NORTH KOREA’S SCARIEST MISSILE YET: North Korea is declaring that its latest missile test shows it has mastered the rocket science to threaten the world with a nuclear attack. The missile was fired in the middle of the night North Korean time, 1:17 p.m. Washington time, and North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency pronounced it a roaring success. “After watching the successful launch of the new type ICBM Hwasong-15, Kim Jong Un declared with pride that now we have finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force,” KCNA reported.

The report said the missile was “newly developed,” and an advance over its Hwasong-14, launched in September. “The ICBM Hwasong-15 type weaponry system is an intercontinental ballistic rocket tipped with super-large heavy warhead which is capable of striking the whole mainland of the U.S. This system has much greater advantages in its tactical and technological specifications and technical characteristics than Hwasong-14 whose test-fire was conducted in July last, and it is the most powerful ICBM which meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system development set by the DPRK.”

WASHINGTON IN THE CROSSHAIRS: There was enough data available immediately after the launch for experts to do some quick, back-of-the-envelope calculations, and determine that the missile has the potential to hit Washington, New York or Mar-a-Lago. The missile flew basically straight up and down for more than 50 minutes, reaching an altitude of nearly 2,800 miles, before plunging into the Sea of Japan roughly 600 miles downrange. On a standard trajectory that would give the missile a range of 13,000 miles. While North Korea claimed the missile carried a “super-large heavy warhead,” experts also pointed out the altitude could also have been achieved by using a lightweight mock warhead.

MATTIS’ GRIM ASSESSMENT: There was no downplaying of the achievement by the Pentagon. “It went higher, frankly, than any previous shot they've taken. It's a research and development effort on their part to continue building ballistic missiles that could threaten everywhere in the world, basically,” said a somber Defense Secretary Jim Mattis just hours after the test. “The bottom line is, it's a continued effort to build a threat — a ballistic missile threat that endangers world peace, regional peace, and certainly, the United States,” Mattis said at a White House meeting with President Trump.

TRUMP’S RESPONSE: “We will take care of that situation,” Trump said following the comments by Mattis. Later he tweeted: “After North Korea missile launch, it's more important than ever to fund our gov't & military! Dems shouldn't hold troop funding hostage for amnesty & illegal immigration. I ran on stopping illegal immigration and won big. They can't now threaten a shutdown to get their demands.”

TILLERSON’S TAKE: The nation’s top diplomat renewed a call for the international community to continue strong economic and diplomatic measures to send a unified message to North Korea that it must abandon its WMD programs. “Diplomatic options remain viable and open for now. The United States remains committed to finding a peaceful path to denuclearization and to ending belligerent actions taken by North Korea,” Rex Tillerson said in a statement read by State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

‘WE’RE HEADED TOWARD A WAR’: The most apocalyptic warning came from Sen. Lindsey Graham, who in an extended appearance on CNN yesterday repeatedly tried to send a message to Pyongyang that Trump was not going to allow North Korea to hold America hostage at the point of nuclear weapons. “If we have to go to war to stop this, we will. And if there is a war with North Korea, it will be because North Korea brought it on itself and we're headed toward a war if things don't change,” Graham said.

It’s an argument Graham has made before, and says is based on his personal discussions with Trump. “Even if it means thousands, hundreds of thousands of people over there get hurt to protect America. Now that's the choice that the president has to make. I stand with him. The best outcome is not to have a war. I don't want a war, he doesn't want a war, but we're not going to let this crazy man in North Korea have the capability to hit the homeland. We're not going to live this way,” Graham said. “To our friends in China, we're not going to live this way. You need to help us, and if you don't help us, we'll take care of it. And us taking care of it means that the war is in your backyard, not ours.”

Graham said North Korea is “making the biggest miscalculation in modern history” in thinking that best way for the regime to survive is to be able to attack America. “If North Korea watches CNN, I hope you understand that President Trump is not going to allow the United States to live under the threat of a nuclear missile, a nuclear weapon coming to America from North Korea. And if you want that capability, you're going to get in a fight with the United States and you're going to lose that fight and that'll be the end of the regime.”

