The Daily SA for Thursday, 29 July 2021 – Forward Observer

The Daily SA for Thursday, 29 July 2021

Good morning. Here’s your Daily Situational Awareness brief for Thursday, 29 July 2021. You can receive this daily intel brief by signing up at

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  • Situational Awareness
  • Defense funding provides insight
  • Houston Port affected by equipment failure
  • China’s sports influence campaign
  • Hydropower at risk in the West
  • Senate’s infrastructure fight begins


NDAA: The House is expected to complete the National Defense Authorization Act markup process today. While specific programs are receiving uneven support, the budget remains oriented toward Great Power Competition. Funding for legacy weapons systems and expanding naval vessel procurement is balanced with cyber and information operation guidance, signaling the emerging multi-domain conflict. “Disruptive technology” needed to rapidly mitigate asymmetric challenges outside the Defense Department’s procurement process received support as well. (Analyst Comment: The changes to military justice and debates over “social change” in the military can distract from the war-oriented funding. The 180 on many offensive programs is designed to fully transition the military from counter-insurgency and counter-terror to full spectrum warfare. -D.M.)

HOUSTON: Two “major hardware failures” have shut down the Port of Houston’s Bayport and Barbours Cut terminal since Tuesday. Executive Director Roger Guenther said a “major failure of the storage devices that support all applications used to operate both Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals” was to blame. The backup systems were activated by 10 a.m. but crashed by 12 p.m. and terminals remain closed as of this morning. The Port insists this is not the result of a cyber attack and will expand hours after service is restored to address a growing container and vessel backlog. (AC: Outright denial of cyberattacks is becoming a common refrain for companies who suffer from massive data disruptions, which is not a relief as aging or unreliable systems are blamed instead. This incident demonstrates the breadth of disruptions which occur without malign actor involvement. -D.M.)

NBA: Congress is taking aim at the NBA and its close relationship with China. The league is explicitly prevented from selling any goods in the U.S. made with slave labor from Xinjiang. Instead, players and teams are partnering with Anta and Li-Ning and selling branded products to the 800 million annual NBA viewers in China. (AC: Notably, neither the NBA nor players implicated responded to any media requests to explain their penchant for slave-processed cotton while pushing Black Lives Matter messaging back home. Attempting to deliver social messages through sports leagues is a successful tool of China to ideologically subvert Western audiences and reduce their confidence in a number of institutions. The NBA is following suit by refusing to acknowledge wrongdoing for fear of retaliation from lucrative Chinese endorsements. – D.M.)

HYDRODAM: Lake Powell supplies water to 30 million and remains at historically low levels. Other reservoirs along the Colorado River are facing similar droughts. The Glen Canyon and Hoover Dam water levels are so low that hydroelectric facilities are at risk of shutting down. Continued drought conditions could impact energy rates and availability in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The current water year has about 60 days left but major lakes and reservoirs across the Western U.S. are struggling to maintain 30% of their traditional volume. (Recommendation: Understand your local energy blend and consider alternative sourcing programs if offered by your local utilities, or look into the feasibility of alternative power generation. – D.M.)

INFRASTRUCTURE: The Senate passed a cloture vote on a 67-32 margin to advance the infrastructure bill, the text of which remains to be seen. There are few details on the $1.4 trillion measure, including funding provisions apart from repurposing some unused COVID relief funds and targeting cryptocurrencies for new taxes. This is considered the first of two “infrastructure” bills with a $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” initiative in the Democrat controlled House. (AC: The ultimate passage of either bill remains in doubt, but the current agreement alone continues the runaway government spending trend. Portions of the spending are likely to be approved through the reconciliation process but key Democrat senators like Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona say a $3.5 trillion package is a non-starter. Mike will explain how new taxes will affect the crypto market in tomorrow’s Crypto Observer. – D.M.)


HURRICANE SEASON: Nothing significant to report.

In today’s Early Warning briefing, Mike goes over inflation expectations, some dire realities from a billionaire hedge fund manager, and some other red flag warnings for the economy this year. Upgrade your Situational Awareness to Early Warning here:

Mike Shelby is a former Intelligence NCO and contractor. He's now the CEO of Forward Observer.

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