Overnight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump'

Overnight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump'
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Happy Thursday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Ellen Mitchell, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. If you don't get our newsletter, CLICK HERE to subscribe.

 

THE TOPLINE: President TrumpDonald John TrumpReturn hope to the Middle East by returning to the Iran Deal Government shutdowns tend to increase government spending 'Full Frontal' gives six-bedroom house to group that works with detained immigrants MORE on Thursday released the identities of the first two American soldiers whose remains were returned from North Korea earlier this year as part of negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) identified two Korean War veterans among the remains that were repatriated: Sgt. Charles H. McDaniel, 32, of Vernon, Ind.; and Pfc. William H. Jones, 19, of Nash County, N.C.

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"These HEROES are home, they may Rest In Peace, and hopefully their families can have closure," Trump tweeted after sharing their identities.

53 cases more: Kim agreed to return the remains of Korean War soldiers as part of an agreement reached in June during a summit with Trump.

About 7,000 U.S. service members from the Korean War remain unaccounted for, with DPAA estimating that about 5,300 were lost in North Korea.

In July, North Korea turned over 55 cases of remains believed to be of U.S. troops.

DPAA was able to identify the two soldiers quickly because their remains included partial skulls with teeth that could matched to dental records and clavicle bones that could be matched with military X-ray records.

With more returns possible: DPAA director Kelly McKeague said earlier Thursday that the Pentagon has offered to meet with the North Koreans next month to discuss joint operations to recover additional remains. McKeague expressed hope that the operation could then start next spring. 

Joint U.S.-North Korean military search teams conducted such operations from 1996 to 2005, but then-President George W. Bush halted them over what he said were safety concerns for the U.S. teams.

Critics have also charged that North Korea uses such programs as a means to extract money from the United States.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoThe Hill's Morning Report — No deal in sight as shutdown looms Turkey: Trump working on cleric’s extradition Trump risks clash with Congress over Chinese executive MORE has given DPAA authority to pursue direct negotiations with the North Korean Army on resuming recovery operations, McKeague said.

 

NEW CYBER STRATEGY TO PRIORITIZE ATTACKS AGAINST FOREIGN ADVERSARIES: The Trump administration on Thursday announced that the U.S. will now officially act to deter and respond to cyberattacks with offensive actions against foreign adversaries.

The U.S.'s new cyber strategy, signed by Trump and now in effect, marks the federal government officially taking a more aggressive approach to cyber threats presented from across the globe.

A new deterrence strategy: National security adviser John Bolton said that the actions are part of an overall deterrence strategy: Launching cyberattacks against actors in, or sponsored by, other nations, he said, will prevent those adversaries from attacking the U.S. in the first place.

Bolton also confirmed that Trump had signed a measure a few weeks ago rescinding an Obama-era directive on how cyberattacks against other countries are carried out. That directive required several agencies to weigh in on the decision to launch attacks against those in other countries.

"We will respond offensively as well as defensively," Bolton said, adding: "it's important for people to understand that we're not just on defense."

What the plan is now: The administration has structured the U.S.'s new overall cyber strategy around four main pillars.

Those efforts include protecting federal networks and critical infrastructure, preventing intellectual property theft, exposing and attributing cyber attacks and threats as well as "promoting responsible behavior among nation states."

The strategy also outlines the roles of various federal agencies in countering the threats. Bolton said that no one agency was given the lead on cyber, as the threats can differ for each department.

 

STATE DEPARTMENT FINDS WORLDWIDE TERROR ATTACKS DECREASED IN 2017: The State Department says the annual count of the number of terrorist attacks worldwide dropped by 23 percent in 2017, according to an annual report from the agency's counterterrorism center.

Nathan Sales, of the State Department's Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism, told reporters Wednesday that more than half of the attacks occurred in five countries: Afghanistan, India, Iraq, Pakistan and the Philippines, according to CNN.

"The total number of terrorist attacks worldwide in 2017 decreased by 23 percent" compared to the year before, Sales said.

"The total deaths due to terrorist attacks decreased by 27 percent," he added.

What caused the decrease? Downward trends in the number of terrorist attacks were directly related to U.S. coalition-backed successes in Iraq, according to the State Department, which drove terrorist groups such as the Islamic State (ISIS) out of a large portion of territory last year.

The "overall trend was largely due to dramatically fewer attacks and deaths in Iraq," Sales said.

But threats remain: Terrorist groups have adapted to their loss of physical territory in the Middle East, Sales warned in the same report, adding that militant groups have begun operating in more "clandestine" manners to adjust to U.S. strategies.

ISIS, al Qaeda, and affiliated groups have "proven to be resilient, determined and adaptable, and they have adjusted to heightened counterterrorism pressure in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere," the report states.

Militant groups such as ISIS continue to retain "both the capability and the intent to strike the United States and its allies," Sales added.

 

NO SPACE IN POLAND FOR FORT TRUMP?: The space proposed by Poland's government for a U.S. military base in the country may not be enough to allow U.S. forces to construct a permanent facility that Poland's president offered to name "Fort Trump."

U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday that the space and terrain proposed by Poland's President Andrzej Duda did not offer enough room for facilities meant to train U.S. troops.

"It was not sufficient in terms of size and what we could do in the maneuver space and certainly on the ranges," Esper said, according to AFP. "You need a lot of range space to do tank gunnery, for example."

The terrain, he added, is "maybe not robust enough to really allow us to maintain the level of readiness we would like to maintain."

And Mattis agrees: His concerns were reportedly echoed by Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisPentagon has sent home nearly 3K active-duty border troops Trump risks clash with Congress over Chinese executive Russia claims Pentagon ignoring request to discuss nuclear dispute MORE on Tuesday in his own comments to reporters, when he said that a "host of details" needed to be studied before a final decision on Poland's offer to supply the U.S. with room for a base was accepted or rejected.

"It's not just about a base," Mattis told reporters, according to Reuters. "It's about training ranges, it's about maintenance facilities at the base, all these kinds of things."

The background: Duda said during a press conference with Trump on Tuesday that he would like "very much" for Trump to accept his country's $2 billion offer for a permanent U.S. military base in the country to bolster its defenses against potential Russian threats, adding that the base could be named after Trump.

"I said that I would very much [like] for us to set up permanent American bases in Poland, which we would call Fort Trump," Duda said through a translator.

Trump told reporters on Tuesday that he was seriously considering Duda's offer, and criticized Russia for acting "aggressively."

 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Matters Peter Fanta will speak about the post-NPR [nuclear posture review] weapons stockpile at 8 a.m. at the Capitol Hill club in Washington, D.C. 

Former Marine Corps Commandant ret. Gen. James Conway will speak at the Hudson Institute on U.S.-Japan cooperation in strategic island defense at 12 p.m. in Washington, D.C. 

 

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