USD(P&R) and ATSD(PA) Provide Update on Defense Department Operations

May 21, 2020
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; Matthew P. Donovan, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness

ASSISTANT TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JONATHAN RATH HOFFMAN: Good morning. Thank you for being here and for joining, for those of you who are joining us on the phone.

With me today is Under Secretary Matt Donovan, the Under Secretary for personnel and readiness. He'll be providing updates on a recently released COVID-related personnel guidance in just a few minutes.

First I want to go to Afghanistan.

The Department would like to recognize the agreement reached between President Ghani and Dr. Abdullah, the new chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation. The Department welcomes this agreement as a positive step toward inter-Afghan dialogues and reconciliation among all Afghans.

Our condolences go out to the family of Ms. Annie Glenn, who passed away this Tuesday. Ms. Glenn will long be remembered as a tireless advocate for those with communications disorders, as well as the loving wife of American astronaut, U.S. senator and Marine Corps veteran John Glenn.

In better news, we're proud to say that the USS Teddy Roosevelt (T.R.)is underway today. The ship left Naval Base Guam and entered the Philippine Sea to conduct carrier qualification flights the embarked Carrier Air Wing 11. We wish the very best to the Roosevelt and her crew.

I'd also like to congratulate the 2020 class of the U.S. Naval Academy. They'll be graduating this week under extraordinary circumstance amid a global pandemic. Midshipmen from all 50 states will be commissioned as officers in the United States Navy and Marine Corps and one very brave Air Force officer. Secretary Esper, along with Navy leadership, will speak to the class in a recorded address. We wish them the best of luck as they begin their military careers.

Finally, this weekend we join the American people in commemorating Memorial Day. On that solemn day we pause to reflect on its purpose, to honor and remember the men and women who have died in service of their country. As a nation we are forever grateful for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms and our way of life.

With that in mind, on Monday the Secretary and Chairman Milley will be visiting Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects. They will also be joining the President later on that day for a Memorial Day ceremony.

With that, I'll turn it over to Under Secretary Donovan and then we'll take some questions.


And good morning, folks.

The Department's focus remains on sustaining Secretary Esper's three priorities during the COVID-19 pandemic: first, protect our service members, their families and our civilian workforce; second, safeguard our national security capabilities; and third, support the whole-of-nation response. The Secretary receives updates on these priorities several times per week to ensure he has the most current information to make decisions.

Since releasing the Department's first force health protection guidance on January 30th, we have released eight supplemental guidance memos to our service secretaries and combatant commanders around the world.

As a part of the Secretary’s health and safety measures, in early March he issued international and domestic travel restrictions for all Department of Defense (DOD) personnel and families, and on April 20th he extended these travel restrictions until June 30th. He is now closely monitoring and assessing conditions to determine if lifting these conditions or these restrictions before June 30th is warranted.

This week Secretary Esper also issued an update to previous guidance he sent on April 1st, providing commanders with risk-based guidelines on changing health protection condition levels as COVID-19 conditions begin to improve. This guidance is consistent with the President's Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.

With nearly three million people across the globe, all with diverse missions and in unique work locations, commanders on the ground are in the best position to carry out the guidance we issue within their distinct environments and varying conditions. Local commanders will exercise their authority to make deliberate, risk-based decisions to lower or raise, if warranted, health protection condition levels.

Importantly, commanders must ensure criteria specified by the Secretary are met before any change is made. These criteria include the White House's guidelines, such as a downward trajectory of new COVID-19 cases over the preceding 14 days. In addition, installation, military treatment facilities or local hospitals must also have adequate health care capacity available and sufficient testing capability and capacity.

We're committed to ensuring our personnel remain safe and our military remains ready to conduct the defense of our nation.

Thanks again for your time and I look forward to your questions.

MR. MR. HOFFMAN: Okay, we'll start on the phones. We'll go to the A.P. Lita?

Q: Hi. Thank you.

Jonathan, two things. One, has the Secretary spoken to any of his European counterparts about the decision to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty? And have they expressed concerns about this? And what is he telling them?

And then secondly, has the Department recommended the extension of the federal deployment of the National Guard?

MR. MR. HOFFMAN: So I'll start with Open Skies.

So first off, nothing to announce on the Open Skies Treaty. I know there are a couple articles this morning.

I'll say that the United States does remain fully committed to agreements that advance U.S., allied, and partner security, are verifiable and enforceable, and include partners that comply responsibly with their obligations.

What I can tell you is that Russia flagrantly and continuously violates its obligations under Open Skies, and implements the treaty in ways that contribute to military threats against the United States and our allies and partners. We have been clear on these concerns for years. And to your question, the secretary's had conversations with his allies and partners about these concerns previously.

Since 2017 the United States has declared Russia in violation of the treaty multiple times, including limiting flight distances over Kaliningrad to 500 meters -- 500 kilometers, which reduces transparency in a heavily militarized area, denying flights within 10 kilometers of the Georgia/Russian border, and denying a flight over a major military exercise this past year which completely prevented imaging of military exercise activity that was scheduled and approved previously.

Again, we are committed to our treaty obligations. But in this era of great power competition, we are looking to advocate for agreements that benefit all sides, and that includes partners who comply responsibly with their obligations.

