Guard activated in 3 states; Mideast deployments on hold; US tries to save Taliban deal; N. Korea reaches out; And a bit more.

President Trump activated the National Guard for three states on Sunday: New York, California and Washington. 

The NG is on Title 32 status, which means:

  • State control; federal pay. 
  • Can be used for law enforcement; 
  • No current plans to use NG to enforce quarantines or shelter in place, said NG Chief Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel

En route this morning: The U.S. Navy’s USNS Mercy leaves Naval Station San Diego today headed for Los Angeles and “with over 800 Navy medical personnel and support staff with the afloat medical treatment facility (MTF), and more than 70 civil service mariners,” the Defense Department said this morning. 

The Mercy will be used “as a referral hospital for non-COVID-19 patients currently admitted to shore-based hospitals.” The idea is to lessen the anticipated burden on local healthcare systems since, as McClatchy news notes, “The ship is not configured to handle infectious disease outbreaks because patient beds are stacked close together in large open bays. Instead the ship would be used for trauma care so local hospitals can focus on the coronavirus.”

Positive tests for COVID-19 in the U.S. military community as of Monday:

  • Military: 133 (up 22 since Sunday)
  • Civilian: 44 (up 12)
  • Dependents: 35 (down 2 due to DoD’s incorrect reporting) 
  • Contractors: 31 (unchanged)

The first two cases from those working inside the Pentagon became known Friday, McClatchy news reported. 

A U.S. sailor in Florida tested positive on Friday after returning to U.S. Central Command HQs in Tampa after work abroad. The sailor “immediately entered precautionary quarantine at his [Tampa] residence without stopping at U.S. Central Command headquarters or Macdill AFB,” CENTCOM said in a statement this weekend. 

The U.S. military lost its first contractor to COVID-19 on Saturday. DoD officials said the Crystal City-based contractor had worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, had tested positive, and had been under medical treatment at a local hospital. “The spaces in DSCA where the individual worked have been cleaned in accordance with CDC guidance when he tested positive and the person’s co-workers have been teleworking.”

Read more: On the aggressiveness of the virus for the defense contractor who died Saturday, also via McClatchy news.  

The Defense Department is temporarily “increas[ing] the percentages paid to contractors, known as periodic progress payments,” Bloomberg reported Sunday. 

Find links to the Pentagon’s COVID-19 defense-industry memos in this Friday press release (“Partnering With the U.S. Defense Industrial Base to Combat COVID-19”).

POTUS45 continues to say things that aren’t true. A non-exhaustive list of false and even dangerous things President Trump said recently:

  • Thursday: At a press conference: “Nobody knew there would be a pandemic or epidemic of this proportion,” when his own administration had received briefings on and run exercises preparing for outbreaks that policy experts considered all but inevitable.
  • Saturday: Tweeted recommendation for a drug combination that doctors hastened to say immediately can be deadly to some people. That followed a similar episode earlier when the FDA commissioner said Trump had spoken falsely about drug approvals.
  • Sunday: He “suggested that a drug to treat COVID-19 was at hand and that automakers would be able to manufacture medical ventilators ‘fast’ enough to help fill an acute U.S. shortage of the medical equipment for patients. Neither is true.” ABC News has more of Trump’s false statements, here

Elsewhere in the world, “Britain sent in the army to deliver protective equipment to hospitals on Monday and told people to stay at home” or else “more extreme measures” could follow, Reuters reports today from London. 

Russia wants to track suspected cases using cell phone geolocation, but such a system reportedly does not exist yet. And that’s why Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has given a five-day deadline to get said system, Reuters reports today from Moscow. 

Related reading: “Russia has reported few coronavirus cases but a sharp spike in pneumonia,” via Quartz from Saturday.

Bigger picture today:Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus,” the Associated Press reports this morning.


From Defense One

Coronavirus Halts Military Travel In and Out of Iraq and Afghanistan // Ben Watson: No one comes in until they’ve quarantined for 14 days, CENTCOM says.

Defense Contractors Can Go To Work Amid State & Local Lockdowns, Pentagon Says // Marcus Weisgerber: Companies in California have been struggling to navigate statewide orders to stay at home.

US-China Tensions Heat Up As Beijing Seeks Leadership Role // Katie Bo Williams: Both countries have scrambled to shape the international narrative on the COVID-19 virus.

