COVID ‘emergency’ on Djibouti base; 17% of carrier crew infected; Army’s DIY masks; Summer deployments announced; And a bit more.

The commander of the U.S. military base in Djibouti declared a public health emergency on Thursday. It’s a 30-day declaration the base officials called “a precautionary measure that gives the commander increased authorities to better manage, prevent and mitigate potential risk to the force as COVID-19 is being addressed in Djibouti.” This also means the base commander now has (emphasis added) “greater ability to ensure preventive measure compliance for non-uniformed populations to include DoD civilians and contractors.”

Recall that it’s not just the U.S. in Djibouti; the militaries of France, Great Britain, Japan, Saudi Arabia and China also maintain a troop presence in the tiny African country. 

BTW: A different kind of plague is sweeping through the Horn of Africa. Djibouti and the surrounding countries like Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya are experiencing the worst locust outbreak in 70 years. “Now, a second generation has spawned,” Reuters reports this week, “just as crops are being planted for the new season, threatening the livelihoods of more than 20 million people” in the region.

One more thing: World hunger could double by the end of the year, the New York Times reported Thursday. “Already, 135 million people had been facing acute food shortages, but now with the pandemic, 130 million more could go hungry in 2020, said Arif Husain, chief economist at the World Food Program, a United Nations agency. Altogether, an estimated 265 million people could be pushed to the brink of starvation by year’s end.”

Bigger picture: “There is no shortage of food globally, or mass starvation from the pandemic — yet. But logistical problems in planting, harvesting and transporting food will leave poor countries exposed in the coming months, especially those reliant on imports.” More here.

At least 840 of USS Theodore Roosevelt’s 4,865-member crew have the coronavirus, the U.S. Navy announced Thursday. Each of the carrier’s sailors has been tested at least once. Of those, 88 have recovered, and 4,234 have moved ashore to isolation accommodations.

Could America’s adversaries try to weaponize the coronavirus? The Defense Department reportedly thinks it’s a possibility, and so U.S. military officials are now taking the threat seriously, Politico reported in a relatively thin story on Thursday. 

Worth noting: Politico has no idea “what led to the increased focus on the risks of Covid-19 weaponization—for example, whether officials received intelligence indicating a heightened threat. [But] A Defense official said the weaponization risk still ‘seems to be a lower-risk concern.’” A bit more, here.

Germany’s Chancellor Merkel says now is the time for international cooperation against the coronavirus. “We will be living with this virus for a long time,” she warned in a speech to parliament Thursday. “It would be a shame if premature hope ultimately punishes us all.” More from the Associated Press, here.

Washington state is about to become the second state to import COVID-test supplies. An aide to Washington’s governor said the state has placed various orders including one for 350,000 swabs, and expects 100,000 of them to arrive this week from China, Alex Brown of Pew’s Stateline reported Thursday.

Washington follows Maryland, whose Gov. Larry Hogan said Monday that his state paid $9 million for 500,000 tests from South Korea. 

“There’s a high degree of anxiety for what the future holds in reagent supplies,” the aide said about one of the key materials needed for testing. “It is a problem of massive need outpacing relatively limited supply… All of the different users of testing supplies are competing against one another.”

Anticipating the next step toward normalcy, the aide told Pew, “If we’re going to build a system that seamlessly passes off testing results to contact tracers, time is really of the essence.” Washington, which has run about 150,000 tests since it began Feb. 29, is currently doing about 4,000 per day and wants to increase that to 20,000 or 30,000 a day in order to safely reopen its economy. More here.

The New York Times tries to glimpse the future as predicted by five coronavirus models, the least pessimistic of which is “the one most frequently cited by the White House.” 

One big catch: “They are built around the notion that the current regimen of stay-at-home orders and social distancing will continue. And almost all of them cut off their predictions after two months or less, even though epidemiologists believe that the coronavirus pandemic will be with us for far longer.”

In COVID-19 treatment efforts, here are three headlines out of Thursday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force press conference: 

Here is the transcript with the president’s remarks, which led to those three articles.

