DoD orders everyone to wear masks as service member infections top 1,100. “Effective immediately, all individuals on DoD property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers,” the Defense Department announced Sunday in a statement, adding, “This guidance applies to all service members, DOD civilians, contractors, families (apart from residences on installations) and all other individuals on DOD property.”
So if you’re on federal property, this applies to everybody, “Military, Civilian, Contractor, Family Member and any others,” CENTCOM reminded the folks assigned there, all of them must “wear face cloth coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers,” and when they’re conducting any “Movement into a USCENTCOM facility, and movement through the hallways of USCENTCOM facilities.”
The commander in chief says he probably won’t wear one, however. More on that from CBS News.
By the numbers: “There are a total of 1,132 confirmed cases [in the U.S. military] as of Monday morning,” AP reports. “The total was 978 on Friday. There also have been 303 cases among members of the National Guard.” Read on, here.
For the record: The U.S. federal government “wasted months” before ordering protective gear, AP reports. “A review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers….By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile…Now, three months into the crisis, that stockpile is nearly drained just as the numbers of patients needing critical care is surging.” Read on, here.
The current shortages are detailed in a report by the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ inspector general, out today, here.
Remember that aircraft carrier captain who was fired last week? Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams rounded up reactions from current and former Navy officials.
One particularly unusual aspect, U.S. Army strategist Jim Golby wrote on Twitter this weekend, is that USS Theodore Roosevelt Capt. Brett Crozier “was an O-6 who was PERSONALLY removed by a political appointee — in this case an acting secretary — without first conducting even a preliminary investigation.”
That’s partly why Democratic lawmakers want the Pentagon’s IG to investigate the U.S. Navy’s response to Crozier alerting officials to the coronavirus outbreak onboard the TR, Stars and Stripes reported Friday.
Here are a few key administration opinions on Crozier’s firing:
- President Trump: “I didn’t make the decision. Secretary of Defense was involved and a lot of people were involved. I thought it was terrible what he did to write a letter. I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear-powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter. He could call and ask and suggest. But he stopped in Vietnam. A lot of people got off the boat. [Editor’s note: The truth of this next sentence is unknown.] They came back and they had infection. [Modly said Thursday that all sailors with liberty in Danang were “screened” for the virus.] And I thought it was inappropriate.” (Saturday at the White House)
- SecDef Esper: “This was Secretary Modly’s decision. He briefed me about it. I took the advice of the [chief of Naval operations] and General [Mark] Milley with regard to it and I told him I would support his decision.” (CNN, Sunday)
- Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley: Acting SecNav Modley “thought [Crozier] operated with poor judgment in a time of crisis…And when [Modly] loses trust and confidence in a ship’s captain, then that’s it. It’s target down.” (Fox News, Friday)
We were all warned: The Atlantic’s Uri Friedman rolls up the various warnings offered in previous weeks, months, and years by the U.S. intelligence community, other officials of various administrations, and public health officials, here.
For the after-action reports: The Washington Post “The U.S. was beset by denial and dysfunction as the coronavirus raged / From the Oval Office to the CDC, political and institutional failures cascaded through the system and opportunities to mitigate the pandemic were lost.” Read, here.
From Defense One
‘It Doesn’t Add Up To Me’: Current and Former Navy Officials Question Captain’s Abrupt Dismissal // Katie Bo Williams: “Why wasn’t there an investigation done before the captain was relieved?” one former senior official asked.
Lockheed Adds 1,000 Employees Amid Coronavirus Crisis, Wants to Hire 5,000 More // Marcus Weisgerber: The defense giant also said it would give bonuses to employees who can’t work from home.
New Satellites Will Be a Big Step in the Pentagon’s Plan to Link Everything // Patrick Tucker: A new “transport layer” constellation will help distribute tactical data — but won’t have defenses against anti-satellite weapons.
National Security in the Age of Pandemics // Michael Hunzeker and Gregory D. Koblentz : We cannot reduce the danger and damage of the next pandemic by merely adding it to the ever-expanding laundry list of missions we expect the military to handle.
