Overnight Defense: First two cases of coronavirus inside Pentagon confirmed | Trump triggers wartime production powers | 2,600 military personnel in Europe being monitored | Task force set up to help stranded Americans

Overnight Defense: First two cases of coronavirus inside Pentagon confirmed | Trump triggers wartime production powers | 2,600 military personnel in Europe being monitored | Task force set up to help stranded Americans
© Greg Nash

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I'm Rebecca Kheel, and here's your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.


THE TOPLINE: An active-duty airman and an Air Force contractor who both visited the Pentagon in recent weeks have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Air Force said Friday, in the first confirmed cases of the virus inside the world's biggest office building.

The active-duty member works for the Defense Health Agency in Falls Church, Va., and was in the Pentagon "for less than an hour" on Monday, the Air Force said in a news release.

The airman "has since received medical treatment and self-quarantined at home," it said.

Military health and local civilian officials have notified individuals who came into contact with the airman, the release added.

The contractor was last in the Pentagon on March 2, according to the Air Force. The person has been self-quarantining and receiving medical treatment since March 7.

The contractor also attended a symposium at Joint Base Andrews, Md., from March 3 to 6. The person did not have symptoms at the event, but the Air Force said it has notified all attendees of the positive coronavirus test.

"The Virginia Department of Health has provided a 'low risk rating' based on the individual being asymptomatic at the symposium," the Air Force said.

The service added that Air Force leadership has notified the contractor's fellow workers.

EUCOM monitoring thousands: The top U.S. commander in Europe said Friday that 2,600 military personnel on the continent were "of concern" for possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. European Command, told reporters that not all the individuals were in isolation, but the Pentagon later clarified that they are "in self-isolation as a precaution due to travel or other reasons."

"These individuals are not necessarily sick, but may have been exposed and are doing their due diligence following health preventative measures," according to the statement.

The 2,600 individuals include "those who may have been tested, but not positive."

The statement did not go into detail about how the individuals were being isolated.

Wolters said that 35 of the 72,000 U.S. forces in Europe have tested positive for the illness known as COVID-19.

Friday's totals: According to figures released by the Pentagon on Friday, there has been a total of 124 military-related coronavirus cases, including 67 service members, 15 civilians, 26 dependents and 16 contractors.

Iraq drawdown: The U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq is withdrawing some troops in part over the coronavirus pandemic, the coalition confirmed Friday.

"The coalition is adjusting our positioning in Iraq for two reasons: long-planned adjustments to reflect success in the campaign against Daesh; and short-term moves to protect the force during the coronavirus pandemic," the coalition said in a statement, using an alternate name for ISIS.

"Looking ahead, we anticipate the coalition supporting the Iraqi Security Forces from fewer bases with fewer people," it added.

Iraqi forces have decided to suspend training amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Iraqi Security Forces have suspended all training," the coalition said in its statement. "As a result, the coalition will temporarily return some of its training-focused forces to their own countries in the coming days and weeks."

The British Defense Ministry said Thursday some of its troops would be coming home from Iraq because of the pause in training.

The training mission is being paused for 60 days, according to the ministry. The coalition's statement said it will resume "as the situation permits."

Defense act triggered: President TrumpDonald John TrumpDonald Trump and Joe Biden create different narratives for the election The hollowing out of the CDC Poll: Biden widens lead over Trump to 10 points MORE said Friday he will trigger emergency war powers to accelerate the production of medical supplies to fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump told Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerFederal judges should be allowed to be Federalist Society members Warren condemns 'horrific' Trump tweet on Minneapolis protests, other senators chime in VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment MORE (D-N.Y.) in a phone call on Friday morning that he would use the Defense Production Act, according to Schumer's office.  

Trump at a news conference after the Schumer call said he has put the act "into gear," but it's not yet clear to what extent the White House is using the law to access more supplies. 

On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order invoking the law, which would allow the administration to force American industry to manufacture medical supplies that are in short supply, and sell them to the federal government.

The order granted authority to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to determine "the proper nationwide priorities" and to allocate all necessary health and medical resources and services.

Trump has been under pressure from bipartisan members of Congress and governors to use the powers, but had been reluctant to do so. 

