national autonomy.” – Algemeiner


The World Bank on Wednesday said China-based Liaoning-EFACEC Electrical Equipment Company Limited (LEEEC) would be ineligible to participate in bank-funded projects for 20 months due to fraudulent practices in connection with a project in Zambia. – Reuters

The International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said its executive board has approved $739 million in emergency financing to help Kenya respond to the economic shock caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic. – Reuters

Uganda will receive an emergency loan worth $491.5 million from the International Monetary Fund to help cushion its economy from the impact of the new coronavirus, the fund said on Wednesday. – Reuters

China’s agreement to invest is a rare win for Zimbabwe, which is currently subject to power cuts of as long as 18 hours a day as it doesn’t produce enough electricity to meet demand and can’t afford to pay for adequate imports. – Bloomberg 

North America

China and Russia are promoting “false narratives” on social media that blame the West for the coronavirus pandemic while casting their countries as best-equipped to deal with the crisis, U.S. officials say. – Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 

Top defense officials used a May 6 hearing to make a detailed, public case for why the Federal Communications Commission was mistaken last month when it voted to allow Virginia-based Ligado access to spectrum that the Pentagon says will harm the global positioning system — but stopped short of publicly asking for legislative assistance from friendly senators. – C4ISRNET 

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Defense Department has seen a small increase in predatory foreign investment in U.S. companies, such as small drone manufacturers, the Pentagon’s head of industrial policy said Wednesday. – C4ISRNET 

General Dynamics has received $1 billion since the renegotiation of a $10 billion contract for Canada to sell light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia, company officials said on its first quarter earnings call.

In a deal last month, Canada lifted its ban on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which in turn agreed to a speedier payment schedule for the LAV. – Defense News 

U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Somalia killed at least 132 civilians in 2019, a Pentagon report released Wednesday said. The annual report, mandated by Congress, also said at least 91 civilians were injured in U.S. military operations in those countries. – The Hill 

The Trump administration is drafting a legal blueprint for mining on the moon under a new U.S.-sponsored international agreement called the Artemis Accords, people familiar with the proposed pact told Reuters. – Reuters

Roger F. Noriega writes: Stated plainly, the market economies and democracies of the Western Hemisphere would be better off depending more on one another and less on China. Such a realignment is urgent for the Americas, as like-minded neighbors cooperate to restore their prosperity and secure their destiny. – Washington Examiner 

Roger Bate writes: Those who oppose the president and call his administration’s failures to account should also be able to see that WHO has failed, and a new effort is required. And the president can take the lead in promoting this effort with the US-taxpayer funds that were going to WHO. – American Enterprise Institute

Latin America

Luke Alexander Denman, an American, was hired to lead a ragtag group of insurgents to seize the Caracas airport, overthrow President Nicolás Maduro and fly him to the U.S., the imprisoned Iraq war veteran explained in a video released by Venezuela Wednesday. – Wall Street Journal 

A captured American citizen, appearing in a video broadcast on Venezuelan television Wednesday, said he helped train and accompanied a small force that attempted to invade the country by sea this past weekend. – Washington Post 

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that “there was no United States government direct involvement” in an apparent attempt to invade Venezuela early this week. – Washington Post 

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday said he will seek extradition from the United States of Jordan Goudreau, head of Florida security firm Silvercorp USA. – Reuters 

A former Green Beret who has claimed responsibility for an ill-fated military incursion into Venezuela is under federal investigation for arms trafficking, according to current and former U.S. law enforcement officials. – Associated Press 

The U.S. government will use “every tool” available to secure the return of Americans if they are being held in Venezuela, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed on Wednesday, after Venezuelan officials said they had captured two U.S. “mercenaries” in a failed armed incursion. – Reuters


As the Defense Department negotiates its way through the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout, military entrance processing stations are working with new guidance when it comes to bringing COVID-19 survivors into the services. – Military Times 

The U.S. Department of Commerce is close to signing off on a new rule that would allow U.S. companies to work with China’s Huawei Technologies on setting standards for next generation 5G networks, people familiar with the matter said. – Reuters

The coronavirus pandemic sent the Pentagon’s IT officials scrambling to prepare its workforce and network for telework. Now, as the Department of Defense begins to ponder what effective work looks like after successfully carrying out its mission during months of work from home, some changes may stick around. – C4ISRNET 

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved William Evanina, President Donald Trump’s nominee for a top counterintelligence position, after he was blocked for almost two years over a Republican request for documents related to the investigation of Russia and Trump’s 2016 election campaign. – Reuters

Defense Secretary Mark Esper huddled at the Pentagon with his top staff for two hours on Tuesday, wrestling with how to ease restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19 without jeopardizing the health and safety of the troops and their families. – Washington Examiner

A top nuclear security official says the U.S. must move ahead with plans to ramp up production of key components for the nation’s nuclear arsenal despite the challenges presented by the coronavirus. – Defense News 

A project inside the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has the potential to pull the Navy’s unmanned surface vessel aspirations forward a decade, a senior DARPA official said Wednesday at the annual C4ISR Conference. – C4ISRNET 