So with -- I think your second question was a National Guard-related question.

So first up, I just want to make it clear that the Department and the American people are incredibly grateful to the men and women of the National Guard for their role in the whole-of-government response to COVID-19. We currently have, I believe, 46,000 National Guard personnel supporting the work of COVID-19 today.

Secondly, the Department and the administration have been very supportive of those members, those National Guardsmen, and the states and territories as they make use of National Guardsmen throughout the response. Nine different presidential memoranda have been issued to support these 46 -- sorry, support 48 states and territory governors' use of the National Guard under Title 32.

These missions are ones that are requested through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA determines whether they meet the requirements assign -- and create the mission assignment, and then they're approved by Secretary Esper. These missions are based on demonstrated needs and, of note, 100 percent paid for by the federal government.

Third, it's important to understand that at this time no benefit has been denied to these members. Benefits under the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill kick in at 90 days of cumulative active service over the course of a year. Early retirement eligibility is built on cumulative active service days in aggregate of 90, as long as they occur in the same fiscal year.

So remember, these are set in statutes and like other benefits that apply to the Guard, the Reserve and active duty members. So no doors have been closed on it, and I think one of the things to remember as we look forward with FEMA and the governors to -- to look at the mission assignments and incrementally we're making determinations as to whether some of these missions should be extended.

So no doors have closed. We'll continue as we have from the start of this, look at whether the National Guard is as needed going forward. And we'll make determinations based on request of National Guard and the governors and the -- and FEMA.

We'll continue to work closely with them. Secretary Esper, as a former National Guardsman, is very attuned to this. He has spoken with almost -- almost 40 governors and has spoken with the Adjutant Generals (TAG) -- the National Guard TAGs multiple times over the last few weeks, and -- and has been very clear on the fact that he supports the -- the role that they're playing and is -- is committed to ensuring that they get the support from us that they need.

So, sorry for a long-winded answer there. But I know that that's been a topic that has been up a little bit in the last couple days and there -- there seems to be a little bit of confusion about what's actually taking place.

So, Tom?

Q: A couple of personnel issues.

As far as the potential military recruits who have been hospitalized for COVID, will they need a waiver to come into the military, number one?

And number two, I was just out at the National Training Center (NTC) with General McConville and, you know, folks out there say they have three testing machines at their hospital. They're able to do 144 tests, but they want to ramp up to a thousand. They need more testing machines.

So talk about military-wide: Is there a shortage of these machines? And do you see a need to ask FEMA or Health and Human Services (HHS) to -- or industry, we need a lot more machines across the board?

MR. HOFFMAN: Do you want to take the first part? Go ahead.

MR. DONOVAN: I can answer the first part.

So there was some interim and draft guidance at lower levels that was -- you know, when this COVID-19 first happened, that I rescinded at the time. And I was on a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) call this morning to explain the same thing to some members over there. And then we just went back to our accession standards that we use for everybody coming in. And then at the same time we're having our health professionals and our -- and our doctors and researchers take a look at that and come up with any recommendations that they'll provide to me and the Secretary -- and I think they're almost done with that now -- to recommend any variations from the DOD accession standards for COVID.

So right now we've just -- fall back to we're not going to access anybody into the military that has an infectious disease, because that places other -- other folks at risk, as well, too. So there'll be more to follow on that.

Q: What is -- where does the Department stand now? If -- if a potential recruit were hospitalized, would that person need a waiver or not (inaudible)?

MR. DONOVAN: That is not part of the DOD accession standards in the -- in the DOD Instruction (DoDI) right now. But there are other things that happen. So if someone comes into a, what we call a military entrance processing station and they exhibit symptoms we're going to turn them away and -- and advise them to go see their local health care until they come back and don't have those symptoms anymore, and present tests or -- or that sort of thing. Yeah.

As far as the testing, we -- we've really built the capacity of our testing up and we have Major General Lee Payne, who has been placed as the single DOD point of contact in charge of all the testing requirements and making sure that testing materials get to the places that they're needed. So right now, we have the capability of testing 84 -- or conducting 84,000 tests per week. We have over 80 laboratories that can do that testing.

The -- the particular item that you're talking about are generally used for forward-deployed-type areas. They have a -- a low rate of -- of testing, whereas some of our testing, like at Walter Reed, can do up to 10- or 12,000 tests in a single day. So what Major General Payne does is he matches up the requirements with the capabilities at the particular laboratory. So if they needed a -- a higher rate of testing, then we could put them on an airplane and fly them to Walter Reed or -- or one of the local labs there, as well, too. So we have lots of testing machines that are out. I think right now we have -- we have 250 actual testing instruments that are across the Department now.

Q: So yeah, they -- they asked for more machines at the NTC at Fort Irwin. Are you hearing similar requests across the military?

MR. DONOVAN: We have -- we have gotten those requests, especially from combatant commanders who are in forward-deployed locations, and we've provided those so that they can do immediate point-of-care testing if that's required. But again, these are low-rate, production-type test things. For example, the BioFire machine takes about 45 minutes to do a single test, so you're not going to get a high throughput through that. If there's a requirement to do a lot of tests, then we take all the swab samples, and then we ship them to a location that can process them very quickly.

