More N.Korea missile tests; DoD’s remote-work revolution; CIA warns staff about Trump-touted drug; 1918 flu pandemic; And a bit more.

American COVID-19 deaths passed 23,000 on Monday. 1,584 people died in the 24-hour period that ended at 8 p.m., the Wall Street Journal reports. The 582,000 Americans known to be infected represent more than one-quarter of the world’s confirmed cases, which is nearing 2 million.

Confirmed cases of U.S. servicemembers with COVID‑19 reached 2,567 on Monday, up 172 from the previous day. Find the latest daily DoD COVID fact sheet, here.

Read what the Navy is doing to keep other aircraft carriers from becoming the next USS Theodore Roosevelt, here.

The Pentagon has released its eighth iteration of guidance for “the prevention of coronavirus in workplaces,” along with 12 FAQs. Read the Monday memo, here.

Here's a timeline of various COVID-19 guidance the U.S. military has issued to servicemembers:

  • Feb. 7: Initial guidance (“Force Health Protection Guidance Supplement 1”)
  • Feb. 25: Supplement 2
  • March 10: Supplement 3
  • March 11: Supplement 4
  • March 13: Stop-movement order for domestic travel
  • April 8: Supplements 5 and 6
  • April 9: Supplement 7
  • April 13: Supplement 8 (the latest)

The Marines say they’re going to meet recruiting goals, even though recruiters aren’t meeting potential boots face to face and although Parris Island is not taking new recruits for training (and the Basic School is not taking new officers). Read, here.

From Afghanistan, "the Air Force evacuated three U.S. government contractors who had tested positive for COVID-19," Air Force Times reported Monday. "Air Mobility Command aircrew and medical personnel headed into Afghanistan to retrieve the U.S. citizens, and brought them back to Ramstein Air Force base on April 10, the Air Force said. Upon arrival at Ramstein, the contractors were shuttled to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for additional treatment."

Back stateside, researchers at the Army lab in Fort Detrick, Md., are trying to develop “a more sensitive test that could detect the coronavirus in people who have no symptoms,” the lab’s chief of viral immunology explained to McClatchy on Monday. 

The CIA warns death could follow from taking the drug President Trump touted as a COVID-19 treatment, the Washington Post reported Monday off an internal CIA private workplace advisory. “The warning, featured on a website for CIA employees with questions related to the spread of covid-19, came in late March after public discussion — and promotion by the president — that hydroxychloroquine, administered in concert with the antibiotic azithromycin, might prove effective against the disease.” Read on, here.

Governors’ pacts emerge to reopen states according to “science – not politics.” The governors of California, Oregon and Washington on Monday announced a “western states pact” that would coordinate the re-opening their economies to help contain the spread of the coronavirus — “coordinat[ing] their efforts to scale back stay-at-home orders or reopen businesses on their own timetables,” AP reports. And on the other side of the country, Massachusetts' Republican governor joined Democratic governors from Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island in doing the same. 

Those 10 states account for 38% of the U.S. economy, Reuters reports today. Find a graph illustrating that, here.  

The IMF’s forecast: “the world economy in 2020 will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s,” AP reports this morning. And that includes a possible 5.9% contraction in the U.S. economy, “7.5% in the 19 European countries that share the euro currency, 5.2% in Japan and 6.5% in the United Kingdom.” By contrast, “China, where the pandemic originated, is expected to eke out 1.2% growth this year.” More here.

One expression that’s emerged from all this: “mask diplomacy,” and it’s reportedly drawing Eastern Europe closer to China. But it’s not been an entirely smooth operation since, AP writes, “some virus test kits and face masks purchased from Chinese companies caused a stir because they didn’t meet local standards.” More from Belgrade, Serbia, here

From Defense One

How the Coronavirus Forced the Pentagon to Improve Its IT — and Quickly // Patrick Tucker: New teleworking capabilities — hastily installed to help DoD get work done at home — will stick around after the virus subsides

Pentagon Orders 60 Machines that Disinfect Desperately Needed N95 Masks // Marcus Weisgerber: Each Battelle-made machine can clean up to 80,000 masks per day, allowing healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients to reuse them up to 20 times.

Republicans Want Harsher China Penalties, While Trump Prevaricates // Katie Bo Williams: “Having the relationship I have with China is a good thing,” Trump says. But Republicans say China needs to “pay a price.”

Defense One Radio, Ep. 66: The 1918 flu and the U.S. military // Defense One Staff : How the U.S. military was affected by and responded to the influenza pandemic of 1918.

Where is NATO? And Where is Trump? // Derek Chollet, Michał Baranowski, and Steven Keil: The virus is destroying economies and paralyzing societies in ways Russian military planners could only dream.

Pentagon Supercomputers Puzzle Out How to Safely Airlift Coronavirus Patients // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: And that's just one of the various pandemic-related problems that Defense Department supercomputers are chewing on.

