Here's a look at how the Defense Department is being impacted by and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jennifer Santos, the Pentagon’s industrial policy chief who oversees efforts to ramp up production of masks and other equipment to help fight Covid-19, was fired from her job this week and will move to a position in the Navy, according to two people familiar with the matter.
OPINION: Why the Military Can Use Emergency Powers to Treat Service Members with Trial COVID-19 Drugs
“Because the COVID-19 virus is new, there are as yet no FDA approved treatments,” writes Jennifer Bard, a visiting Professor of Law at the University of Florida. “As a result, military physicians are turning to either treatments approved for other conditions or seeking access to newly developed treatments, such as the antiviral Remdesivir, which to date has received FDA emergency use approval only for COVID-19 patients with severe conditions.
During a May 14 cable news appearance, U.S. President Donald Trump blasted the F-35’s global supply chain and hinted he might intercede to bring more work on the Lockheed Martin-made jet back to the United States.
“Space planes would do much immediately, as well as in the coming decades, to help America deter and defend against aggression in space,” write consultant Norm Haller and Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security. “A companion layer of space-based missile defenses by the mid-2020s would initiate a robust American ability to deter and defend against ballistic missile attacks.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the government’s top cybersecurity agency warned that China is trying to hack American scientists and companies, including those working on vaccines, which could jeopardize their work.
For decades, the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex has been used to prepare for real-world missions, with pilots warned to watch out for bears and moose if they must eject. But the range and its headquarters at Eielson Air Force Base are taking on increasing importance as the Pentagon attempts to pivot to countering China and Russia after years of focusing primarily on ground wars in the fight against terrorism.
The head of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee wants to require a Senate-confirmed national cyber director in the coming annual defense authorization bill.
Starting this year, graduates of the Air Force undergraduate space training school who transition to the Space Force will have the option to pursue specialized career tracks such as orbital warfare, space electronic warfare, space battle management, and space access and sustainment. Just like graduates of Air Force pilot training choose a specialized career track flying fighters, bombers, or large airlift planes, space professionals will have their own career tracks focused on space missions.
Back in 2011, the Government Accountability Office urged the Pentagon to start formally monitoring how military leaders were doing in combating sexual harassment and assault, and the auditors also proposed establishing a Defense Department system for tracking progress in the overall effort. At the time, a top Pentagon official agreed fully in writing with the auditors’ recommendations and said both tasks would be done that year. But, more than eight years later, neither job has been accomplished, GAO reported this week.
The service believes updating software on the fly will reduce fielding time to its fleet by 50 percent, it said on May 12. USAF did not disclose how long it currently takes to update the software of an F-16.
‘Mass Breakout’ of Islamic State Group Fighters from Syrian Prisons Still a Risk, Pentagon Watchdog Says
Thousands of Islamic State group fighters held by the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria continue to pose a “high-impact risk of a mass breakout”—but since the U.S. withdrawal from northeastern Syria, U.S. forces do not have access to the prison facilities to assess the severity of that risk, the Pentagon’s inspector general warned in a report released May 13.
Starting on May 29, TRICARE will cover Digital Breast Tomosynthesis—known as 3D mammography or DBT—under its provisional coverage program, according to Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.). “This is a major victory for our female service members and veterans covered under TRICARE,” McSally, a former A-10 pilot who served in the Air Force for 26 years, said in a May 12 statement. “Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, but when detected early the overall chances of survival increase dramatically.”
Retired USAF Col. Greg Johnson, a former NASA astronaut, uses his experience in space to give tips on how best to cope during isolation. It comes as many NATO nations are asking people to stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. He was the pilot of STS-134, the final flight of the space shuttle Endeavour and the penultimate flight of the Space Shuttle Program. He also flew F-15s alongside NATO allies during operations in Iraq.