US threatens total Afghanistan withdrawal; Acting SecNav resigns; Sailors disinfecting ship lack masks; Trump ousts Defense watchdogs; And a bit more.
Thomas Modly submitted his resignation as acting Navy Secretary on Tuesday morning, capping a whirlwind couple of days in which Modly flew to Guam, told the crew of the Theodore Roosevelt that their former captain had betrayed them by broadcasting an urgent call for help in evacuating their COVID-stricken aircraft carrier, apparently failed to anticipate his speech’s dissemination via social media, issued a defiant statement as criticism rolled in, and apologized just hours later.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper accepted Modly’s resignation, writing in a statement that he “resigned on his own accord.”
The new acting Navy Secretary is James E. McPherson, currently Army undersecretary and a retired admiral.
An investigation launched by Modly into the command climate of the 7th fleet will proceed, Esper said, while any action against Capt. Brett Crozier, whom Modly fired last Thursday, will await the results.
Sailors cleaning Roosevelt lack protective gear. At least two thousand sailors are off the ship and in isolation accommodations ashore. But the hundreds who remain aboard to maintain and disinfect the carrier’s 3,000-plus spaces have been given latex gloves but no masks, family members tell the San Francisco Chronicle. Instead, they are “fashioning homemade masks out of T-shirts at the direction of the Pentagon.” Read on.
Review what we know of the Roosevelt’s three-week cruise into international headlines in a 5,000-word timeline, here.
Apropos of nothing, “On his way out the door, Tom Modly (who had named a new carrier after Pearl Harbor hero Dorrie Miller) wanted to leave more of a mark on the Navy: he wanted to name a new class of frigates at the last minute[,] but he was denied.” That’s according to the Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold.
DPA news: Today GM signed a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services Department to make 30,000 ventilators by August. Politico reports the deal was signed "under the Defense Production Act... almost two weeks after President Donald Trump invoked the emergency law against the automaker." More from HHS, here.
Get to better know the Defense Production Act after listening to today’s episode of “On Point” from NPR member station WBUR in Boston. The show began at 10 a.m. ET, but you can catch up, here.
Find answers to many of your possible mask questions (What material to use? When to take it off?) in this Washington Post explainer published Tuesday.
British PM Boris Johnson remains in stable condition in his ICU bed in St. Thomas Hospital today as he continues his fight with COVID-19. He’s not on a ventilator, and he remains in good spirits, Reuters reports. Read on for how “Britain’s uncodified constitution… offers no clear, formal Plan B” should the virus incapacitate the prime minister, here.
The good news for Britons: “lockdown measures are slowing the spread of the disease.” The latest figures from King’s College London "suggest that around 1.4 million people in Britain aged between 20 and 69 currently have symptomatic COVID-19, a fall from 1.9 million on April 1, as some have recovered and fewer people report new symptoms.” More here.
Like SpaceX, Germany’s foreign ministry has ditched Zoom, citing privacy concerns, Reuters reports today from Berlin. Zoom is also now facing a class-action lawsuit over its alleged “fail[ure] to disclose that its service was not end-to-end encrypted,” Reuters reports separately today. The company has “lost nearly a third of their market value since touching record highs in late-March.”
Read: an assessment of Zoom’s suitability for national-security work by Defense One’s Patrick Tucker.
For Russia, the next two to three weeks are critical for the government’s efforts to protect its citizens from the coronavirus. That's why President Vladimir Putin "ordered federal and regional government to develop additional measures aimed at supporting citizens," Reuters reports from Moscow.
From Defense One
Acting Navy Secretary Quits After Slamming Fired CO to Carrier Crew // Katie Bo Williams: Thomas Modly flew to Guam on Monday, made a 15-minute speech aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt, and spent the rest of the day trying to wriggle out of trouble.
Battle of the USS Theodore Roosevelt: a Timeline // Bradley Peniston: In three weeks, the COVID-stricken aircraft carrier, its captain, and its crew have sailed out of their regular deployment and into international headlines. Here are the details of their fateful cruise.
The US Must Lead the World Out of This // Joe Buccino: If the coronavirus pandemic only causes us to look inward, China wins.
Trump Removes Acting Pentagon IG Slated to Lead Pandemic Oversight // Courtney Bublé, Government Executive: Glenn Fine was ousted from the Defense Department’s acting IG position on Monday.