MR. HOFFMAN: So part of -- part of what the conversation that General Payne is having is -- is that matching of, what's the demand --


MR. HOFFMAN: -- versus where the resources are, and in -- in building up additional resources. So as we -- we ramp up training and we try to do more and more in the future we're going to -- we're going to identify additional machines and additional places that need those locations. The training -- training is one of those -- the -- the top-tiers that we're looking at for testing on a regular basis as people come in, so that would be one of those areas where we will be ramping it up in -- in addition to what they already have.

All right, we'll go back to the phones real quick and go through a couple people. Phil Stewart from Reuters?

Q: Hi, thanks. As you all look to kind of open up bases and installations again, I'm just wondering what kind of legal guidance you've gotten internally about your vulnerability to -- to lawsuits from folks who feel that they're being compelled and exposed to COVID-19 illness. Is there any concern that you may be facing, you know, legal risks from -- from such lawsuits?


MR. HOFFMAN: Yeah. To you.

MR. DONOVAN: I -- I have not heard of any legal liabilities. I mean, we do have procedures in place. For example -- and this came up last week where we had civilian health care workers, and if they're exposed to the COVID-19 as part of their duties, then they do have redress through workman’s compensation and those type of things to make sure that they're covered for leave and that they don't have to take their personal leave while they're in a 14-day isolation period and that sort of thing. But I -- I have not heard of any legal liability challenges in -- in that way.

MR. HOFFMAN: Okay. All right, we'll go to Sylvie, AFP.

Q: (inaudible) and it's from your -- from the Department.

MR. HOFFMAN: Phil, say it again. We -- we didn't hear the last part.

Q: Have -- have you sought any legal guidance from the Department? Is there any legal guidance being given to you about whether or not you're exposed to -- to lawsuits?

MR. DONOVAN: I'm not aware of any.

MR. HOFFMAN: Yeah, I'm -- I'm not aware. I don't -- I don't think that issue has come up in terms of a -- a concern that's been -- been voiced.

So we'll go to Sylvie, AFP.

Q: Hello. Thank you. I have a question about the T.R. You said that its mission is a carrier (inaudible) qualification of flights, and I wanted to know if means that it -- it's -- her mission is reduced, and she's not going to patrol in South China Sea, for an example.

MR. HOFFMAN: No, I -- there's been no change to its -- its mission at this time. Right now it's -- it's at sea. It's conducting shakedown cruise-type activity, and then the recertification of the carrier air wing, which I believe takes somewhere between 10 and 14 days to complete. So they're out. They're conducting that right now. They're recertifying the flight deck, recertifying the -- the crew, and that'll -- that'll take place as something that happens after -- after a ship's been in port for -- for an extended period of time.

At that point, the ship will return to Guam, pick up the remaining crew members who -- who are still quarantined and who are still recovering from COVID. They'll get back on the ship, and then the ship will move out for -- for the rest of its -- its mission. I don't have any direction or information about a change in what its -- its tour is going to be doing, so I have no update for you on that. But at this time it's going to head back out to sea and continue the -- the cruise that it -- or the -- the tour that it started earlier this year.

Okay, we'll go next on the phones, go to Missy Ryan.

Q: Hello. Do you have any number of people still positive with COVID-19?

MR. HOFFMAN: I don't have the -- the most recent number. What I -- I'd heard from the Navy recently was that more than half of those who had -- had tested positive at one time have all cleared the multiple negative test process. But I -- I don't have what the exact number is for you on that. But there are additional people who are still being quarantined maybe because they came in contact with somebody as well. But I can -- we can put you in touch with the Navy and try to get you those updated numbers.

All right, we'll go to Missy.

Q: Jonathan, thanks for doing this. I have a question about the -- the oil tankers, the Iranian oil tankers that are headed towards Venezuela. The government of Iran suggested in comments this week -- appeared to be suggesting that the United States could use the naval assets that it has in the Caribbean as part of the counter-narcotics mission to somehow interdict or attack or do something related to these tankers, and was sort of preemptively protesting that. Can you just tell us what the Department is doing vis-a-vis these oil shipments headed toward Venezuela, and what the perspective of the Department is on that?


MR. HOFFMAN: So I -- I have no update for you on -- on -- on what's going -- or -- or any operation or -- or plans of that. I -- I'm not aware of any. I -- I know we have continued to say that Iran and -- and Venezuela, both two -- two outliers in the international order, clearly violating international sanctions on both nations with this transaction. It's something that I think it's a -- it's a global concern as well, not just a U.S. issue. But at this time, I'm not aware of any efforts or operations that I think you were implying may be underway.

All right, we'll go back to the room. Barbara?

Q: I wanted to ask you a Memorial Day question, essentially. You said a lot of, you know, nice things about the National Guard. But I wanted to ask you because a National Guardsman was killed -- pardon me, a National Guardsman died in Afghanistan this week, First Lieutenant Trevarius Ravon Bowman, 25, of Spartanburg, South Carolina, of a non-combat related incident.

And while there's been a two-line press release about it, I haven't seen the usual offering of condolences. So I wanted to, first, check and ask is it Department policy now not to offer public condolences when it is a non-combat death?

