Sailors furl the mizzen topsail aboard USS Constitution in Boston, July 27, 2021.

Sailors furl the mizzen topsail aboard USS Constitution in Boston, July 27, 2021. U.S. Navy / Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Samoluk

The Naval Brief: SecNav nomination advances; Masks return indoors; Wargaming fail; and more

Welcome to The Naval Brief, a weekly look at the news and ideas shaping the sea services’ future. 

Secretary nomination advances. Carlos Del Toro is one step closer to becoming the next Navy secretary after the Senate Armed Services Committee approved his nomination out of committee. Senators have a week to confirm him before leaving for their August recess. Read more about Del Toro’s nomination on Defense One.

Masks are back. The Defense Department is directing its workforce to begin wearing masks indoors again--even if they are vaccinated--in locations that are seeing high community transmission, Defense One reports. This includes the Pentagon installation which has personnel commute from several states and counties with transmission risks varying from moderate to substantial.

Virus kills two sailors. On Wednesday, the Navy announced that two sailors in their 40s had died due to complications from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of military deaths from the virus to 28. USNI News reports that the two sailors were not vaccinated, citing a Navy official.

Combat mission to end in Iraq, again. The combat mission in Iraq will end this year, President Biden declared this week as the military prepares for potential future fights with China or Russia, Defense One reports. It’s not clear how many U.S. troops will remain in the country in a train and advising role for local forces. There are currently about 2,500 troops there now.

Sign up to get The Naval Brief every Thursday from Caitlin M. Kenney, Defense One’s military services reporter. On this day in 1967, a Zuni 5 rocket was accidentally fired from an F-4 Phantom into an armed A-4 Skyhawk on the deck of the USS Forrestal, setting off a chain reaction of explosions that killed 134 sailors. Future Arizona Sen. John McCain was sitting in another Skyhawk on the deck when the incident happened and he had to jump out of his cockpit.

From Defense One

‘It Failed Miserably’: After Wargaming Loss, Joint Chiefs Are Overhauling How the US Military Will Fight // Tara Copp: In a fake battle for Taiwan, U.S. forces lost network access almost immediately. Hyten has issued four directives to help change that.

‘We Will Not Flinch’: Austin Promises US Will Continue to Bolster Taiwan’s Self-Defense // Tara Copp: In Singapore, defense secretary chides Beijing for “aggression...coercion...genocide” but says he wants a “constructive, stable relationship with China.”

Why Isn’t the Military Mandating COVID-19 Vaccines? // Kori Schake: Service members need to be protected against the coronavirus. This isn’t a close call.

Biden’s 6-Month Clock On Russia-U.S. Nuke Talks Starts Now // Jacqueline Feldscher: Officials met for the first time in Geneva on Wednesday. They’re set to come together again in September.