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DOD Spokesman Briefs on COVID-19 Ops, Bahrain Command, 5G Problems

May 1, 2020 | BY Jim Garamone , DOD News

Two Navy hospital ships deployed to New York and Los Angeles to aid in fighting the pandemic are winding down operations, Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said today.

The USNS Comfort left New York harbor for its home port in Norfolk today. The USNS Mercy in Los Angeles has stopped accepting new patients.

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"These are both welcome signs that the American public is following CDC guidelines and the number of COVID-19 cases are decreasing," Hoffman said. "Local hospital capacity in these two areas have been sufficient to meet the demand."

This does not mean that DOD personnel are out of the fight against coronavirus, though. In New York — the hardest hit area in the country — there are almost 700 uniformed doctors and nurses deployed in hospitals in the city and surrounding areas, Hoffman said.

But the DOD has worldwide missions, responsibilities and interests, and the Pentagon spokesman highlighted some of them. 

He announced that British Royal Navy Commodore James Parkin turned over command of the International Maritime Security Construct in Manama, Bahrain to British  Royal Navy Commodore Rob Bellfield in a virtual ceremony. The construct is meant to secure the vitally important Arabian Gulf region from malign actions. A total of eight nations participate in the construct and Parkin said he expects more to join.

Admiral participates in a virtual change of command as a British naval officer is pictured live on a computer screen. Seven miniature national flags are on the table in front of the computer screen.
Change of Command
Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, right, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and Combined Maritime Forces, salutes Royal Navy Commodore Robert Bellfield as he assumes command during a virtual change of command for the International Maritime Security Construct.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Dawson Roth
VIRIN: 200430-N-KZ419-1055C

He also noted that yesterday the U.S. Transportation Command awarded a $7.2 billion global household goods contract to the American Roll-on, Roll-off Carrier Group of New Jersey. The contract is for relocating service members and their families. 

Hoffman also announced that two Navy ships — the USS Barry and USS Bunker Hill — conducted freedom of navigation operations this week in the South China Sea. The ships "started and ended a full transit at a time and place of our choosing, as we always do," he said. "The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate to challenge excessive maritime claims in order to preserve the rights, freedoms and uses of the sea and airspace guaranteed to all nations under international law."

Sailor checks in with officer after getting off the bus. An aircraft carrier is in the background.
Navy Arrival
As a tangible sign that quarantining has been effective in the Navy’s efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic, sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt arrive pierside and prepare to return to the ship following completion of their off-ship quarantine.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Omar Powell, U.S. Navy
VIRIN: 200501-N-SS432-1041C

Finally, he announced that DOD representatives will testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee next week on the Federal Communications Commission decision to award Ligado Networks to deploy a 5G system that could disrupt the Global Positioning System. Dana Deasy, DOD's chief information officer; Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering; and Space Force Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations and commander of U.S. Space Command, will testify before the panel.