DOOMSDAY PREPPING: Hawaii on Friday will test its emergency alert siren system across its eight islands in preparation for a possible attack by North Korea, according to USA Today. Similar tests will take place on the first business day of each month following Friday's inaugural test. The warning system was first used during the Cold War with Russia and is meant to notify residents they should "get inside, stay inside, and stay tuned."

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Last month, the Washington Examiner's Kyle Feldscher wrote a handy guide to surviving a nuclear strike. Bottom line, there’s not a lot you can do, and luck will be a big factor, but there are some measures you might consider.

Good Wednesday morning and welcome to Jamie McIntyre’s Daily on Defense, compiled by Washington Examiner National Security Senior Writer Jamie McIntyre (@jamiejmcintyre), National Security Writer Travis J. Tritten (@travis_tritten) and Senior Editor David Brown (@dave_brown24). Email us here for tips, suggestions, calendar items and anything else. If a friend sent this to you and you’d like to sign up, click here. If signing up doesn’t work, shoot us an email and we’ll add you to our list. And be sure to follow us on Twitter @dailyondefense.

NICHOLSON’S UPBEAT ASSESSMENT: The top U.S. commander was brimming with confidence yesterday as he briefed Pentagon reporters from Kabul, insisting that Trump’s new strategy was a “game changer,” that the war effort has “turned a corner,” and that the momentum has shifted in favor of the Afghan government forces after 16 years of stalemate.

Army Gen. John Nicholson cited the end of any set withdrawal date, the unleashing of American airpower, the increasing capabilities of the Afghan military and the decreasing popularity of the Taliban as reasons for his optimism after 16 years of fighting. The Trump policy “is really fundamentally different,” Nicholson told Pentagon reporters in a video briefing piped in from Afghanistan. “That’s why I express confidence that we are on our way to win.”

BOMBS AWAY: Nicholson said the U.S. has tripled the number of bombs dropped in Afghanistan since Trump gave him full authority to hit any legitimate target. We checked the numbers published by the U.S. Air Forces Central Command and found that more munitions were expended in October than in any single month in the last five years. You can see the all the numbers in this graphic.

THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE CORNER: Nicholson’s Pollyanna-ish pronouncements about turning the corner in Afghan was met with a lot of skepticism on social media. Many Twitter pundits pointed out that if you turn the corner enough, you just just go in circles. The comment evoked memories of Gen. William Westmoreland's infamous assessment in 1968 that he could see “the light at the end of the tunnel” in the Vietnam War.

Here’s the full quote from Nicholson: “Now, looking ahead to 2018, as President [Ashraf] Ghani said, he believes we have turned the corner and I agree. The momentum is now with the Afghan Security Forces and the Taliban cannot win in the face of the pressures that I outlined. Again, their choices are to reconcile, live in irrelevance, or die.”

The assertion prompted a reposting of a months-old satirical story on website Duffelblog headlined: “‘We’re making real progress,’ say last 17 commanders in Afghanistan.”

MISSILES TO POLAND: The State Department has cleared a potential $250 million sale of truck-mounted missiles to Poland aimed at shoring up a NATO ally. Poland wants the weapons for homeland defense and to deter “regional threats,” according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. The Lockheed Martin High Mobility Artillery Rocket System package, or HIMARS, includes:

  • 16 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System M31A1 Unitary rockets
  • 9 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System M30A1 alternative warheads
  • 61 Army Tactical Missile Systems, or ATACMS, M57 Unitary long-range guided missiles

HAPPENING TODAY: Mattis is hosting the crown prince of Bahrain at the Pentagon this morning. There will an “enhanced honor cordon” to welcome His Royal Highness Salman bin Hamad al Khalifa, at 11:30 a.m. on the steps of the River Entrance.