Russia Has New Tool For Massive Internet Shutdown Attack, Leaked Documents Claim // Patrick Tucker, Government Executive: Moscow’s latest cyber weapon would target a wider array of devices than previous denial-of-service tools:  the growing internet of things

The Damage That ‘America First’ Has Done // Kori Schake, The Atlantic: A self-interested strategy will not help the U.S. fight the coronavirus outbreak.

How the Coronavirus Became an American Catastrophe // Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic: The death and economic damage sweeping the United States could have been avoided—if only we had started testing for the virus sooner.

The Right Way to Activate the National Guard // James Winnefeld, The Atlantic: There are three methods of mobilizing America’s citizen soldiers. Which one Trump chooses will matter a great deal.

Senate Intelligence Chair Dumped Stock After Publicly Downplaying Coronavirus // Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis, Government Executive: Burr, who had been receiving daily coronavirus briefings, sold the stock the week before markets began to decline.

The Trump Administration Drove Him Back to China, Where He Invented a Fast Coronavirus Test // David Armstrong, Annie Waldman, and Daniel Golden, ProPublica: A federal crackdown on professors’ undisclosed outside activities is achieving what China has long struggled to do: spur Chinese scientists to return home. In this crisis, it’s costing the U.S. intellectual firepower.

Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1983, President Ronald Reagan announced on TV that the U.S. would begin pursuing a missile defense shield called the Strategic Defense Initiative. Few Americans knew at the time that the idea of using lasers to shoot down a missile was wildly unrealistic, as then-Pentagon analyst and eventual Defense Secretary Ash Carter told us about halfway through our interview with him last June. 


America’s top diplomat is in Afghanistan trying to save the U.S.-Taliban deal. U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo arrived in Kabul today to meet Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani first — then on to his perpetual political challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, before Pompeo hosts a meeting with all three in the same room. AP reports Pompeo’s “schedule also has Ghani and Abdullah coming together for a one-on-one meeting, presumably to discuss a possible compromise.”
If you’re just now catching up, the Ghani-Abdullah “standoff has stalled the selection of a negotiating team to represent the Afghan government in planned talks with the Taliban,” Reuters reports from Kabul. 
By the way: A two-hour Skype call between the Taliban and President Ghani’s officials on Sunday reportedly “breathe[d] life into the [Afghan] peace process,” Reuters reported in the evening. The U.S. and Qatar facilitated the conversation despite the Taliban’s prior “refus[al] to speak to the Afghan government until all prisoners were released.” It’s unclear what outcome, if any, resulted from that two-hour chat. Tiny bit more, here
“We are in a crisis,” an unnamed State Department official told reporters traveling with Pompeo. “The fear is that unless this crisis gets resolved and resolved soon, that could affect the peace process, which was an opportunity for this country that (has) stood in this 40-years-long war. And our agreement with the Talibs could be put at risk.”
Worth noting: “the State Department has warned American citizens against all international travel,” Reuters writes. And “Pompeo’s last overseas trip in late February was to Doha, Qatar, for the signing of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal he is now trying to salvage.” More from AP, here

And finally today: Get smart on what’s new in U.S. missile defense. For the first time under President Trump, “major programmatic changes” could be underway for America’s missile defense programs, write Tom Karako and Wes Rumbaugh of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in a new report titled “Inflection Point: Missile Defense and Defeat in the 2021 Budget.” 
Top-line read: The budget request “makes the kind of significant programmatic changes one might expect in an administration’s first or second year, rather than its fourth,” they explain. “Whereas neither the 2019 Missile Defense Review nor the 2020 budget submission substantially changed the previous program of record, the 2021 budget begins to break some programmatic china.” 
ICYMI, “The [latest White House] budget reduces hypersonic defense efforts and zeroes out [the Missile Defense Agency]’s directed energy programs entirely… Should the proposed 2021 budget shifts go unchanged, they would accelerate a trend whereby MDA is doing less advanced technology and more procurement. Such a shift would have long- term, adverse consequences for the larger missile defense enterprise.”
Also included in this report: Analysis of a Pentagon proposal to move the development of missile tracking satellites from the MDA to Space Development Agency, “despite congressional opposition,” and defending against hypersonic weapons. Read through the full report for yourself, here.

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