Task force for stranded Americans: The State Department has set up a global task force to bring American citizens stuck abroad back to the U.S., as thousands of travelers have found themselves trapped in countries with closed borders to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Coronavirus Global Response Coordination Unit was formed Thursday afternoon, according to a notice reviewed by The Hill. Its mission is to support evacuation plans for U.S. citizens stuck abroad.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoBritain and Europe need to step up their support for Hong Kong Take China seriously, not literally Sunday shows preview: Leaders weigh in as country erupts in protest over George Floyd death MORE announced the task force Friday in a briefing at the White House and said the State Department is working to bring home Americans who are stranded abroad, but that the agency doesn't yet have a full picture of how many people are overseas looking to return to the U.S.

"We have a team stood up at the State Department, the repatriation task force that is working each of these instances," Pompeo said Friday. "We don't know the full scale of it yet but we think we have the largest number identified."

Armed Services chairman among senators in stocks controversy: Four senators sold stocks shortly after a January briefing in the Senate on the novel coronavirus outbreak, unloading shares that plummeted in value a month later as the stock market crashed in the face of a global pandemic.

According to financial disclosure forms, Sens. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerGOP women's group rolls out endorsements ahead of contested races Senators ask DeVos to adjust FAFSA form due to the coronavirus pandemic Bossie, Lewandowski warned Trump he was in trouble in 2020: report MORE (R-Ga.), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeBipartisan Senate panel leaders back fund to deter China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein MORE (R-Okla.), Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGraham announces hearing on police use of force after George Floyd killing Frustration builds in key committee ahead of Graham subpoena vote  The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Major space launch today; Trump feuds with Twitter MORE (D-Calif.) and Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrFISA 'reform': Groundhog Day edition Rubio: Coronavirus conspiracy theories could be used in foreign election misinformation campaigns Justice Department closing stock investigations into Loeffler, Inhofe, Feinstein MORE (R-N.C.) each sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in stocks within days of the Senate holding a classified briefing on Jan. 24 with Trump administration officials on the threat of the coronavirus outbreak.

The sales raise questions about whether the senators violated the STOCK Act, a law that bans members of Congress from making financial trades based on nonpublic information.

Inhofe, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, sold at least $180,000 in stocks on Jan. 27, days after the Senate's coronavirus briefing, according to Senate records. Inhofe also sold at least $50,000 in stock in an asset management company on Feb. 20, four days before the stock market crashed.

Inhofe said in a statement Friday that he did not attend the Senate coronavirus briefing on Jan. 24, and instead met with children from Oklahoma who were in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life and with the nominee to be U.S. ambassador to Tanzania.

Inhofe added that he does not "have any involvement in my investment decisions" and instructed his financial adviser in December 2018 to begin selling all of his stock holdings two months after he was elected chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I instructed my financial advisor to move me out of all stocks and into mutual funds to avoid any appearance of controversy. My advisor has been doing so faithfully since that time and I am not aware of or consulted about any transactions," Inhofe said.


NON-CORONAVIRUS NEWS ... PENTAGON TESTS HYPERSONIC WEAPON: Even as many things at the Pentagon are slowing down due to coronavirus, the department announced Friday it successfully tested a hypersonic glide body.

The test, which the Pentagon said was successful, happened at about 10:30 p.m. local time Thursday at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii.

The Navy and the Army jointly conducted the launch, while the Missile Defense Agency gathered data to use in its effort to develop systems to defend against hypersonic missiles.

''In this test we put additional stresses on the system and it was able to handle them all, due to the phenomenal expertise of our top notch team of individuals from across government, industry and academia," Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, director of the Navy's Strategic Systems Programs, said in a statement. "Today we validated our design and are now ready to move to the next phase towards fielding a hypersonic strike capability."



-- The Hill: Army closing recruiting stations due to coronavirus outbreak

-- The Hill: Pompeo says China, Russia, Iran are spreading disinformation about coronavirus

-- The Hill: McConnell sets first coronavirus stimulus package vote for Sunday

-- The Hill: Opinion: 'Endless wars' and political warfare

-- The Hill: Opinion: The 'war' on COVID-19 doesn't mean military lockdown

-- Washington Post: Afghans clamp down on Nowruz, the Persian new year holiday, fearing virus spread

-- Military Times: VA suspends funeral honors, large gatherings at cemeteries due to coronavirus