NSA LEAK: The contents of a virtual hard drive from the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command were leaked onto the Internet and found on a publicly accessible Amazon server, a cybersecurity firm announced Tuesday. The data exposure was discovered by Chris Vickery, the director of cyber risk research for UpGuard, in September. Vickery gained access to the Amazon Web Services S3 cloud storage bucket that included roughly 100 gigabytes of information related to an Army intelligence project, codenamed “Red Disk.” He notified the federal government of the leak in October.

According to UpGuard, the data leaked online exposed “internal data and virtual systems used for classified communications to anyone with an Internet connection.” The virtual hard drive and a Linux-based operating system were found on the server.

‘WE TOO’: More than 200 women who work or previously worked in national security have signed onto an open letter to call attention to sexual harassment. The letter, titled #metoonatsec, was signed by at least 220 women who worked in various capacities in the national security sector, including at the departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security, and USAID. Signatories include former and current diplomats, foreign service officers, and service members.

“This is not just a problem in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, newsrooms or Congress. It is everywhere,” the letter states, according to Time. “These abuses are born of imbalances of power and environments that permit such practices while silencing and shaming their survivors.”

AIR FORCE’S FAILURE TO REPORT: The military failed to notify federal gun background-check databases of several dozen service members convicted of serious crimes, according to preliminary findings from a recent U.S. Air Force review. Air Force officials said the error in the case of former airman Devin Kelley, who fatally shot 26 people at a church in Texas this month, was not the only one, and their review has found “similar reporting lapses in other locations.”

The review entails looking at approximately 60,000 incidents that have been documented since 2002 and whether they were shared. "The error in the Kelley case was not an isolated incident and similar reporting lapses occurred at other locations," the Air Force said in a statement. "Although policies and procedures requiring reporting were in place, training and compliance measures were lacking."

ICEBREAKER BEEF: U.S. Coast Guard commanders have just one “crummy” icebreaking ship at their disposal, Tillerson said Tuesday. “I think we have one functioning icebreaker today,” Tillerson said at the Wilson Center. “The Coast Guard’s very proud of it, as crummy as it is.”

Tillerson’s jibe was delivered to laughter, but points to a serious concern for American policymakers who regard the Arctic as a new theater of competition between the United States and other world powers. Russia, among others, has made significant military investments in the region while the United States focused on other strategic priorities and cut defense spending.

“So, we’re late to the game,” Tillerson said.

The Coast Guard has three operational icebreakers: The heavy icebreaker Polar Star, medium icebreaker Healy, and the Mackinaw, which operates on the Great Lakes.

EMBASSY MOVE STILL POSSIBLE: Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that Trump is looking into ways to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The remarks came at an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the United Nations vote that helped create the Jewish state.

"President Trump is actively considering when and how to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem," Pence said during a speech hosted by Israel's Mission to the United Nations in New York. The move would fulfill a campaign promise.


USA Today: U.S. Coast Guard operating secret floating prisons in Pacific Ocean

Washington Post: Tillerson has harsh words for Russia’s ‘malicious tactics’

War on the Rocks: OA-X Strikes Back: Eight Myths on Light Attack

USNI News: Moscow Claimed U.S. Navy P-8A Was Flying Toward Russian Airspace Before Black Sea Intercept

UPI: Saab intros augmented reality training tool for military

BuzzFeed: NSA Caught Navy Officer Illegally Trying To Pry Into American’s Phone

Stars and Stripes: Nicholson: US troops will assume more risk in Afghanistan in next fighting season

Reuters: Honduran presidential candidate says to review presence of U.S. troops

Defense News: ‘It’s a done deal’: Turkey plans to deploy Russian air-defense system in 2019

Military Times: Trump’s tweet sparks fears of a looming government shutdown

Foreign Policy: China Should Send 30,000 Troops Into North Korea

New York Times: From North Korea, With Dread

Defense One: Could a New Cessna Find Its Way to the Battlefield?