Thousands of Federal Employees Have The Coronavirus // Eric Katz, Government Executive: Many more are quarantined due to possible exposure as employees are on the frontlines fighting COVID-19 and providing essential services.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day 103 years ago, the U.S. declared war on Germany. Little did anyone know that America would lose more citizens to the 1918 flu pandemic (675,000) than died in combat during World War One (53,402).
Military reax from around the world. The French military has cancelled or suspended “non-essential maritime missions and deployments,” Reuters reports. For its part, “Germany has changed rules, with no roll-calls or mustering of troops and the quarantining of some staff,” and “Poland activated thousands of troops to patrol streets under lockdown, disinfect hospitals and support border control.” A tiny bit more from Italy, Spain and the UK, here.
The U.S. military handed over another base to the Iraqis: The Al Taqaddum Airbase in Anbar province, west of Baghdad. The U.S.-led coalition released a statement (Twitter) and some imagery of the handover on Saturday; but it was the Iraqis who made the most of the opportunity — using as its backdrop either “a fairy-tale castle” or a “low-budget Shakespeare Festival” for the occasion.
In Syria, the counter-ISIS coalition also recently shipped more than a million dollars in “supplies for COVID-19 prevention efforts and detention operations” for the facilities and partnered Syrian Democratic Forces at Al-Hasakah and Al-Shaddadi in northeastern Syria, CENTCOM said Saturday. That transfer happened on March 27, but we finally heard about it this weekend. Read a bit more, here.
Elsewhere in Syria, Green Berets have been practicing their mortar skills at the At-Tanf Garrison in the southern part of the country bordering Jordan and Iraq. Find photos of that training from March 26, here.
And in northwestern Syria, Turkey’s military is reportedly (Reuters) limiting troop movements because of the coronavirus.
The pandemic has not stopped U.S. airstrikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia. U.S. Africa Command has acknowledged carrying out nearly a dozen airstrikes against the group since March 19. The latest three strikes fell Sunday and are believed to have killed eight alleged militants, AFRICOM announced this morning.
ICYMI: Somalia is not just dealing with terrorists and incredible debt; it’s also dealing with swarms of locusts — so many that the country declared a national emergency in February. According to Business Insider, “The insects have already destroyed hundreds and thousands of acres of crops in East Africa, and the UN is calling for international help to quell the crisis. They fear the numbers could grow 500 times by June and reach 30 different countries.” More here.
The Taliban warn its deal with the U.S. could fall apart because (1) its prisoners have not been released yet; and (2) the group is tired of facing resistance for attacking Afghan forces, al-Jazeera reported Sunday.
Remember the $1 billion SecState Pompeo wanted to short Afghanistan because Abdullah Abdullah won’t step down or forge a deal with current President Ashraf Ghani? Reuters reported Sunday that “Two U.S. congressional aides, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said State Department officials told Congress the $1 billion would come from a $4.2 billion Pentagon fund that underwrites about three quarters of the Afghan security forces’ annual budget.”
“They will be toast,” a former U.S. military official said of Kabul’s troops should the one billion be withheld this year and the next. Read on, here.
And finally today: Trump fired the intelligence community’s inspector general on Friday, triggering a notification process with Congress that Michael Atkinson would be removed from his post within 30 days. Recall that Atkinson drew White House condemnation after he alerted lawmakers last September — as required by law — to the whistleblower complaint about phone calls with Ukraine’s president over the summer that led to President Trump’s impeachment. GovExec’s Katherine Peters writes “Inspector General Atkinson is known throughout the Inspector General community for his integrity, professionalism, and commitment to the rule of law and independent oversight. That includes his actions in handling the Ukraine whistleblower complaint, which the then Acting Director of National Intelligence stated in congressional testimony was done ‘by the book’ and consistent with the law.”
The Friday evening firing drew immediate criticism in Washington, including from Michael Horowitz, Justice Department IG and chairman of a council of federal IGs. More from GovExec, here.