A task force formed to examine the Pentagon’s reform-focused No. 3 job has concluded the position was “mostly ineffective” at taming the department’s bureaucracy and urged that it be scrapped and replaced. – Defense News 

As lawmakers boost federal spending to boost the economy and counter the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, they should resist the temptation to increase defense spending too, a left-leaning think tank argued in a new report released Wednesday. – Military Times 

If a potential military recruit has been diagnosed with COVID-19, it may prevent them from serving their country. The U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command reportedly issued a memorandum to recruit processing stations that said a prior official diagnosis of COVID-19 would be considered disqualifying for those looking to join the armed forces. – Military Times

When COVID-19 was first detected on guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG-100) late last month, the Navy put into action a new set of procedures to stem the spread of the virus. – USNI News 

The Space Development Agency will provide the unifying element in the Defense Department’s future Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept, pulling together tactical networks developed by the services with a constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites. – C4ISRNET 

As the Navy tries ensuring COVID-19-related restrictions don’t hollow out the force, active-duty enlisted sailors with vital skills can now delay their high-year tenure separations for up to 24 months and sailors can reenlist up to a year before their contracts end. – USNI News 

U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific will resume its annual deployment to Australia, after the U.S. and Australian governments previously announced a delay due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. – USNI News 

Today’s competitive national security environment requires vigilance in guarding those secrets that help the United States maintain its advantages. But it is possible to overdo secrecy, and there is a growing consensus among policymakers for changing the security posture in the space domain — to one that better balances secrecy and collaboration. – C4ISRNET 

The Navy announced several new assignments for its top officers, the first public announcement of its kind since December 2018, when the service stopped announcing senior flag moves in the name of cybersecurity. – USNI News 

The Marine Corps announced a shuffle of its two- and three-star generals, with nominations of new leadership for Marines in the Pacific, the aviation community, training and education and more. – USNI News 

The following is the May 1, 2020 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. – USNI News 

The Pentagon’s electromagnetic spectrum strategy could be released in the next two months, according to Essye Miller, principal deputy in the office of the department’s chief information officer, who spoke during the C4ISRNET Conference on May 6. – C4ISRNET

Jamie Morin writes: Rapid developments in space pose both opportunities and challenges for U.S. national security space efforts, with the sheer amount of information available from private space systems expanding and the threat environment worsening. Simultaneously, the national security space enterprise is reorganizing, creating different organizational seams. – C4ISRNET 

Andrew Philip Hunter and Rhys McCormick write: As the Future Vertical Lift programs down select to a smaller pool of competitors, understanding the industrial base implications of the Army’s FVL plans is crucial. This report presents a detailed analysis of the industrial base implications of the Army’s approach to vertical lift modernization. – Center for Strategic and International Studies  

Missile Defense

The United States Air Force has begun to spearhead an effort to develop the first hypersonic cruise missile, a weapon that could complement other weapons already in development. The Air Force has begun to seek information from industry about the technology and the goal is to launch a new prototyping program in the near future, DefenseNews has reported. – The National Interest 

As Washington and Beijing trade barbs over the coronavirus pandemic, a longer-term struggle between the two Pacific powers is at a turning point, as the United States rolls out new weapons and strategy in a bid to close a wide missile gap with China. – Reuters

Raytheon and Lockheed Martin’s joint venture for the Javelin has completed production of its first F-Model of the shoulder-fired anti-tank weapon, meant to be more lethal against advanced armor and soft targets, the companies announced Wednesday. – Defense News 

The German government has given Lockheed Martin and MBDA the go-ahead to bid anew on the TLVS air defense program. […]The program, short for Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem, is meant to wean Germany off the venerable Patriot air defense weapon. – Defense News

Long War

Security forces on Wednesday killed the commander of a militant group in Kashmir, eliminating a leading figure in the long-running anti-India insurgency amid a recent surge of violence in the disputed territory. – Washington Post 

U.S. military operations killed about 130 civilians and injured 91 others in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia last year, according to a Pentagon report seen by Reuters on Wednesday, though the figures were far lower than those reported by watchdog groups. – Reuters

The U.S. special envoy on Afghanistan is on a mission to press Taliban negotiators in Doha and officials in India and Pakistan to support reduced violence, speeding up intra-Afghan peace talks and cooperating on the coronavirus pandemic, the State Department said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Trump Administration

The U.S. Postal Service’s governance board tapped a North Carolina businessman and Republican donor to be the next postmaster general, as President Trump seeks to push the organization to raise rates for package delivery. – Wall Street Journal 

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his coronavirus task force would shift its primary focus to reviving U.S. business and social life, while acknowledging that reopening the economy could put more lives at risk. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday an ousted health official who filed a whistleblower’s complaint accusing the administration of retaliating when he voiced concerns about the coronavirus in January seemed to be a disgruntled person who wants to help Democrats. – Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he would announce new members of his coronavirus task force by Monday, as its focus turns to medical treatments and easing restrictions on businesses and social life. – Reuters