U.S. Africa Command, which is based in Stuttgart, Germany, “has been told to plan to move,” its commander said Friday morning, two days after Defense Secretary Esper announced the U.S. military’s Germany drawdown. Said AFRICOM Commander U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, “While it will likely take several months to develop options, consider locations, and come to a decision, the command has started the process.”
From its beginning, there have always been grumblings and whispers that AFRICOM should be located in...well…Africa. Or somewhere in the States, similar to how U.S. Central Command, which oversees almost all troops from Turkey to Afghanistan, is based in Tampa, Fla. At the time, there were concerns that locating a major U.S. military command base would break the seal on the unwritten rule against the “militarization of Africa.” (Think, putting a base on the moon.) That sentiment may seem quaint now, given the United States’ extensive military operations across the enormous continent, but it doesn't mean AFRICOM’s headquarters will hop across the Med.
In their words: “In response to the President’s direction, efforts are now underway to develop plans and options to relocate U.S. Africa Command headquarters and forces from Germany,” AFRICOM said in its statement. “The command will look first at options elsewhere in Europe, but also will consider options in the United States.”
Related: “Trump’s Germany Troop Withdrawal Could Take Years to Execute,” Foreign Policy reported Thursday in a story that sounds much more like the U.S. military we have come to know. According to FP, “Some units that are moving back to the United States, including the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, based in Vilseck, Germany, have been told that the move will ‘likely take months to plan and years to execute.’”
“Nobody really has any idea how this will play out,” a nameless U.S. official said.
Portland officials will try a new approach to protesters this weekend. “State troopers are defending the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. courthouse in place of officers and agents from federal agencies such as the Border Patrol whose tactics have angered many residents and local officials,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
And in some early welcome news from that city, “Thursday night’s demonstrations remained overwhelmingly calm past midnight, with no troopers in sight,” the Oregonian reports, from Stumptown.
From Defense One
EU's First Cyber Sanctions Target Russian, North Koreans, Chinese Attackers // Patrick Tucker: The EU singled out perpetrators that attacked British hospitals, Ukranian infrastructure, and the Pyeongchang Olympics.
GOP Senators Stall Tata Nomination for Top Pentagon Post // Katie Bo Williams: After Islamophobic remarks, Trump's controversial pick to be Defense Department's policy chief is in troubled waters.
The Real Problem With 'Politicizing the Military' // Gregory D. Foster: The Constitution says nothing of civilian control of the military or its expected political neutrality. How we protect those traditions needs more attention than ever.
The Global Business Brief // Marcus Weisgerber: Defense firms endure coronavirus pandemic; Why Northrop's CEO didn't lobby for COVID bailout; Air Force narrows search for new drone, and more.
China Has Squandered Its First Great Opportunity // Richard Fontaine: The world has experienced a six-month geopolitical vacuum, and China has filled it poorly.
Pentagon Aims to Support More Sensitive Telework By Year's End // Mariam Baksh: The Defense Department is also in "an active conversation" about sustaining telework post-pandemic, according to Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy.
JUST IN: A U.S. Marine has died and eight others are missing after a training accident off the coast of southern California on Thursday. Officials from the San Diego-based 1 Marine Expeditionary Force announced the news Friday morning on Twitter just before the sun came up on the east coast. The U.S. Navy and Coast Guard are searching for the missing Marines.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragic incident,” said Col. Christopher Bronzi, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit commander. “I ask that you keep our Marines, Sailors, and their families in your prayers as we continue our search.”
President Trump travels to Tampa, Fla., this afternoon; but there are no planned traditional stopovers at MacDill Air Force Bases’s U.S. Central Command or Special Operations Command like in past higher counterterrorism war years — perhaps a (good?) sign of the times. His plans include campaign fundraising, discussions about storm preparedness and the coronavirus, and more fundraising before heading home in the evening.
The Coronavirus Committee’s first hearing is underway, with Dr. Anthony Fauci back on the hot seat. Lawmakers from the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis are in the middle of their first hearing Friday morning, after an initial White House delay this month, with the love/hated director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Trillions. The subcommittee has the responsibility “to monitor the trillions of dollars approved by Congress to help the United States weather the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Reuters reminds us.
Also attending: CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services Adm. Brett Giroir.
Fauci’s message: “While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time,” the Associated Press reports from his prepared remarks.
More than 152,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus so far, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Nobody knows who is in charge of the vaccine plan? “[P]ublic health officials and senior U.S. lawmakers are sounding alarms about the Trump administration’s lack of planning for its nationwide distribution,” Reuters reports. Cutting to the quick: “Right now, it is unclear who in Washington is in charge of oversight, much less any critical details, some state health officials and members of Congress told Reuters.”
President Trump disagrees, telling reporters on Thursday, “We are way ahead on vaccines, way ahead on therapeutics and when we have it we are all set with our platforms to deliver them very, very quickly.” (Granted, that comes from the man who has claimed the virus would simply go away at least 22 separate times so far.)
- Here’s some alarming related reading: “How Jared Kushner’s Secret Testing Plan ‘Went Poof Into Thin Air’”, by Katherine Eban of Vanity Fair.
- And here’s some useful reading, from the New York Times today: “Contact Tracing Is Failing in Many States. Here’s Why.”
In economic security news: The U.S. economy’s current dive “has no comparison since records began in 1947,” AP reported separately Thursday off the latest numbers from the Commerce Department. “So steep was the economic fall last quarter that most analysts expect a sharp rebound for the current July-September period. But with coronavirus cases rising in the majority of states and the Republican Senate proposing to scale back aid to the unemployed, the pain is likely to continue and potentially worsen in the months ahead.”
Now let’s do Europe, where the Q2 declines were “even more severe than in the U.S.,” the Wall Street Journal reports. In short, "The eurozone’s gross domestic product fell 40.3% annually in the three months through June," which "is by far the sharpest decline since comparable records began in 1995, according to the European Union’s statistics agency."
But... “Confidence appears to be gaining among European consumers and businesses, supported by the billions that governments have lavished on job-protection schemes, aggressive stimulus from the European Central Bank, and a groundbreaking €1.8 trillion ($2.1 trillion) spending package unveiled by EU leaders last week.” More here.
Also taking a huge hit: Big Oil. Some of the world’s biggest oil titans are experiencing 15- and 30-year lows on the stock market. Exxon, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and Total SA all reported huge Q2 losses.
Confronting the obvious: “Covid-19 is the elephant in the room and the U.S. death toll passing the milestone of 150,000 has spread concern to every kind of market, and commodities too,” one analyst told the Journal. More from Big Oil’s ongoing big dive, here.
How can you spot a group of Russian mercenaries? According to hotel staff on the outskirts of Minsk, it’s pretty easy: “They did not drink alcohol, kept apart, and tried not to draw attention to themselves.” Simon Ostrovsky has that story for The Daily Beast, here.
Lastly, Army Chief Gen. James McConville talks China and the Pacific, on Friday morning -- more specifically, about how his service is supporting the U.S.’s gradual military shift to the region. Catch him quick, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 11 a.m. ET. Details here.
Have a safe weekend, everyone. And we’ll see you again on Monday!