Overnight Defense

Overnight Defense: Lawmakers call for probe into aircraft carrier captain’s firing | Sailors cheer ousted commander | Hospital ship to ease screening process for patients

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: The fallout is growing from the Navy’s firing of Capt. Brett Crozier as commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On Friday, Democrats in both chambers of Congress called for an investigation into Crozier’s firing and the coronavirus outbreak on board the ship.

Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Chris Van Hollen (Md.) wrote a letter co-signed by 15 of their colleagues to Pentagon inspector general Glenn Fine requesting his office “immediately conduct a formal investigation” into the outbreak and the Navy’s decision to relieve Crozier of his command.

“It is essential that your office conduct a comprehensive investigation to avoid any potential conflicts of interest within the Navy chain of command, and we encourage you to evaluate all relevant matters associated with the dismissal and the outbreak on the ship,” they wrote in the letter Friday.

Separately, Democratic Reps. Ted Lieu (Calif.) and Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) wrote to Fine on Friday urging him to “open an investigation into this matter as soon as possible.”

“As veterans, we were taught that protecting the health and safety of troops was one of the highest priorities of any commander,” they wrote, adding they are “disturbed” by Crozier’s firing.

A hero’s sendoff: Sailors on the Roosevelt cheered for their departing captain Thursday night as he was removed from duty.

Videos captured on social media and sites like Stars and Stripes show sailors chanting “Captain Crozier” as he left the ship.

The videos show hundreds of sailors gathered to send him off and bestow him with titles such as “GOAT,” or greatest of all time.


In other coronavirus news…

Military changes hospital plans: A USNS Comfort hospital ship docked in New York is loosening its screening process for patients to get on board, the Pentagon said Friday, after criticism that the ship has been too slow in admitting patients.

As of Thursday, the Comfort’s 1,000-bed hospital had 20 patients. Hospital leaders in New York complained to The New York Times about the military’s bureaucracy for admitting patients, with one official telling the newspaper “it’s a joke.”

In an effort to ensure coronavirus isn’t introduced on the ship, the Comfort was only accepting patients who had gone through an evaluation at a local hospital, including testing negative for the virus.

Now, the Pentagon said Friday, patients will be screened pier-side “in an effort to reduce the backlog at some of the nearby New York hospitals.”

“The screening effort for the USNS Comfort will no longer require a negative test, but each patient will still be screened by temperature and a short questionnaire,” the statement said.

Additionally, the Pentagon confirmed that three field hospitals in New York City, New Orleans and Dallas will now treat coronavirus patients, as announced by Vice President Pence at a White House briefing Thursday evening.

Operation test swabs: The U.S. military has brought 3.5 million coronavirus test swabs to the U.S. from Italy since mid-March, with another 500,000 on the way, a top general said Friday.

The swabs have been transported from Italy to Memphis, Tenn., on seven separate C-17 cargo flights, the most recent arriving Thursday night, Air Mobility Command deputy commander Lt. Gen. Jon Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon.

A shipment of 500,000 more swabs is scheduled to arrive Friday, with a ninth shipment slated for next week, he added.

In Congress: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that there will be a fourth coronavirus bill and that health care should be a top priority as lawmakers draft the legislation.

McConnell, in an interview with The Associated Press, said that “there will be a next measure.”

“[It] should be more a targeted response to what we got wrong and what we didn’t do enough for — and at the top of the list there would have to be the health care part of it,” he said.

The comments from the GOP leader, who remains in Washington, D.C., during the Senate’s three-week break, are the firmest he has offered yet about the possibility for additional legislation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Democrats have held near-daily conference calls with reporters as they’ve raced to outline their ideas for another coronavirus package that would include infrastructure, free coronavirus treatment and other issues like improved worker protections and expanded family and sick leave.

McConnell acknowledged that he and Pelosi have a “little different point of view” on the timing of the next coronavirus bill, and that he is still “not in favor of rushing” additional legislation.



— The Hill: US embassy backtracks on scam warnings about American’s repatriation efforts

— Associated Press: Extremists see global chaos from virus as an opportunity

— Defense News: Inside US Indo-Pacific Command’s $20 billion wish list to deter China — and why Congress may approve it

— Bloomberg: Germany and France blame Americans for playing dirty over masks

— Stars and Stripes: National Guard troops still lack military health coverage despite federal funding

— Reuters: Exclusive: Navy probe to decide future of fired U.S. carrier commander

Tags Chris Van Hollen Coronavirus Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Pentagon Ruben Gallego Ted Lieu USNS Comfort
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