Welcome to this Wednesday 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 in 1959, a diverse assortment of computer nerds led by Navy officer and Yale Ph.D Grace Hopper met at the University of Pennsylvania to discuss creating a programming language called COBOL ("common business-oriented language"). It would prove so useful, according to the Smithsonian, that even today "Millions of banking transactions are still processed daily with COBOL programs." In fact, "The state of New Jersey is seeking volunteers with knowledge of how to code COBOL to aid in the coronavirus outbreak," as The Hill reported Tuesday.
SecState Pompeo is threatening a total withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan now that his billion-dollar threat does not seem to have resolved the spat between the man who lost Afghanistan’s presidential election, Abdullah Abdullah, and the man who won it, President Ashraf Ghani. NBC News reported Tuesday on the newest Pompeo negotiating tactic, which “underscores Trump’s growing concern that the inability of Afghan leaders to form a unified government threatens to unravel his already-tenuous peace deal with the Taliban.”
One big problem: Trump’s advisers do not want him “to be the face of the fragile deal,” since nobody knows if it will actually pan out as hoped.
The Taliban walked out of talks with Kabul on Tuesday, calling them “fruitless” because the Taliban couldn’t get its desired prisoners released from Afghan government custody just yet, the BBC reported.
New today: “The Afghan government will release 100 Taliban prisoners,” al-Jazeera reports from Javid Faisal, spokesman for Afghanistan's Office of the National Security Council.
One wrinkle: The Taliban are now insisting on the release of “15 top commanders,” and Kabul is not so keen on that. Read more, here. Or review the New York Times’s Majib Mashal’s take on the release, via Twitter, here.
The U.S.-led coalition handed over another base to the Iraqis, which would make six in three weeks, according to Rudaw reporter Lawk Ghafuri.
The latest location: Camp Monsabert at Abu Ghraib, which is where a French advisory cell was collocated with Iraqi troops southwest of Baghdad, according to analyst Alex Mello.
The other five bases include—
- K-1 in Kirkuk
- al-Qaim near the Syrian border
- Qayyarah in western Iraq
- al-Sqoor base in Mosul,
- and Al-Taqaddum Air Base, in Anbar province.
ICYMI: The U.S. will remove half its troops from Iraq by the end of the year, according to the new Prime Minister-designate, Adnan al-Zurfi. Rudaw covered that development (which may or may not happen), here.
Nuclear-transparency oopsie. Somebody at the Defense Department pulled a report posted online briefly Tuesday entitled, “NUCLEAR DETERRENCE: America’s Foundation and Backstop for National Defense.”
MIT’s Vipin Narang read and offered his reax on Twitter, here. Jeffrey Lewis also noticed, as did former DASD for East Asia, Abraham Denmark.
House intelligence chair: ODNI is making dangerous structural changes. Wrote Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., to Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell: “I am writing to express my concern that you are pursuing organizational and personnel changes at the Officer of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) without consulting and seeking authorization from Congress and in a manner that undermines critical intelligence functions.”
Among the changes: firing the IC inspector general who helped expose President Trump’s manipulation of U.S. military aid during his solicitation of Ukraine’s help against a political rival. Smith asked Grenell for more information by April 16. Read the letter, here.
SOFIC goes virtual. After canceling this year’s annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, the National Defense Industrial Association and U.S. Special Operations Command decided to turn it all virtual and have now set a date across five days: from May 11 to 15. Review the agenda and read more, here.
NATO ships and crew removed eight naval mines from France’s coast for what’s called a “Historical Ordnance Disposal” mission, the alliance announced today in a statement. Six ships from six nations — Belgium, France, Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain and Germany — were involved in the effort, which took place between March 23 and April 5 in the area of Le Tréport, in the Normandy region, across the English Channel from the Brits.
Why? To make "the sea a safer place for fishermen, merchant shipping, underwater operations and oil and gas installations." And also to better "facilitate a windmill-farm outside Le Tréport," according to NATO’s statement.
FWIW: Last year, such clearing ops located and removed “2,027 mine-like objects, of which 148 were mines and 63 other pieces of historic ordnance, clearing an area of 220 square nautical miles.”
And finally today: A sitcom about the Space Force was not a joke, the Netflix show’s producers and marketing team would have us all know today. Find the tweet conveying the message of hope, or at least comedy — set for a May 29 release — here.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the sender of an April 7 letter to Acting Director of Intelligence Richard Grenell. It was sent by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, chairman of the House intelligence committee.