How US spies are grappling with the virus; Troops with COVID near 2,000; A year without a DHS secretary; States of emergency; And a bit more.

And we’ll see you again on Monday!

Nearly 2,000 U.S. troops are known to have COVID-19 — there were 1,898 confirmed cases among service members as of 5 a.m. Thursday, up 108 from the previous day. 

“The readiness in the force in the aggregate has not dropped as we’ve gone through this,” Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Thursday. But there are “some pockets where we have issues.”

One of them, of course, is the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, sidelined in Guam, where about 400 sailors have COVID-19, including one who is under ICU care. The carrier has tested about 3,800 out of its 4,865 crew members so far, Hyten said. 

The carrier’s official status: it is in port out of “an abundance of caution” and could sail and fight if it needed to, Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist told reporters Thursday. 

Plan for more infected ships, Hyten said. “From my perspective, I think it’s not a good idea to think that the Teddy Roosevelt is a one-of-a-kind issue. To think that it will never happen again is not a good way to plan.” Cases have already been reported aboard the carriers Ronald Reagan and Carl Vinson, while a possible case of a Nimitz sailor has led the ship to quarantine several others.

More than 100 military facilities have seen cases of COVID-19, by Newsweek’s count; DoD is generally no longer releasing base-by-base figures.

Said Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Mark Milley, on Thursday: "We are not depleting our readiness to anything that would jeopardize the nation to any kind of threat."

Across the pond, the coronavirus is on France’s only aircraft carrier and 50 personnel have tested positive so far, Reuters reports. That’s why the entire crew of the Charles de Gaulle is now wearing masks on the bridge. (Photo, here.) Three of the de Gaulle’s sailors have been evacuated among its crew of 1,750. The other 47 have been “placed in isolation, but none had signs of serious illness," Agence France-Presse reports. Reuters adds “The nuclear-powered carrier, which had most recently been taking part in exercises with northern European navies in the Baltic Sea, is continuing its journey to [its home port of] Toulon, where it is due to dock [earlier than planned] in the coming days.” 

COVID has now been found in Yemen, but so far it’s just one person who is in stable condition at a facility “in the southern oil-producing region of Hadhramout, an area controlled by Yemen’s internationally-recognised government,” Reuters reports today from Aden. 

Some hospitals in Yemen aren’t accepting patients who might have the coronavirus. A hospital in Mukalla, e.g,. is one such place. The Associated Press reminds us “The U.N. has described Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Cholera outbreaks are the worst in modern history. Over 24 million people in the country require humanitarian assistance, many of them on the brink of starvation.”

Worth noting about Yemen: “Hadramawt recently witnessed an outbreak of dengue fever,” AP writes, “with hundreds of cases filling the public hospital of al-Shahr, where the coronavirus case was detected.” More here.

Germany’s foreign minister dinged China and the U.S. in remarks sketching out a middle road government response to COVID-19. China took “very authoritarian measures, while in the U.S., the virus was played down for a long time,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine in a preview sent to outlets like Reuters today. “These are two extremes, neither of which can be a model for Europe… Let’s see to what extent the actions of the American government will lead to discussions in the U.S. about whether the ‘America First’ model really works,” he added. 

Related: "Hundreds of people have been arrested across Asia for posting purported false coronavirus information...under vaguely worded cybercrime laws or broad state-of-emergency powers ushered in since the outbreak began," AFP reports today. "At least 266 people have been arrested for posting coronavirus-related information in 10 Asian countries, from Thailand to India and Mongolia, according to an AFP tally based on police reports."

"It's insane frankly," said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director for Human Rights Watch. “In many cases it's people being dragged out of their homes to the lock-up, put in pre-trial detention, in crowded spaces where they're more likely to get COVID.”

Beyond Asia. Reuters has its own report this morning about how "Across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and the Americas, governments have introduced states of emergency to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, imposing some of the most stringent restrictions on civil liberties since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001," here.

From Defense One

Weird Hours, Contractor Concerns: How the Intelligence Community Is Grappling with Coronavirus // Patrick Tucker: Intelligence agencies are trying to adapt to social distancing guidelines, but that’s leaving many employees and contractors in limbo.

The US Army Wants Your Ventilator Ideas // Patrick Tucker: A new contest seeks new designs to meet a growing need.

Don’t Confirm John Ratcliffe as Director of National Intelligence // Kenneth C. Brill: The U.S. needs a Dr. Fauci, not a Trump cheerleader, to lead America’s intelligence community.

Welcome to this Friday 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 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee addressed his troops for the last time.

China’s Coast Guard recently sank a Vietnam fishing vessel (last Thursday) after colliding with it near the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea, in an event the U.S. Defense Department yesterday called "greatly concern[ing]." 
According to CNN, "The fishing boat sank last Thursday in water near the Paracels, also known as the Xisha islands, in the northern part of the sea. Both China and Vietnam claim sovereignty over the island group. China said the boat sank after it rammed a China Coast Guard vessel that intercepted it in Chinese waters. Vietnam said its fishing boat was operating legally and blamed the sinking on the Chinese. Both sides acknowledge the fishing boat's crew was rescued by the Chinese ship."
“The PRC's behavior stands in contrast to the United States' vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty, free from coercion, and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules and norms,” the Pentagon said in an unattributed statement.  
Bigger picture: "China isn't taking advantage of COVID-19 to ‘increase’ activities in the SCS,” said CSIS's Greg Poling. “It is doing the exact same things it was a few months ago. Doing so amid a pandemic is just selfish enough to scandalize." More from CNN, here

Apropos of nothing: That nuclear transparency oopsie from the Pentagon this week contained a geographic no-no

Along the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S. is holding less than 100 migrants total in its facilities, the New York Times's Zolan Kanno-Youngs reported Thursday. 
What’s going on: “The Trump administration has quickly expelled roughly 10,000 migrants to Mexico and other countries in less than three weeks” after imposing new coronavirus-related restrictions to U.S. entry, LA Times’ Molly O’Toole reported. “The actions reflect how the administration — in response to the pandemic — is taking steps toward achieving some of President Trump’s long-sought goals restricting immigration, in this instance barring asylum seekers and unaccompanied children from entry into the United States, and with an end-run around the laws and bureaucratic requirements.”
“This is not about immigration,” acting commissioner of the Customs and Border Protection agency, Mark Morgan, said repeatedly in a call with reporters. “Right now this is purely about infectious disease and public health.” More here.

And finally this week: The U.S. has now gone one full year without a DHS secretary, as University of Texas national security law professor Steve Vladeck pointed out on Twitter last week. 

  • “April 10—marks a full year since Kirstjen Nielsen resigned as Secretary of Homeland Security. Not only has the position been formally vacant (with two ‘acting’ secretaries) for the past 355 days, but there’s been no nominee—and no suggestion that one is forthcoming.” 
Have a safe and healthy weekend, everyone.