Overnight Defense: US military stops releasing data on Taliban attacks | Pentagon coronavirus cases top 7,000 | Senate panel schedules Navy secretary confirmation hearing

Overnight Defense: US military stops releasing data on Taliban attacks | Pentagon coronavirus cases top 7,000 | Senate panel schedules Navy secretary confirmation hearing
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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: Taliban attacks against Afghan forces are apparently up, but the exact numbers aren’t being revealed anymore.

In a report released Friday, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan is no longer publicly releasing data on insurgent attacks, citing ongoing negotiations with the Taliban to implement the Trump administration's withdrawal deal.

In its latest quarterly report, SIGAR said Taliban attacks against Afghan forces have been “above seasonal norms” since the Trump administration signed a withdrawal deal with the terror group.

But the exact number of so-called enemy initiated attacks (EIA) is now being restricted from public release by the Resolute Support (RS) mission, SIGAR said.

“This EIA data was one of the last remaining metrics SIGAR was able to use to report publicly on the security situation in Afghanistan since RS discontinued its previous system of assessing district control in 2018,” Special Inspector General John Sopko wrote in his introduction to the report. “RS explained its decision by saying ‘EIA are now a critical part of deliberative interagency discussions regarding ongoing political negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban.’”

Pentagon’s explanation: In a Defense Department briefing Friday, chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the data on Taliban attacks has not been classified, but is now considered "deliberative" and for official use only because "we're working on [moving] toward a better solution and better place for Afghanistan and ... the sharing of that information would not move that ball forward."

Hoffman also reiterated the United States is "not pleased with the level of violence in Afghanistan," adding that officials are working on diplomatic solutions to lessen the attacks.

"Just because you are not seeing an increased military response to it, it doesn't mean we are not pulling other levers in an effort to get that number down," Hoffman said.

CORONAVIRUS LATEST: The Pentagon’s cumulative number of coronavirus cases topped 7,000 on Friday.

The Department of Defense reported a total of 7,145 cases Friday, including 4,704 service members. The service members include 98 who have been hospitalized and 1,459 who have recovered.

The Pentagon reported no new deaths Friday.

Over in the Navy, the service said Thursday it will no longer release the exact number of coronavirus cases aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and the USS Kidd destroyer now that 100 percent of both crews have been tested. Instead, the service said, it will only report “significant changes” from the ships.

That means the last official count for the Roosevelt is Thursday’s 1,102 active cases and 53 recovered cases. On the Kidd, the Navy said Thursday there were 78 cases, with none hospitalized.

In Congress: The Senate is just a weekend away from returning to D.C.

Ahead of Monday's return, the Capitol's attending physician sent coronavirus recommendations to senators and staffers on Friday outlining best practices.

The six-page list of guidelines from Brian Monahan, the attending Capitol physician, recommends but does not require the use of face masks within the complex.

Monahan is requiring all employees to check their temperatures at home and complete an 11 question self-assessment each day before coming to the Capitol complex. They will have to report their results to a designated individual in the office.

Once in the Capitol complex, Monahan is recommending senators and their staff minimize the number of individuals in their offices, avoiding gatherings and modifying office layouts when possible to try to allow for at least six feet of distance.

That includes allowing staff to telework, which many offices have been doing since late March.

For defense watchers, next week's agenda includes two Senate Armed Services Committee hearings.

On Wednesday, defense officials are slated to testify about the national security effects of the Federal Communications Commission’s approval of Ligado Networks’ plan to deploy a low-power nationwide 5G network. Defense officials and lawmakers in both parties opposed the plan because they said it could disrupt military GPS signals.

On Thursday, the committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing, including for the nominee to be Navy secretary. Current U.S. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite will face senators in the wake of uproar over the Navy’s handling of the Roosevelt coronavirus outbreak.

Thursday’s confirmation hearing will also cover James Anderson, the nominee to be deputy under secretary of Defense for policy, and Gen. Charles Brown, Jr., the nominee to be chief of staff of the Air Force.

Notices for both hearings say the committee will follow guidelines from the attending physician, including maintaining six feet of social distance in the hearing room. Because Senate office buildings remain closed to the public, "in-person visitors cannot be accommodated" for the hearings, but the notice encourage the public to watch the hearings on the committee's website.


Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperOVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Former defense leaders pile on Trump criticism | Esper sends troops called to DC area home | US strikes Taliban in Afghanistan Esper orders all active-duty troops outside DC home Esper, Milley won't testify before House panel on military response to protests MORE will participate in a webinar with the Brookings Institution at 11 a.m. https://brook.gs/2SsgEu9

The Brookings Institution will host a webinar on the future of public service with members of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service at 2 p.m. https://brook.gs/2YrzwgG


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