And because it's Memorial Day, can you tell us the -- I've never asked you this -- the Secretary's practice when there are either combat or non-combat, does he write letters? Does he get personal information about the troops? Does he make phone calls? What can you tell us about his interaction with families of the fallen?

MR. HOFFMAN: So first on the -- on the tragic death of the National Guardsman from Spartanburg, South Carolina, that took place recently. I did not raise it in the -- in the topper because I was attempting to get more information about it. And so, I just wanted to be careful about some of these where -- where the death is still being looked at. And I did not have enough information that I felt comfortable coming up here and making the announcement from the podium.

Q: So just focusing on right there so I -- in the future, what is Department policy about offering podium condolences when you do have --


MR. HOFFMAN: I'm not -- I'm not -- I'm not aware of a policy. I think we -- I think we try to recognize every service member that serves. And if, tragically, there's a loss of life we attempt to recognize it. We recognize it in different ways.

I don't think anyone would believe that being mentioned from the podium is the gold standard for that. I think there's a lot of ways we recognize persons and service members that lose their lives. But I don't -- I don't believe we have a policy on that. 

With regard to the Secretary, I think that's a -- I know he is updated and he receives reports daily on any loss of life within the Department. It's something that he tracks closely. With regard to what his process is on reaching out to people on that, I'd -- I would prefer to let him answer that question. It's something that he and I have not discussed publicly talking about so I'd let him handle that question at a future date, so.

Okay. Jennifer?

Q: Yes, Under Secretary Donovan, can you clarify one thing? If somebody had COVID and is recovered, can they now join the military or do they need a waiver? And secondly, are U.S. military service members being prescribed hydroxychloroquine to either prevent or treat COVID?

MR. DONOVAN: On your first point, it sort of depends. You know, any infections disease, we want to make sure that they're not infectious at the time. So they are screened and then they're -- like I mentioned before, they're sent downtown to -- because they're not part of the military system yet -- to seek any care. And then, when it comes back in, it's all part of the review process and they'll take a look.

There's a lot of unknowns about this virus right now. Are there any long-term lasting effects? That's what our health care professionals are looking at right now. And they'll come up with that recommendation on if there's any changes required to accession standards.

And then, what was your --

Q: Hydroxychloroquine.

MR. DONOVAN: Oh, not that I'm aware of. I know that we have it in the inventory, and it was primarily a malaria treatment in certain areas of the world where that's used as malaria treatment, but I'm not aware of any specific COVID cases where this has been prescribed.

Q: And, Jonathan, the Saudi arms deal that has come under scrutiny over at the State Department, did anyone in the Defense Department either advise against going forward with that arms sale or suggest that a waiver should not be granted in that arms sale?

MR. HOFFMAN: Well, I'm not going to talk about the interagency process on that. I mean, there's obviously a lot of scrutiny and interest in this. I would refer you over to State Department, who handled the announce on this and the information about it.

We -- foreign military sales are an important part of -- of what the Department does and how we work with our allies and partners. We want to ensure that our allies and partners, one, that they are obtaining the resources and the ability to defend themselves. This has been a longstanding practice of the -- of the administration, to bolster their ability. And so foreign military sales are part of that.

And then also, obviously goes a part of that is the training and -- and interaction we have with them when they do do these purchases. So it's a valuable thing. With regard to that particular transaction, I'm just going to have to refer you over to the State Department on that, I'm not going to discuss the interagency conversations, okay?

Q: I want to follow up again on the COVID accessions policy. So for right now, is the ban on someone who has been hospitalized still in effect or have you rescinded that?

MR. DONOVAN: I have rescinded that, yes.

Q: So now everything's kind of on a case-by-case --


MR. DONOVAN: Right, but then it -- then it depends on the individual case and how doctors are doing the evaluation.

Q: Okay. The other thing I want to ask is about end strength. Have you seen any unusual fluctuations in terms of drops in recruiting or raised -- an increase in re-enlistments in the past few months?

MR. DONOVAN: Mm-hmm. What we -- when the COVID-19 pandemic first appeared, until we got procedures into place for making sure that social distancing, isolation, that stuff, there was a drop-off in our -- in our accessions training.

As far as recruiting, we've actually transitioned most of that to virtual online. And so we haven't really seen a drop in recruiting at all, but the accessions throughput has slowed down. So we expect that there may be some shortfall in end strength by the end of the year, but the services are doing a lot of mitigation.

You mentioned, you know, re-enlistments and that sort of thing. What they've done is, they've put in voluntary extensions of re-enlistment periods, of voluntary dates of separation, being pushed out. And -- and you could go to the services for more details, but that has been effective so far, especially with pilots because the commercial airlines now are not really hiring, and so a lot of our pilots that are exiting, retiring or separating go to the airlines. And so that's helping us with that retention as well, too.

MR. HOFFMAN: Okay. We're going to go back to the phones.

Nancy Youssef

Q: Thanks, Jonathan.

A couple weeks ago, there was an announcement that the -- about Operation Warp Speed, but we've never gotten a breakdown in terms of what precisely the military is doing. I know the commander's in charge, but can you give us a sense of how many people, what their mission is, and any deadlines that they're operating under? Thank you.

