Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names

Overnight Defense: Pentagon set for tighter virus restrictions as top officials tests positive | Military sees 11th COVID-19 death | House Democrats back Senate language on Confederate base names
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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: The coronavirus has made its way back into the upper echelons of Pentagon leadership.

On Thursday night, the department revealed that newly installed policy chief Anthony Tata had tested positive for the virus.

Tata was tested after the Lithuanian defense minister, who visited the Pentagon last week, tested positive. Tata is now isolating at home for two weeks in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, according to the Pentagon.

Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force also met with the defense minister.

But they are not quarantining “based on testing and mitigation measures that were in place during the Lithuanian delegation’s visit and CDC guidelines,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a statement Thursday night.

“We will report additional positive cases as appropriate,” Hoffman said.

Flashback: This is the second time the virus has penetrated the upper rungs of the Pentagon.

Last month, all but one member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as two other four-stars, needed to quarantine after meeting with Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray, who tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Just one of the officers who had to quarantine ended up later testing positive, Marine Corps Vice Commandant Gen. Gary Thomas.

New restrictions: Amid the new outbreak, the Pentagon will place new restrictions next week on the thousands of personnel who work in the building.

The Department of Defense (DOD) will move to a higher health protection level next Thursday, Chief Management Officer Lisa Hershman told Politico. The move will force the building to cut maximum occupancy from 80 percent to 60 percent and double the number of temperature checks on workers entering the building.

She added that the decision was made earlier in the week due to the recent uptick in coronavirus cases in the Washington, D.C., area and not in response to Tata's diagnosis.

“As we see the rise, we know that people will likely bring it in the building, so it’s time to move out now,” Hershman told the outlet.

11th death: The Pentagon, meanwhile, reported the military’s 11th COVID-19 death Friday, a 52-year-old Hawaii National Guardsman.

The Hawaii National Guard announced the death earlier this week, but it was only added to the Pentagon’s online chart of coronavirus cases in Friday’s update.

“Sadly, the Hawaii National Guard lost a member of our ‘ohana and our heartfelt condolences and thoughts of Aloha are with the family and friends during this very difficult time,” Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, adjutant general for the state of Hawaii, said in a news release this week. “This personal loss reminds us that Hawaii needs everyone to comply with safe practices to prevent further spread of this deadly disease.”

The airman, who was also a part-time reservist assigned to Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam, died Sunday after testing positive for the virus days earlier, according to the release.

HOUSE BACKING SENATE CONFEDERATE BASES LANGUAGE IN BILL TALKS: House Democrats are backing a Senate-passed provision to rename military bases named after Confederate officers in three years as part of negotiations over the annual defense policy bill, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Friday.

The timeline is slower than the one-year deadline the House approved in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act. But House Democrats adopting it as their negotiating stance puts Senate Republicans in the position of arguing against something they already approved.

“This is a simple provision that was in the Senate language,” Rep. Adam SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithCongress must stop the march toward war with China Pelosi floats Democrat-led investigation of Jan. 6 as commission alternative Democrats plot next move after GOP sinks Jan. 6 probe MORE (D-Wash.) told reporters at the Capitol on Friday. “What we are insisting — this is the irony — the House is insisting that the conference report accept the Senate language.”

Compromise elusive: As The Hill confirmed Thursday, White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsBiden's no-drama White House chief Ex-Trump aide Meadows pushed DOJ to probe multiple election theories: report Trump working with Gingrich on policy agenda: report MORE has floated the idea that President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-DOJ official Rosenstein says he was not aware of subpoena targeting Democrats: report Ex-Biden adviser says Birx told him she hoped election turned out 'a certain way' Cheney rips Arizona election audit: 'It is an effort to subvert democracy' MORE could drop his objection to stripping Confederate names from military bases if House Democrats agree to repeal a legal shield for internet companies known as Section 230.

Smith, though, indicated he does not believe Meadow’s idea — which would constitute a sweeping change of the law that shaped the modern internet in the waning days of Trump’s presidency — is a workable compromise.

“I think passing a defense bill is enormously important, and I want to find a way to get it done,” Smith said Friday. “And any sentence that starts with, 'Hey, I think we got a way to get this done,' I'm going to listen to how it ends. But I'm not sure this is the path.”

TRUMP KEEPS TIGHT GRIP ON GOP: Many Senate Republicans blasted President Trump’s drawdown in Afghanistan earlier this week.

But The Hill’s Jordain Carney took a look at how, despite frustrations over that and other shakeups, Trump is maintaining a tight grip on GOP senators.

The president’s troop drawdown in Afghanistan and a staff shakeup are exposing cracks between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, where national security has been a perennial sticking point that encapsulated many of the skirmishes between Trump and his GOP allies in Congress.

But Republicans are still sticking close to the president — whom they need in their corner for an impending government funding battle and two Senate runoff elections in Georgia — in a sign they’ll support Trump’s post-election legal fights for now, even as he rankles them on other issues.

“The election outcome is at some point going to resolve itself,” said Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph Thune'The era of bipartisanship is over': Senate hits rough patch Bipartisan talks sow division among Democrats Senate passes long-delayed China bill MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, asked if the disagreements would cause GOP lawmakers to break with Trump on the election.

Read more here.


Lt. Gen. James Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, will speak at an online event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies at  2:30 p.m. https://bit.ly/3pMUVMu


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