Transcript

ATSD(PA), CMO, USD(P&R) Provide Updates on DOD COVID-19 Response

May 26, 2020
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; Matthew Donovan, Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Lisa W. Hershman, the Defense Department's Chief Management Officer

JONATHAN HOFFMAN:  All right, good afternoon everybody and thank you for being here or for those of you who are joining us over the phone.  I hope you all had an enjoyable, socially distant Memorial Day holiday and we appreciate all those who took time out over the weekend to pay tribute to fallen American soldiers wherever they were able to participate in those activities.

With me today is Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matt Donovan and the Chief Management Officer of the Department Lisa Hershman.  Both Mr. Donovan and Ms. Hershman will be providing updates on new COVID-related personnel guidance regarding travel restrictions as well as Pentagon resiliency and they'll be doing that in just a minute.

As you're aware, today the DOD has released three new memos outlining a transition to conditions-based phased approach to personnel movement and travel restrictions, the Pentagon Reservation plan for resilience, and force health protection guidance for deployment and re-deployment.

So out of -- out of respect for Mr. Donovan and Ms. Hershman's time here, I ask that we try to keep the questions focused on the personnel guidance and the Pentagon resiliency plan.  With that, we've got a lot of ground to cover so we'll give them the -- the time.

So with that, I'll first turn it over to Ms. Hershman.

LISA HERSHMAN:  Great, thank you Jonathan.  Thank you all for being here.  Thank you for joining us today, whether it's in person or as Jonathan said via video or teleconference.  The Office of the Chief Management Officer houses both Washington Headquarters Services as well as the Pentagon Force Protection Agency and I'm very proud of the team's work that's been done by both WHS and by PFPA in planning and implementing the Pentagon Reservation's response to this crisis.

Since mid-March, we've taken aggressive steps to stop the spread of COVID-19 among our people, implementing health protection measures that resulted in a sustained transmission rate below that of the region at large.

With the support of Secretary Esper and other leaders in the organization, we've been able to isolate, trace, and mitigate any spread.  To date, our teams have cleaned and sanitized over one million square feet of office space on the Pentagon Reservation to CDC standards.  And for the first time ever, maximized telework options have enabled more than two-thirds of the Pentagon Reservation workforce to continue to deliver the mission at alternate work locations.

Thank you to the thousands of government employees, contractors and vendors who are following the force health protection measures.  We could not have achieved these results without flexibility, cooperation, and support.

The Department's response to COVID-19 has been a collaborative effort among various agencies within the Department, as well as with our other -- other government agencies.  We're grateful for the very strong support we've received from our -- for our efforts from Secretary Esper, President Trump, Vice President Pence, and their teams at the White House.

The Pentagon Reservation resiliency plan places the health and safety of our workforce -- workforce first.  Applying guidance from OMB, OPM, and the CDC, the CMO Office, in collaboration with the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, the Joint Staff, the services, and the COVID task force has unveiled our resilience plan.

This plan reflects our priority on the health and safety of our workforce as we enable them to return in a controlled and in a steady manner.  Building upon the three phased White House “Opening Up America Again” plan, the Pentagon plan has five phases, beginning with the phase we're currently in, which we are calling phase zero.

Transitions between phases are tied to local conditions and not to specific dates and if we detect a resurgence in the spread of COVID-19, we will reassess our protection measures and workforce phase and respond appropriately.

The plan provides phase by phase guidance to commanders, supervisors, and employees to safely and effectively return to Pentagon Reservation offices, along with guidelines for in-office and telework targets, vulnerable populations, entrance screening, and the status and cleaning of common areas, food courts, gyms, and other facilities.  The plan includes requirements regarding face coverings, social distancing, and symptomatic personnel throughout each phase.  

We need everyone's continued support.  We ask everyone remains socially responsible; follow the CDC health protection guidance.  If you feel sick, don't come to work.  Take care of yourselves, your families, and each other -- together we can contain the spread. 

In closing, again, I'd like to thank Secretary Esper for his continued leadership.  We remain strong, unified, and united in the Secretary's goals to protect our workforce, continue to safeguard U.S. national interests and support the whole of government response to COVID-19. 

I look forward to your questions. 

MR. HOFFMAN:  Matt. 

MATTHEW DONOVAN:  Well, thanks Jonathan, thanks Lisa.  Good afternoon folks, good to see you again.  As part of the Secretary's health and safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in early March he issued international and domestic travel restrictions for all DOD personnel and families.  On April 20th he extended these travel restrictions until June 30th. 

On last Friday, May 22nd, Secretary Esper signed a memo lifting the June 30th travel restrictions and transitioning to a conditions-based, phased approach for personnel movement and travel.  While the COVID-19 pandemic still presents an overall risk to our service members, civilians and their families, varying conditions across the nation warrant this transition to a tailored approach. 

All DOD service members, civilians, and their dependents whose travel is government-funded will continue stop-movement both internationally and domestically while this memorandum is in effect, unless the conditions specified by the Secretary are met, or if they're covered by specific exemptions and waivers detailed in the memo. 

The conditions to resume travel will be based on two over-arching factors -- first the department will assure resumption of unrestricted travel aligns with state and regional criteria based on the president's guidelines for “Opening Up America Again”, as well as guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Consideration of factors such as removal of shelter-in-place orders, and a downward trend of new COVID-19 cases over the preceding 14 days, will be used to make a determination for the resumption of movement between states, regions, and nations. 