MR. HOFFMAN: Okay. So it wasn't a couple weeks ago. I think it was Thursday. So it was -- it was not that long ago that -- that we talked about this. And -- actually, I think it was Friday. So -- so it's only been three business days. So I understand it seems like it's been a lot.

This is a big task that we're undertaking, and -- and what General Perna and Dr. Slaoui are undertaking. And so this week, they spent time discussing the -- exactly what you talked about, the staffing and the breakdown and how that will work.

Matt can talk about it a little bit more. But there's currently a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between HHS and DOD that's going to lay out some of the -- the requirements of what each side is going to be working on. Obviously, DOD's going to be focused in large part on the manufacturing and distribution portion that we talked about.

Part of that will be whether we need to build up any additional capacity or whether we just need to take the capacity we have and make sure it's well-purposed for that in the future. But they're -- they're working through the staffing issue.

Next is going to come in an implementation memo that is being reviewed here at the Department, that will actually outline exactly what resources, what personnel are going to be tasked to Dr. -- sorry, for General Perna.

I think the way the Secretary has categorized it is, General Perna is the combatant commander for this effort, and so we're going to have a number of entities flooding and flowing resources to him. What those resources are, are not down on paper yet. But if you'll give me another -- another few days or a week or so, we do hope to come back to you with some more information on this.

Matt, if you have anything?

MR. DONOVAN: No, I think Jonathan just about covered it. When -- when the MOU is completed and signed by Secretary Azar and Secretary Esper, then we'll -- the implementation guidance from both sides down through HHS and then down through DOD will be finalized, and I'm sure that can be made available.

MR. HOFFMAN: Okay, all right. We'll next go to -- to Courtney, if -- Courtney Kube?

All right, we'll go to David Martin.

All right, let's try --

Q: What can you tell us about the -- the shooting incident today at Corpus Christi Naval Air Station?

MR. HOFFMAN: So I don't have a lot of information for you on that right now. But what I can tell you is based on information from -- from the Navy, that the shooter had been neutralized. One sailor attached to NAS Corpus Christi security forces was injured, but that sailor is in good condition and is expected to be released later today.

They're continuing to investigate in coordination with state and local law enforcement and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and hopefully we'll have some more information a little bit later today, David.

Q: What does neutralize mean?

MR. HOFFMAN: That's the information I have, so I'll have to refer you back to the Navy or to the local law enforcement on that. I don't -- I don't have better information right now.

So we'll go to Luis Martinez, ABC?

Q: Hey, Jonathan, thanks again for doing this.

A question for both of you about the proposed reopening pace. It'll be up to the local commanders to determine, based on what they're seeing at the local level. But at the Pentagon specifically, what happens with the workforce that commutes via metro and, let's say, the metro doesn't -- is not back up to full ramp-up in the next couple of months?

And then also, are you going to be looking for volunteers to step forward to try to make up for any workplace in-person shortfalls that you have?

MR. DONOVAN: One of the things that this health protection condition memo that the Secretary signed out this week is really just the first step. And then he's taking a look at whether we should lift the travel restrictions that right now currently extend through June 30th.

As far as the Pentagon local area, the chief management officer and then Washington Headquarters Services, who has responsibility over the Pentagon, have -- are developing those exact processes that -- that you're referring to.

One of the things that we are going to do is we've learned a lot of lessons about the ability to telework and how we keep our productivity up. And I think you'll see moving forward that, as we step through a phased approach on reopening -- and I shouldn't say reopening, we never closed.

But as far as getting people physically back into the Pentagon, we're going to continue to maximize the teleworking. We've made a lot of progress with making sure that the network capacities are available and people have access to the materials and documents that they need from a teleworking location, so.

MR. HOFFMAN: Okay, we'll go to next Lara Seligman.

Q: Hi, Jonathan. Thanks for doing this.

First of all, I wanted to follow up on David's question. There was a report that the -- the gunman at Corpus Christi was an Arab male. I'm just wondering if you can tell us anything about that or the FBI -- whether there's an FBI investigation that has begun.

And then, my -- my second question is about the T.R. I was just wondering if there is concern of a wider outbreak on the ship given that some of the sailors are retesting positive.

MR. HOFFMAN: So first, on the shooting, the information I just gave David is -- that's the extent of the information I have right now.

Obviously, this is a very recent event. And so, I'm sure that the local law enforcement is providing updates quickly and regularly on this. So I would direct you to them right now and to the Navy as a secondary. I don't have any further information, based -- other than what I just stated.

So with regard to the T.R., obviously we're concerned for any additional outbreaks, but we have learned a lot over the last couple of months. We have taken a number of steps, and I can go over them again, with the social distancing. Right now, we've got a reduced crew on the -- on the ship right now just so that we can have additional spacing. They will be wearing masks, gloves.

There's going to be increased testing, increased surveillance, and sentinel testing. There is going to be longer dining hours so that there's fewer people in the dining facility at one time -- into the -- into the mess facility at one time. So there's a bunch of different lessons learned that they've taken and that they're using.

So no one is going in to this believing that this is the last we've seen of -- of coronavirus. But they're trying to be very diligent, and very careful and thoughtful in how they move forward and be very assertive in confronting the virus whenever they see it.

So we're not going to leave our ships in port. We're not going to stand down. We're going to continue to sail. We're going to continue to patrol. And so, the T.R. is just the latest example in that, in that they are now back out at sea.