And here’s one more warning from Reuters this a.m.: Trump’s disinfectant idea shocking and dangerous, doctors say


From Defense One

Army Research Shows How Do-It-Yourself Facemasks Can Be as Safe as N95s // Patrick Tucker: Personal protective equipment for hospital workers is running out. This design works as well as the best in class.

Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: What the industry could learn from Boeing; USAF’s new cruise nuke; Ford’s elevators, and more.

Defense One Radio, Ep. 67: Martin Dempsey talks leadership, Syria, and more // Defense One Staff: Dempsey, retired Army general and former Joint Chiefs chairman, has a new book coming out in May called “No Time For Spectators: The Lessons That Mattered Most From West Point To The West Wing.”

Europe Was Just Getting Better at Moving Militaries // Clementine Starling: With Russia, China, and the coronavirus to worry about, reliably being able to move allied forces across the continent should remain a priority.

Pentagon Seeks Continuous Monitoring of Defense Contractors’ Cybersecurity  // Mariam Baksh, Nextgov: A new monitoring system is just part of a larger plan that will end defense contractors’ ability to “self-certify” their compliance with DoD cyber standards.

Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with 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 in 1918 and one day after a mustard gas attack, tanks battled for the first time ever in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, just east of the French city of Amiens. 


The president of the United States owes $211 million to the state-owned Bank of China, Politico reports today, and the debt’s due date of 2022 “has gone largely unnoticed.” 
Where that debt came from: “a $950 million refinancing deal in 2012, to which the Bank of China chipped in $211 million. With the loan, Bank of China became the first in the nation to enter the U.S. securitization market.”
What’s more, “Chinese state-owned companies are constructing two luxury Trump developments in United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.” 
Why this matters: “one of Trump’s emerging campaign attacks against [Democratic challenger Joe] Biden [is] that the former vice president would be a gift to the Communist country and America’s chief economic rival.” More here. (For reference, see also Tracking Trump’s National-Security Conflicts of Interest, now newly updated.)

Thousands of soldiers will rotate in and out of Afghanistan, Iraq or Europe soon. Seven U.S. Army brigades are slated for a deployment to one of those three destinations by the end of the summer, the service announced Thursday. 
For Europe: 

  • The 101st Airborne Division Combat Aviation Brigade is scheduled to replace the 3rd Infantry Division CAB
  • 3rd ID’s 2nd Armored BCT replaces the 1st Cav’s 2nd BCT;
  • 1st Cavalry Division HQs replaces the 1st Infantry Division’s HQs in Poznan, Poland;

For Afghanistan: 

  • 4th ID’s CAB replaces the 10th Mountain Division CAB;
  • And the 4th Security Forces Assistance Brigade replaces the 3rd SFAB in Afghanistan;

For Iraq/Syria:

  • The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd BCT replaces the 25th ID’s 1st BCT;

For Kuwait/Iran watch:

  • 1st ID’s 2nd BCT replaces the North Carolina National Guard’s 30th Armored BCT in Kuwait;
  • And the 82nd’s 1st BCT is still in Kuwait, and has been there since January — even “though roughly 800 of the paratroopers were brought home in February, the remainder of the brigade is still in theater, partially due to the coronavirus pandemic and partially because tensions are still intermittently flaring up with Iran,” Military Times reports

Russia plans new nuclear-powered icebreaker to bolster Arctic strategy. Two Russian companies announced an agreement on Thursday to “build the world’s most powerful nuclear icebreaker, the first step in a bold new Arctic strategy Moscow hopes will bring riches and drive open lucrative new shipping routes,” Breaking Defense reported.
Meanwhile: “The deal was announced as Washington declared it is investing more money and diplomatic energy in Greenland to hold Chinese influence at bay. Meanwhile, two Chinese icebreakers returned home after a historic six-month deployment.” More, here.

ICYMI: Germany to order 45 US jets to replace 1970s Tornados. Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer emailed Defense Secretary Mark Esper last week to say said Berlin will buy 30 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 15 EA-18G Growlers, both made by Boeing. Germany’s Der Spiegel news magazine broke the news on Sunday.

Happening now: Pentagon press secretary Jonathan Hoffman is briefing reporters in a broadcast you can catch on DVIDS, here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!

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