The USS Theodore Roosevelt “will return to sea this week, two months after being sidelined with a massive coronavirus outbreak,” AP reports this morning after speaking to the captain. The ship will sail with about 3,000 crew, “leaving about 1,800 sailors on shore who are still in quarantine. Those include up to 14 sailors who recently tested positive again, just days after getting cleared to return to the carrier,” Lolita Baldor reports.
Uncertainty for the Guard. The 44,000-plus National Guardsmen and women reach 90 days on the job on June 25. And if they reach that date, they’ll be eligible for additional education and retirement benefits. But Politico reports this morning that all those activations are scheduled to end “on June 24 — just one day shy” of when those benefits would kick in, a senior FEMA official said in an interagency call on May 12.
Said a Guard spox to Politico: “We’re not there yet on the determination,” Wayne Hall said about whether an extension is coming. “Nobody can say where we’ll need to be more than a month down the road.” Continue reading, here.
“The return of DoD staffers to office spaces… is likely weeks away and hinges on a variety of factors to be weighed by local commanders,” U.S. Naval Institute News reported Monday.
A defense contractor died over the weekend, bringing the coronavirus’ total DoD-community toll to 28 and ending a three-week streak without a death. Military Times has a bit more.
The WH’s economic response to COVID-19 is under the microscope today as the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hears from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. AP calls it “the first oversight review of the huge [$2 trillion-plus] relief legislation approved in early March.” Reuters also has a preview, here. The hearing began at 10 a.m. ET, and can be streamed here.
Speaking of the Senate, Florida Republican Marco Rubio is now the interim Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Majority leader Mitch McConnell announced Monday — since Richard Burr stepped down as chairman last week while the FBI looks into allegations of insider trading.
Elsewhere around the world, “Coronavirus cases are spiking from India to South Africa and Mexico in a clear indication the pandemic is far from over,” AP reports from Moscow.
In tech news, British airline EasyJet says today that it was the victim of a “sophisticated” cyber attack, which AFP reports “uncover[ed] names and travel details of about nine million customers amid raised concerns over coronavirus-fuelled Internet hacking.”
From Defense One
How AI Will Soon Change Special Operations // Patrick Tucker: A new SOCOM office is pursuing tools to understand and influence populations, clear rooms with robots, and spot new forms of jamming.
Fired State IG Was Investigating Saudi Arms Sale // Katie Bo Williams: A key House Democrat says that might be why he was fired.
The State and Federal Data on COVID-19 Testing Don’t Match Up // Alexis Madrigal, via The Atlantic: The CDC has quietly started releasing nationwide numbers. But they contradict what states themselves are reporting.
Trump Is Attacking the Final Safeguard Against Executive Abuses // David A. Graham, via The Atlantic: The president has defied Congress, and gummed up cases in court. Now he’s firing the inspectors general.
Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1863, 14-year-old Union drummer Orion P. Howe was shot multiple times in “a hailstorm of canister and musket-balls” at Vicksburg, yet “he persistently remained upon the field of battle until he had reported to Gen. W. T. Sherman” that fellow troops of the 55th Illinois Infantry urgently needed ammunition. Howe, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions, later became a dentist and lived to 81 before passing away in Springfield, Missouri, in 1930.
Pacific Fleet sends all subs to sea. Honolulu Advertiser: The Pacific Fleet Submarine Force took the unusual step this month of announcing that all of its forward-deployed subs” — at least seven, and likely more — “were simultaneously conducting ‘contingency response operations’ at sea in the Western Pacific — downplaying the notion that Navy forces have been hampered by COVID-19.”
Why? China. In its statement, SubPac said the move, and the announcement, were meant to countering Beijing’s South China Sea expansionism.
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board warned against a hasty U.S. exit from Afghanistan on Sunday, emphasizing the apparent truce reached by President Ashraf Ghani and his 2019 election challenger, Abdullah Abdullah. “The deal means the government will be able to present a united front to the Taliban, who walked away from U.S.-brokered peace talks last month claiming they were fruitless,” the EB wrote.
However, they cautioned (emphasis added), “The Taliban know that President Trump is eager to withdraw all U.S. troops from the country, preferably before Election Day in November, so he can claim a diplomatic victory.
But that gives the Taliban an incentive to bide their time in the hope of goading Mr. Trump to do something impulsive… The best chance for a U.S. exit with honor, one that doesn’t lead to a murderous Taliban march on Kabul, is to make clear to the Taliban that the U.S. won’t force its allies to accept a bad deal.”
President Trump didn’t like that emphasized line at all, and tweeted in response on Monday:
- “The Wall Street Journal Editorial states that it doesn’t want me to act in an “impulsive” manner in Afghanistan. Could somebody please explain to them that we have been there for 19 years, and while soldier counts are way down now, hardly impulsive. Besides, the Taliban is mixed about even wanting us to get out. They make a fortune $$$ by having us stay, and except at the beginning, we never really fought to win. We are more of a police force than the mighty military that we are, especially now as rebuilt. No, I am not acting impulsively!”
And finally today, “the beer-rating app Untappd can be used to track the location history of military personnel,” the open-source sleuths at Bellingcat reported Monday.
What’s going on here? “Untappd users log hundreds, often thousands of time-stamped location data points,” which allow “anyone to trace the movements of other users between sensitive locations — as well as their favorite bars, hotels, restaurants, neighbourhoods, and, sometimes, even private residences.”
With that information, Bellingcat was able to trace “a U.S. drone pilot, along with a list of both domestic and overseas military bases he has visited, a naval officer, who checked in at the beach next to Guantanamo’s bay detention center as well as several times at the Pentagon, and a senior intelligence officer with over seven thousand check-ins, domestic and abroad.” Continue reading, here.