National security adviser Robert O'Brien confirmed April 21 the Trump administration is "keeping a close eye" on reports regarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's health, and assured Americans the nation's intelligence community remains focused on external threats amid the new coronavirus pandemic.
Here's a look at how the Defense Department is being impacted by and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retired Air Force Command Chief Master Sgt. Juan Lewis is usually the one encouraging his tens of thousands of followers on social media and others in person to be positive and resilient in the face of life’s challenges. But over the past few weeks, Lewis—who’s widely known as the “Fired Up Chief” for the uplifting talks he gave to Airmen, starting when he was a command chief at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas—was the one in need of support and motivation as he fought for his life after contracting the new coronavirus.
While many of the central projects under the Veterans Affairs and Defense Departments’ concurrent electronic health records rollouts are being delayed to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak, the joint program office reached a major data-sharing milestone on April 18. The joint Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization, or FEHRM, program office stood up the DOD and VA Health Information Exchange, which will allow medical providers at both agencies to share patient data with private-sector health care organizations, such as specialists and urgent care clinics.
An internal Office of the Secretary of Defense assessment calls for the Navy to cut two aircraft carriers from its fleet, freeze the large surface combatant fleet of destroyers and cruisers around current levels, and add dozens of unmanned or lightly manned ships to the inventory, according to documents obtained by Defense News.
Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard Guard Corps. announced on April 20 it has significantly upgraded the range of its anti-warship missiles, the state-run news agency reported. The IRGC says it now possesses surface-to-surface and subsurface anti-warship missiles with a range as high as 700 kilometers (430 miles), according to its top naval officer, Adm. Ali Reza Tangsiri.
“To succeed in a long-term competition with China, the Defense Department needs a transparent process to set spending priorities—not conflicting guidance and a shifting range of interests,” writes Paul Scharre, a senior fellow and director of the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, and Ainikki Riikonen, research assistant with CNAS’ Technology and National Security Program.
Watch Belgian Air Force F-16s Intercept Russian Fighters Flying Over the USS Donald Cook Destroyer in the Baltic Sea
According to the Allied Air Command, “the Russian fighters were maneuvering in international airspace overflying the USS Donald Cook, a U.S. Navy 6th Fleet destroyer currently operating in the Baltic Sea off the Lithuanian coast. The Belgian F-16 conducted a professional intercept and left the scene, demonstrating that NATO remains ready, vigilant, and prepared to respond to any potential threat.”