Welcome to this Tuesday 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 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts hit a naval mine in the Persian Gulf during Operation Earnest Will. On the same day in Geneva, the Soviet Union vowed to withdraw all of its forces from Afghanistan, which they began one month later and would complete by February.

North Korea fired off several suspected "short-range cruise missiles" into the East Sea/Sea of Japan today, the South Korean military announced today. 
“If confirmed, it would be the North’s first cruise missile launch in about three years,” an unnamed RoK official told AP. 
Missiles were launched from the ground and from fighter jets, AP reports from Seoul. "North Korean troops based in the eastern coastal city of Munchon first launched several projectiles — presumed to be cruise missiles," which "flew more than 150 kilometers (93 miles) at a low altitude off the North’s east coast," according to data from South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff. The North's last cruise missile test happened in June 2017 and those flew 125 miles. They were also "launched the week after two US aircraft carriers took part in naval manoeuvres in the Sea of Japan," AFP reports
Reminder: Cruise missiles fly at a lower altitude than ballistic missiles, and as such, are understood to be harder to intercept.
And about the jets: That test involved “several Sukhoi-class fighter jets that fired an unspecified number of air-to-surface missiles toward the North’s eastern waters,” according to AP. The North also reportedly flew “multiple Sukhoi-variant and MiG fighter jets above the eastern coastal city of Wonsan, which fired multiple air-to-ground rockets,” AFP adds. 
Why test in this way? Possibly "to bolster its striking capability against South Korea, which has been introducing U.S.-made stealth F-35 jets and other sophisticated conventional weapons systems," unnamed analysts told AP.
A note on timing: South Korea holds parliamentary elections tomorrow, which is the same day the “North marks the 108th anniversary of the birth of founder Kim Il Sung, grandfather of the current leader Kim Jong Un." More from AFP, here

A new-to-us extremist group has emerged in northern Mozambique called al-Shabab, but it’s not the al-Shabaab we know from Somalia, Voice of America reported Monday. The group has reportedly terrorized the northern part of the country for the past two years, but only recently have begun appearing without masks in their online videos. 
In the past several weeks, they have "seized government buildings, robbed banks, blocked roads and hoisted their black-and-white flag over towns and villages across Cabo Delgado province," in the far northeast. "Last month the group grew bolder and ventured back into Mocimboa da Paia, bursting into the town before sunrise to ransack government and military institutions. They have since emerged from their hideouts and openly taken control of three Cabo Delgado districts." 
“So far the conflict has killed more than 1,000 people, aid workers estimate, and forced at least 100,000 to flee their homes,” the Economist reported on April 2. What's more, the group has "started to capture towns, albeit temporarily, slaughtering government forces and then retreating to the bush." More behind the paywall, here.

China brings a water war to Asia. There are record-low levels of water in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. And new research from American climatologists shows that Chinese engineers are to blame, the New York Times and Reuters reported Monday.
How this conclusion was reached: "The study used satellite data taken with Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMI/S) technology to detect water on the surface from rain and snowmelt in China’s portion of the Mekong River Basin from 1992 to late 2019,” Reuters reports. “It then compared that data with river-level readings by the Mekong River Commission at Thailand’s Chiang Saen Hydrological Station, the closest station to China, to create a predictive model of 'natural' levels for the river given a certain amount of upstream rainfall and snowmelt. In the early years of the data, from 1992, the predictive model and the river measurements tracked generally closely.”
2012 seems to have been when things changed. That’s when “the larger of China’s upper Mekong hydropower dams came online, the model and the river level readings started to diverge most years, coinciding with periods of the Chinese dams’ reservoirs filling up during rainy seasons and releasing water during the dry season. The difference was especially pronounced in 2019."
The research comes from a group called Eyes on Earth Inc., and China’s foreign ministry called the group’s findings “unreasonable” in a statement to Reuters. Read on, here.

The Pentagon has not fully implemented more than 20 cybersecurity initiatives in the past five years, leaving itself vulnerable to foreign hackers, the GAO reveals in a report released Monday.
“DOD has had 3 cyber hygiene initiatives underway. These efforts are incomplete—or their status is unknown because no one is in charge of reporting on progress,” it says. “DOD has also developed lists of its adversaries’ most frequently used techniques, and practices to combat them. Yet, DOD doesn’t know the extent to which it’s using these practices.” Read on, here.

And finally today: Join us as we travel back in time 102 years to the camps and cantonments across America — to a period in military history when the U.S. Army lost more soldiers to the influenza pandemic than it lost to combat in all of World War One. Angry Staff Officer joins us in our latest episode of Defense One Radio, which is all about the 1918 flu and the U.S. military. Subscribe either on Google Play, iTunes, or Overcast, or wherever you listen to podcasts.