And I don't know if -- do you have any?

MR. DONOVAN: Well, one of the medical research questions that we're looking into is current testing capability. The current CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)- approved testing capability detects the presence of antigens, but it doesn't necessarily tell you whether it's live virus or dead virus.

And you know, so we're digging down in to the research in -- in conjunction with CDC to see if we can now come up with the serological testing. And there's a lot of work going on on that to be able to definitively tell us that the positive is still positive. In order words, they're still shedding live virus where they're infectious.

And so we think that part of the ones that are retesting positive may actually have those antigens in their blood, but it may be dead virus. So those are some of the questions that our researchers, through Defense Health Agency, are working on.

MR. HOFFMAN: All right, Paul Shinkman.

Q: Yes, thanks for doing this. I'd like get back to (inaudible) question about the Open Skies Treaty. You listed a bunch of things that are wrong with it. I wonder -- does the Secretary (see any ?) reason to stay in the treaty? Does he believe it benefits the U.S. at all? Like, allowing U.S. flights over Russian installations just like they (inaudible) over --

MR. HOFFMAN: Hey, Paul. Can you try something else with the microphone or speaker? It sounds like you're at the bottom of a pool.

Q: Can you hear me now?

MR. HOFFMAN: A little bit better.

Q: Can you hear me now?

MR. HOFFMAN: A little bit better.

Q: Okay. Let me (inaudible) my question. Going back to (inaudible) question about the Open Skies Treaty, does the Secretary see any reason to stay in the treaty? Does he believe that it benefits the U.S. at all? Is this allowing U.S. flights over Russian installations just like they can still fly over U.S. bases in Europe?


MR. HOFFMAN: I would have to follow up with him on that. I think that we've been very vocal in our frustrations in the treaty and that, at this time, the treaty is potentially serving a detriment as opposed to the benefit it is intended to.

So I don't have a response for you directly from the Secretary on that. But I do know that we have been very vocal and open about our concerns for many years on this. And so, not -- not to foreshadow or announce anything, but our position has been well known.

Okay, we'll go -- go ahead.

Q: Thank you, (Mr. Hoffman ?).

On test kits, what kind of test kits do you use for the military? Do you manufacture them by United States or another country like South Korea?

MR. HOFFMAN: That's a good question for Matt.

MR. DONOVAN: So this is on a vaccine?

Q: Yes.

MR. DONOVAN: Well, HHS has a lot of research capability and development capability. I'm not exactly sure of the answer of whether it's overseas or in the states. But in conjunction with our researchers and our efforts, we're working with HHS through their Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority (BARDA) organization where they do this vaccine development.

And then, what the competencies are that -- in Operation Warp Speed that the Department of Defense brings is that very robust logistical capability to make sure that the production of a vaccine in large scale can happen and then the distribution of it as well, too.

MR. HOFFMAN: And I think he's talking specifically about the vaccines.

On testing, in terms of how we're testing the troops that we have, we use a lot of different systems. As Matt mentioned, some systems take 45 minutes to do one. We have others that can do hundreds if not thousands in a rapid pace.

So we have a range of different machines and different systems that we use depending on where the location is, what the need is, and availability of those resources, so just a lot of different things.

And even in U.S. Forces Korea, obviously early on this we took advantage of the help that the Republic of Korea and CDC provided in providing testing as well. So we will take the testing where we need. But as Matt mentioned, we're to a place right now where we're up to 84,000 -- the ability to do 84,000 a week. And so, we're in a good place.

Q: How many of the coronavirus-confirmed cases in the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), in Korea?

MR. HOFFMAN: How many coronavirus-confirmed cases?

MR. DONOVAN: (Positive ?) --


MR. HOFFMAN: Positive, I can get you that number. I don't have that off the top of my head.

Q: (inaudible) numbers right now.

MR. HOFFMAN: No. It's been a -- we've always said, from back in January when General Abrams started to confront this in his Area of Responsibility (AOR), that they've done a great job in limiting that in a hotspot. In an area where a lot was unknown about how this -- this would act, he was able to implement a number of measures very quickly that others throughout the Department learned from and were able to adopt, too.

So -- but we can get you the numbers. Okay. Go back to the phones -- Jeff Schogol?

Q: Thank you very much.

A question for Under Secretary Donovan. Based on your comments, I'm going to write a story that says that recruits who have been hospitalized for COVID are no longer automatically disqualified for accession. Are there any caveats and nuances that I need to include?

Thank you.

MR. DONOVAN: Well, I -- I think it's -- and I would have to refer back to the DOD instruction on accession standards. And, you know, it's -- it's really individualized at the case. So when the examining physician goes through the history of each individual -- because, you know, you're talking about no hospitalization. I mean, if -- if someone had long term damage or -- or something to lungs because they were on a ventilator for a long time, I mean, I -- I don't think I can specifically say that -- that there's going to be something -- and there's -- really up to the attending physician and then using the guidance from our accession standards.

MR. HOFFMAN: So Jeff, I'd -- we talked about this a little bit last week but the DODI lays out how we deal with individuals that have underlying infectious diseases or underlying illnesses. So asthma, for instance -- asthma's not an automatic disqualifier but you look at what is the impact, can the person continue to perform the -- the mission if they join?

