With Sarah Cammarata
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— The Pentagon is now using special authorities to boost the nation’s industrial capacity to make tens of millions of additional protective masks.
— New guidance lays out how the Pentagon will reimburse defense contractors who are paying workers sidelined by the coronavirus.
— Opponents recommit to overturning the transgender military ban as they mark the one-year anniversary of the policy’s implementation.
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MASK PRODUCTION: The Pentagon has been authorized for the first time in the coronavirus crisis to increase the industrial capacity to produce critical supplies — in this case injecting $133 million to “increase U.S. domestic N95 mask production by over 39 million over the next 90 days,” according to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, a department spokesperson.
“On the evening of April 10, the Department of Defense received approval from the White House Task Force to execute the first DPA Title 3 project responding to COVID-19,” he said on Saturday. “The increased production will ensure the U.S. Government gets dedicated long term industrial capacity to meet the needs of the nation.
“Additional details, including the names of the companies, will be provided in the coming days when the contract is awarded,” Andrews added.
The move marks the first use of Title 3 of the Defense Production Act, which allows the president “to incentivize the domestic industrial base to expand the production and supply of critical materials and goods, according to the Congressional Research Service. “Authorized incentives include loans, loan guarantees, direct purchases and purchase commitments, and the authority to procure and install equipment in private industrial facilities.”
CONTRACTOR REIMBURSEMENTS: The Pentagon late last week set up procedures to reimburse defense contractors who are paying employees who can’t work during the coronavirus pandemic, our colleague Connor O’Brien reports.
The four-page guidance issued on Thursday by the Pentagon’s pricing and contracting office carries out a provision of the $2 trillion rescue package enacted last month that allows agencies to reimburse federal contractors for providing paid leave to employees who cannot telework and are unable to do their jobs because of facility closures or other restrictions.
The guidance “provides a framework for contracting officers to assess any claimed allowable costs associated with the declared public health emergency, recognizing the importance of supporting affected contractors to ensure that, together, we remain a healthy, resilient, and responsive total force,” said Andrews, the Pentagon spokesperson.
ROOSEVELT REPORTS 585 VIRUS CASES: The Navy on Sunday said it has now tested nearly all of the 5,000 personnel assigned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier moored in Guam — and a total of 585 sailors have tested positive for the virus.
‘There will be losses’: The New York Times on Sunday night also published a deep dive on the Roosevelt saga. It traces the carrier’s early March port call in Vietnam (where there were 16 known cases at the time); the alarm bells rung by the ship’s medical staff as cases climbed among the crew; the skipper Capt Brett Crozier’s decision to bypass the military chain of command to seek help; and the resignation of Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly in the aftermath of Crozier’s firing, which the newspaper reports he ordered on the direction of President Donald Trump’s White House.
“The story of the Theodore Roosevelt encapsulates, aboard a single aircraft carrier, Mr. Trump’s tumultuous three and a half years as commander in chief,” the Times concludes. “The episode shows how the military, the most structured and hierarchical part of the government, has tried to adjust to an erratic president, and how in a hollowed-out leadership, acting secretaries have replaced those confirmed by the Senate.”
Related: Navy commander says crew of Roosevelt ‘struggling’ after captain’s firing, via CNN
And: How an island oasis became the epicenter of the Navy coronavirus outbreak, via New York Times.
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THE TRANSGENDER BAN — YEAR ONE: Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the Pentagon’s enforcement of President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender Americans serving in the military. Advocacy groups are using the milestone to recommit to overturning a policy they consider unconstitutional and harmful to military readiness.
“It weakens and debases our military to threaten discharge of highly trained, dedicated service members under a politically motivated policy with no basis in anything but bias,” Jennifer Levi, the transgender rights project director at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, said in a statement. “And in the midst of the current national health crisis, when we need all hands on deck, it puts our nation at risk to deprive our military of valuable, highly needed resources.”
Advocates are banking on the legal case of Nicolas Talbott, a transgender man who is challenging the ban in federal court, to force a reversal of the policy. “We are confident the courts will recognize that there is no justification for excluding an entire group of people for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to serve,” said Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
Related: Trump’s military ban delayed my dream. But I refuse to give up on it, via NBC News.
FOR YOUR RADAR: CRACKING DOWN: The U.S. Institute of Peace on Wednesday will webcast a live discussion on how security forces around the world are using the coronavirus outbreak to tighten their grip and violate human rights.
Related: World’s militaries face a new enemy in virus outbreak, via The Associated Press.
FCC SETS UP CLASH WITH PENTAGON: The Federal Communications Commission is poised to approve a draft order “that would reallocate a specific portion of the radio spectrum for broadband communications, overruling a decade of strong objections from the Department of Defense,” C4ISRNet reports.
“Senior Pentagon leaders warn that such a move will lead to ‘unacceptable’ harm to the GPS system by creating new interference that could disrupt satellites critical to national security.”
— Air Force evacuates three contractors with coronavirus from Afghanistan: ABC News
— Pentagon struggling with lack of reliable virus tests: USNI News
— Protect the military from coronavirus: The Wall Street Journal
— Defense contractors keep most plants running, figures show: Bloomberg
— Pentagon issues new guidance on Zoom use: Voice of America
— NATO mission in Kosovo reports first Covid-19 case: Reuters
— China carries out naval drills off Taiwan: Reuters
— New defense lawyer selected for 9/11 military trial: NYT
— Taliban announced Sunday the release of 20 Afghan prisoners: AP
— Departing U.S. foreign aid chief warns against cuts: ABC News