Daily Beast: A Drone Killed His Family. The U.S. Courts Just Buried Them.

Air Force Times: After fatal crash, Laughlin Air Force Base’s training aircraft return to the sky



7 a.m. 901 Massachusetts Ave. NW. 54th Annual AOC International Symposium and Convention.

9 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW. A coming storm? Shaping a Balkan future in an era of uncertainty.

10 a.m.  Rayburn 2172. Subcommittee hearing on the latest developments in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon.

11 a.m. Rayburn 2362. Supplemental oversight of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with Ryan Fisher, acting assistant secretary of the Army for civil works, and Maj. Gen. Ed Jackson, deputy commanding general for civil and emergency operations.

12 p.m. 214 Massachusetts Ave. NE. Digital World War: Islamists, Extremists, and the Fight for Cyber Supremacy with Haroon Ullah, chief strategy officer at the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

3:30 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Book launch of “King of Spies: The Dark Reign of America’s Spymaster in Korea.”

6:30 p.m. 1700 Jefferson Davis Hwy. National Aeronautic Association awards dinner with Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson.

6:30 p.m. 529 14th St. NW. 4th Estate dinner and ambassador series Q&A with Iraqi Ambassador Fareed Yasseen.

7 p.m. 1700 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Arlington. Air Force Vice Chief Gen. Stephen Wilson provides the keynote address at the National Aeronautic Association Fall Awards Dinner, Crystal Gateway Marriott.


8 a.m. 2401 M St. NW. Defense Writers Group breakfast with Rep. Adam Smith.

8 a.m. 1800 Jefferson Davis Hwy. Special topic breakfast with Maj. Gen. David Coffman, director of expeditionary warfare.

9 a.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. A joint conference on Russia and North Korean nuclear weapons.

10 a.m. Dirksen G-50. Testimony from outside experts on recommendations for a future National Defense Strategy.

10 a.m. Dirksen 419. Nominations hearing for U.S. ambassadors.

10 a.m. House Visitor Center 210. Worldwide threats: Keeping America secure in the new age of terror.

2 p.m. House Visitor Center 304. Open hearing in a closed space with testimony by Eric Prince.

3:30 p.m. 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Russia: Strategy, Policy, and Administration.


8 a.m. Rayburn 2212. Hearing on amphibious warfare readiness and training, interoperability, shortfalls, and the way ahead with Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault, deputy Marine Corps commandant; Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, deputy chief of naval operations; and Cary Russell, director of defense capabilities and management team at the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. The Middle East and Russia: American attitudes on Trump’s foreign policy.

1:30 p.m. 740 15th St. NW. Digital World War: Islamists, Extremists, and the Fight for Cyber Supremacy.


8 a.m. 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Defense Forum Washington 2017 with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer.

12:30 p.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Rebuilding Syria: A localized revitalization strategy.

5 p.m. 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Book discussion of “1917: Lenin, Wilson, and the Birth of the New World Disorder” with author Arthur Herman.

6 p.m. 1777 F St. NW. Book discussion of “Preventive Engagement: How America Can Avoid War, Stay Strong, and Keep the Peace” with author Paul Stares.


8 a.m. 2101 Wilson Blvd. Security Cooperation Management Industry Course.

8:30 a.m. 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW. PONI 2017 Winter Conference.

9:30 a.m. 1789 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Military readiness and early childhood: What is the link?

9:30 a.m. 2301 Constitution Ave. NW. Turmoil across the Middle East: What does it mean?

10 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW. Public perspectives on the North Korean nuclear crisis.


9 a.m. 1030 15th St. NW. U.S. Army Futures Forum with Maj. Gen. William Hix, deputy chief of staff.

10:30 a.m. 2301 Constitution Ave. NW. Launch of the study The Leverage Paradox: Pakistan and the United States.

11:15 a.m. 1777 F St. NW. Hacked Elections, Online Influence Operations, and the Threat to Democracy: Building a Foreign Policy Response.