And so with regard to -- to COVID, you would look at -- as Matt mentioned, is do they have underlying damage from a hospitalization that could prevent them from being physically capable of doing a -- a -- the -- the mission that they're signing up for?

So it's -- the COVID hospitalization, the COVID positive test in and of itself will not harm them but like any other disease, an underlying damage or illness or -- or harm that results from that would have to be examined by a physician and make a determination as to whether they can meet the -- the standards for the force.

MR. DONOVAN: And -- and using a term like hospitalization -- hospitalization, I mean that could be a doctor who kept them overnight for observation all the way to someone who was in a medically induced coma for -- for three weeks. So that's why it has to be taken on each individual case and -- and examined by the medical professionals.

MR. HOFFMAN: All right. We'll go to Ben Warner.

Q: Thanks a lot.

Real quick, do you have any information about the Navy warning that went out in the kind of Persian Gulf for ships to remain away from Navy ships? I was curious, like, why that was put out now. Is there any kind of imminent threat or is this sort of a continuation of kind of what's been going on there recently?


MR. HOFFMAN: So I -- I think the continuation of -- I think this is a continuation of what we've seen in the past, where we have stated very clearly to individuals in the area to be careful and to avoid our -- our -- our ships in the area.

We have seen Iran violate that in a alarming and unprofessional way recently and so it was made -- a determination was made that it could -- would be helpful to provide a -- a reminder and additional guidance to mariners in the area to avoid U.S. warships and to -- to set out a -- a bright line rule that would be a little bit clearer for them if there was any claims of possible confusion, that they should not attempt to harass or approach or confront a U.S. warship sailing in international waters.

All right? We'll go to Jared from Fed News Network.

Q: Hi. Thanks.

Secretary Donovan, I want to go back to your comments about the -- the possibility of lifting the global stop move order before June 30th. Considering the conditions are so variable place to place, what are -- what are kind of the trigger points that you would be looking at to decide whether an early lift is warranted or -- or, you know, is it more likely that we would see something like a change to a more regional stop-move situation?

MR. DONOVAN: I -- that's one of the things that the -- that the Secretary is considering and that we're providing recommendations on because remember, we're -- we're an enterprise of almost three million people that's spread across, you know, all 50 states, three territories, the District of Columbia and 145 or so countries out there.

So that's one of the things that we're looking at, is can we do a conditions-based, phased approach, if you will, on -- on lifting the travel restrictions. So we'll be bringing those recommendations to the Secretary and -- and then he'll take a look at it.

MR. HOFFMAN: Okay. We'll go next to John Doyle, Seapower Magazine?

Q: Still with the flag general officer level, right?

MR. HOFFMAN: I -- I -- sorry, I didn't hear your follow up but I think it was about the current waivers that are in place that allow the flag general officers to allow movement?

Q: Right. Are you considering moving that down a little bit to give a little bit more flexibility on those waivers?

MR. DONOVAN: Actually, it's at the first general officer or senior executive service equivalent in the chain so it's -- so it's -- it's at a pretty low level now, which could be the installation commander if it's a -- a general officer.

MR. HOFFMAN: Yeah and right now I -- I don't think we've seen a demand to move that down. I think the services have worked with that standard pretty well. We -- we've continued to move people around the world as needed and -- by taking additional precautions and measures in place.

So the standard that we have right now seems to work. We are, of course, interested in getting back to the normal process as soon as we can. All right, so we'll go back -- I called on John.

Q: Yes, this is John Doyle. Can you hear me?

MR. HOFFMAN: We could. All right, we'll go to Abraham Mahshie from Washington Examiner?

(UNKNOWN): John Doyle?

Q: Yes, can you hear me?

Quickly, on the -- the shooting, down in Corpus Christi, has -- given that six months ago we had a similar -- not similar but another shooting at another naval air station, have you gotten any sense that the Navy or the Defense -- Defense Department wide is tightening security at any of its facilities?

And as a quick follow up question, on the T.R., can you explain if you've gotten any more information from the Navy, how long the process of re-certifying the ship and the air wing will take and then picking up the crew before the ship is able to deploy and begin its mission again?

Thank you.

MR. HOFFMAN: So with the -- with security on our bases, after the -- the shooting that took place in December 6th of last year at Pensacola, the Secretary did a review, working with -- with all of our -- our services, working with the Under Secretary for Intelligence and working through our force protection personnel and making assessments of how our security posture is around the country.

And so as part of that, we did institute some additional security measures that -- particularly to training in -- in that case, embedding screening measures. So this is something where we've unfortunately had to look at our base security in the -- the recent past and believe that that -- we did a -- a -- addressed and put in place some additional measures on that.

I can't speak specifically for Corpus Christi as -- as a base cause I'm not -- I'm not in the loop as much as each individual base's security measures, but overall, we have put in additional security measures at our bases in the -- in the recent history.

With regard to the T.R., the timeframe that I've been told -- I think I said earlier was between 10 days and two weeks for them to do the recertification of the air wing and the flight deck and the crew, at which point they'll return back to Guam to onboard the rest of the crew and continue with their -- their mission. But I -- I believe that timeframe is -- is accurate, but we'll double check with the Navy, and if it's not, I'll get back to you with an update.

