Alabama Army base mandates masks; Navy warship burns on; Allies & tomorrow’s battle network; Hearing on US extremists; And a bit more.

The commander of Alabama’s Fort Rucker has mandated face coverings for troops off base and “implores” civilians, contractors and families to also wear a mask, CNN’s Barbara Starr noticed this morning on Facebook. Find that message, here.

And Alabama’s GOP governor just mandated masks, effective at 5 p.m. ET today. There are at least five exceptions (for kids, folks with medical conditions, for security verification, etc.), and you can read them over here.

Georgia's GOP governor just banned cities and counties from mandating masks, since — as his team views it — “local mandates are unenforceable,” the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. “That could improve the state’s standing in a courtroom fight against a string of cities that have defied Kemp’s emergency order by requiring masks. Savannah led that charge earlier this month, and since then other cities including Atlanta, Athens and Augusta have followed suit.” More here.

Walmart and Sam’s Club are also mandating masks starting Monday. At that point, we will either see or be greeted by “health ambassadors” near the entrance to remind us of the protective measure. Kroger grocery stores and Kohl’s department stores are also mandating masks on Monday. Best Buy, Starbucks and Panera Bread all mandated mask-wearing on Wednesday. More on the business front from USA Today, here.

Exactly one month ago, VP Pence claimed without evidence that coronavirus cases were dropping.There Isn’t a Coronavirus Second Wave,” was the title of his op-ed. "Since then," James Hamblin, M.D. of The Atlantic tweets this morning, “weekly average case counts have tripled.”

Big picture: “This is a mess, and if it con­tin­ues Re­pub­li­cans will be routed in November,” the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board writes 109 days from the election. "Voters are souring on Mr. Trump’s virus management" because of what the Journal calls an "unwillingness to be candid or consistent about the disease’s likely toll."

“Waiting around for the president to run the nation’s [coronavirus] response was hopeless," says Maryland's GOP Governor Larry Hogan in an op-ed today for the Washington Post entitled “Fighting Alone.” It’s also an excerpt from his upcoming book, "Still Standing: Surviving Cancer, Riots, a Global Pandemic, and the Toxic Politics That Divide America."

President Trump just replaced campaign manager Brad Parscale “with longtime political aide Bill Stepien,” the Washington Post reported Wednesday evening. “Parscale has been marginalized in the campaign for several weeks, officials said, with Trump angry about a botched rally in Oklahoma, where far fewer people attended than expected, and his lagging poll numbers.”

The new guy “was the field director for the 2016 campaign and has worked for the president since the election,” the Post’s Josh Dawsew writes. “He’s known for a low-key style and his knowledge of battleground states.” More here.

From Defense One

Build Allies Into Tomorrow’s Battlefield Network, Army Leaders Say // Patrick Tucker: The service is trying to build a communications network that’s big enough to include coalition partners but small enough to fit on a truck and drive off to war.

America Should Prepare for a Double Pandemic // Ed Yong, The Atlantic: COVID-19 has steamrolled the country. What happens if another pandemic starts before this one is over?

The United States Needs a New Foreign Policy // William J. Burns, The Atlantic: The global order is crumbling, domestic renewal is urgent, and America must reinvent its role in the world.

Coronavirus ‘Shattered the Myth’ that Defense Civilians Can’t Telework, Official Says // Mila Jasper, Nextgov: The workforce's response to the pandemic is reshaping ideas about the "new normal" work setup, two Defense Department officials said.

Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston and Katie Bo Williams. 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 75 years ago, the nuclear weapons era began with America's "Trinity" test in the New Mexico desert.

An update on POTUS45’s effort to withdraw troops from Germany: The Defense Department will release “much more information” about President Trump’s planned withdrawal of 9,500 U.S. troops from Germany “in the coming weeks,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told reporters this morning.
McCarthy spoke on a conference call from his plane after a trip to Poland this week, and declined to say whether the plans had been finalized. He claimed he did not discuss the permanent stationing of U.S. troops in Poland during his visit — which has been a high-profile issue for the White House — nor did he have “direct discussions” about the force repositioning on the continent.
Trump himself announced the proposed withdrawal on June 15, but the Pentagon has been almost completely silent about the particulars of the plan; and critics have suggested that key military leaders were not involved in the decision. More background via Defense One’s Katie Bo Williams reporting on June 24, here.

Happening today: Defense Secretary Mark Esper visits Virginia’s Naval Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex to “meet with leaders and Sailors to assess the effects of COVID-19 on training and operations.” 

Esper’s equal-opportunity team has its first recommendations. “Among them are reviewing whether grooming standards are racially biased, Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced Wednesday, in addition to reviewing Equal Opportunity programs, creating training for leadership to discuss issues of racial justice within their formations and adding bias into existing programs for bystander intervention training,” Military Times reports.

The House’s Committee on Homeland Security is already in the middle of a hearing this morning entitled “Assessing the Threat from Accelerationists and Militia Extremists.”
By the way: The former leader of a white supremacist outfit pleaded guilty on Tuesday to “multiple swatting events targeting journalists, a Virginia university, a historic Virginia church, and a former cabinet official,” the Department of Justice announced this week. He pleaded guilty to "conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, interstate threats to injure," and now "faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison when sentenced on November 17."
One more thing: The man who allegedly recruited that guilty former leader above was in the U.S. Navy — until the Navy booted him this April, less than a year after enlisting. Newsweek has that story, here.

  • We want to hear from you: Is white supremacy concerning to you here in 2020? We’re learning quite a bit about the movement and its history thanks to Kathleen Belew’s exceptionally thorough 2018 book, “Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America.” We’d love to hear what you think as we start assembling the pieces for a future podcast. So drop us an email or leave us a voicemail at +1 (731) 617-9124.

The U.S. Navy just conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation in the Caribbean Sea, U.S. Southern Command announced Wednesday, which is more than three weeks after a similar mission in a similar area.
Involved: guided missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG 91).
Why the Caribbean? Because of “Venezuela’s excessive maritime claim in international waters,” SOUTHCOM said. “The illegitimate Maduro regime improperly claims excessive controls over those international waters, which extend three miles beyond the 12-mile territorial sea, a claim that is inconsistent with international law.” More here.

Bonhomme Richard still burns in San Diego, more than 72 hours after a Sunday-morning explosion touched off the Navy’s worst shipboard fire in a generation. At least one fire is still burning, Navy officials said on Wednesday — and then at 11 p.m. Eastern time, announced that the ship’s list had increased, leading them to evacuate all firefighters from the ship and the pier it is moored to. The Drive has just a bit more.
What does this all mean for the Navy? Naval analyst Bryan McGrath shared his thoughts, here.

Lastly today: Free learnin’! You can now take any of the U.S. Institute of Peace's Global Campus Courses online, and you can do it tuition-free. Topics include conflict analysis, mediation, negotiation and more. Get started, here.