We've got -- we've got two more, and then we're going to wrap it up. So Abraham, Washington Examiner.

All right. Ellen from Synopsys.

All right. Anybody in the room want to do one more?

Q: Two for a quick follow-on.

MR. HOFFMAN: Sure, Barbara. Yeah.

Q: I want to look at bringing more people back to military bases and more people back into the Pentagon. I'd like to just ask about the Pentagon specifically. Are you -- are you considering or looking at the possibility of random testing for COVID for people entering the building -- people come -- employed here coming into the building, much like you do with drug testing? Are you looking at doing random COVID testing here in the Pentagon?

MR. DONOVAN: I think it -- what -- what is probably more likely are screening procedures, and the screening procedures we have now is where they take temperature checks and see if someone has a fever, and if they're displaying other outward flu-like symptoms, then they would be pulled aside and asked a few questions and -- and maybe turned away at that point.

What we're looking at as far as testing, you're probably aware of the four-tier testing priority framework that the Secretary emplaced, and tier four, what is all other, you know, the -- the last priority, if you will, but it covers the majority of it. We're going to be looking at doing surveillance testing and -- and a sentinel testing, is -- is what it's called, so that we can try to check and see if there are -- are outbreaks or pockets of -- of positives that we might be able to stop at that point by doing contact tracing and -- and that sort of thing. But that -- yeah.

MR. HOFFMAN: So, Barbara -- so, Barbara, to your question, not random testing --


MR. HOFFMAN: -- but -- but it would be structured testing of -- of individuals that are not symptomatic. So hey, today we're going to test a couple people in this office and just make sure it hasn't gotten to that type office.

Q: Excellent (inaudible).

MR. DONOVAN: Right, right.

Q: So you will be testing people -- let's just talk about the Pentagon, to keep it simple. You will be testing military, civilians, not visitors --

MR. HOFFMAN: Reporters.

Q: That -- that's my follow-up question.

Q: Will you? No, will you?

Q: Will there be mandatory testing for journalists to get in to -- to accessing this building?

MR. HOFFMAN: It -- it --

MR. DONOVAN: It -- it depends on what Washington Headquarter Services recommends, but I -- I don't think so. I think it's going to be screening, and then it depends on, as conditions improve around the Pentagon, one of the questions earlier was about metro. I mean, we'll follow the metro requirements, as far as social distancing and wearing masks. I understand now I think they require wearing masks, as well, so --

Q: Individual people within individual offices throughout the Pentagon --

MR. HOFFMAN: The goal --

Q: -- have come up and have --

MR. HOFFMAN: The goal is to identify and -- identify people who may -- or groups of people that may have it and try to stop a outbreak before it gets -- it gets too broad. And then the -- the second part of it is, we'll -- we'll have -- we're close on this on the -- the WHS plan. We're close on the -- the travel, restarting full travel and PCS moves on those plans, and as soon as we get those we're going to have -- we'll be back in here with -- with Matt and probably with WHS and some others to talk about that.

Q: I wanted to just make a -- any documents you can provide, I think you mentioned, on Operation Warp Speed as you get memorandums, as you get anything you can give to us so we understand better, as well as the guidance document (inaudible).

MR. DONOVAN: Absolutely, like the health protection conditions memo that -- that was released yesterday. We'll -- we'll continue to keep everyone informed (inaudible) populations informed, as well, too.

MR. HOFFMAN: Yeah, we released health condition memo yesterday. We released the -- the elective surgery memo today. We'll -- we'll keep doing that.

Q: (inaudible) with the temperature checks you mentioned, folks coming into the building, would that be random, or is it pretty much everyone coming in?

MR. DONOVAN: It'll depend on the condition level that they set, the health protection condition level, as well. They were waiting on the -- the Secretary to now put out the guidance that came out yesterday, and then they're developing guidance that will align with that.

Q: But then if you test someone in an office and unfortunately they come out positive, you have to empty out that office, right?

MR. DONOVAN: Well, then -- then we go through contact tracing procedures and there may be some isolation required. You're exactly right. This is not something that is new to COVID. We've always done this with our health surveillance information network and contact tracing and that sort of thing to keep influenza outbreaks under control, for example.

MR. HOFFMAN: And I think we'll be able to do additional testing, so if there's an outbreak in one office, we can test and see after a couple days, test people and just make sure they have negative tests. You could have antibody tests at that time, so you could find out, oh, well, people in this office had it before or they're -- they're -- they're no longer at risk. So all that's going to come into play. We're still working through it.

Q: Have you got a lot of positives in the Pentagon?

MR. HOFFMAN: I don't have the numbers on that, but I -- I -- we -- we've had positive cases in the Pentagon, yes.

Q: Ballpark, how many?

MR. HOFFMAN: I don't -- I -- I -- honestly, I -- we -- we've had so many different numbers fly around over the last six months that I don't -- I can't pull them off the top of my head right now.

Q: So maybe you could take that question.

MR. HOFFMAN: Yeah, of course.

Q: Thank you.

MR. HOFFMAN: Okay. All right, guys. Thank you very much.

MR. DONOVAN: Thank you.