The second set of factors incorporates the evaluation of installation-level conditions, this includes items such as whether there are local travel restrictions, sufficient capacity at medical treatment facilities or local hospitals, testing capability and capacity, and the availability of essential services such as schools and child care.  These factors will be carefully considered before movement decisions are made. 

Thanks, and I look forward to your questions. 

MR. HOFFMAN:  All right, so we'll open it up. We'll go to the phone first to Lita Baldor, AP. 

Q:  Hi.  Jonathan, I have a few questions, and a broader COVID question. 

One, there was a third military death that was reported, an Army Reservist -- can you tell us whether this person was involved in a COVID-related assignment, in some sort of Army medical hospital, or something like that? 

And then my broader question, if you -- in looking at this chart, where are you all now in terms of timing?  Are you at day one of the first two week assessment period?  So starting today the department, or there will have to be two weeks from today where you have lower COVID cases, et cetera, before you move to the second phase?  I'm trying to get a sense of where you are in all of this. 

And then, Jonathan, if I could ask one quick other question -- the shooting at the naval base the other day, have there been any broader DOD policy changes, or restrictions based on that?  Thank you. 

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK, I will take the first and the last question, and I'll pass the other one to Lisa to discuss. 

The -- unfortunately the Army Reserve member from Wisconsin that passed away, I don't believe that he was on any COVID-related orders, but we can get you in touch with the Army Reserves, and the Army to get some more details on that.  But from my understanding is he was not on any set of orders related to COVID. 

With regard to the shooting, we've talked about this a number of times since Pensacola back in December.  The department looked at a whole range of different activities and different measures that we could take, so those included new control measures, standards for training and education, and detecting possible threats, establishment of new vetting procedures, and a review of the security infrastructure at all of our bases. 

So that took place as a result of the Pensacola shooting, and then additionally as we saw last week when the FBI and the DOJ came out with the ties between the Pensacola shooter and terrorism, we were implementing a number of these measures, so we saw that last week. 

The -- fortunately the shooting in Corpus Christi, the sailor who was wounded is recovering and doing well.  There was no further loss of life.  I'm not aware of any specific changes based solely on that shooting, but I would look at it in the whole context of shootings that we've had at our bases in the past, specifically Pensacola, where we have adopted a range of measures to address that threat. 

So with that I'll turn it over to Lisa. 

MS. HERSHMAN:  Sure, thank you.  And let me just make sure I restate the question we're looking at, have we started as of today?  It's not date-related, we're looking at the conditions.  So we look at our numbers every single day and report to the task force daily. 

So we've been running linear regression analysis and we look at – at what point did we start an actual downward trend?  And that started on May 14th, so we don't have any data yet that -- from the weekend considering it was a long weekend, but so far, we are counting about eight days of solid data, and we are still in a downward regression. 

So right now that's where things stand, but we've got a ways to go. 

MR. HOFFMAN:  And so, Lita, I think that answers specific to the Pentagon.  I think for Matt the question would be broadly --  

MR. DONOVAN:  Well, you know, we have nearly 3 million people spread across all 50 states, three territories, District of Columbia, and about 145 nations.  So that's why we're taking a look at -- from the personnel readiness perspective we're tracking the by state, by territory, by host nation particulars where the service secretaries and the combatant commanders will track the installation level of things.  So it depends -- the answer to your question depends on which region, or state, or host nation you're talking about, because they're all varied conditions.  So like Lisa said though, it's conditions-based, it's not based on a calendar. 

MR. HOFFMAN:  So, I think to restate Lita’s question, is if localities had 10 days, and the past 10 days has been on a downward trajectory and for the next four days is at a downward trajectory, is that enough to reopen?

MR. DONOVAN:  Yes.

MR. HOFFMAN:  Or does it need to be 14 from today?

MR. DONOVAN: Yes. No, that's correct. So it's a snapshot. There would be some localities and some states that go green, if you will, immediately.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK.

All right.  We'll go to next question Idrees Ali from Reuters.

Q:  Yes.  Thanks for doing this.  Two quick questions.  Firstly, where did the OPM fit into all of this?  Something I'm trying to decide.  Is it possible that the OPM said something that you rely on state and local authority (inaudible)?  I'm just trying to decide where OPM guidance would fit in.

And secondly, thanks for getting the number of people who tested positive on Pentagon Reservations.  Do you have a number for how many tested positive specifically in the Pentagon building?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So with regard to that, we were treating the command, in that case as the Pentagon Reservation and not giving out installation specific numbers, including the Pentagon.  So the number we're going to go with is that, I believe it was 1661 within the Pentagon Reservation.  And then with the other one, the question he asked.

MS. HERSHMAN:  So with regard to your question there on OPM, so OPM right now and OMB have been having regular calls and what they are very helpful with is what's happening with other agencies, what's happening in the national capital region.  But also where do we stand with other things that we have to orchestrate.  We're thinking about where mass transit stands, as well as things like daycare centers.  So all of that is information and insights; those are provided from the national capital region that is helpful for us as we orchestrate this for the Pentagon Reservation.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK.  I will go to the room here.  Ryan?

Q:  Yes.  Actually I have a question for you, sir.  You mentioned that some areas could go green immediately.  Do you have some locations you could cite as that travel would be allowed to go there?

MR. DONOVAN:  I don't have that.  What we're going to do is, as you see in the memo is that P and R, Personnel and Readiness is responsible for publishing those, and so our first set will be published by this evening.   don't think it's a publicly available website, but we're publishing it inside the department, so everybody sees the state and regional and international conditions as well, too, so we can probably get you that information on which ones as soon as it gets published tonight.

MR. HOFFMAN:  Okay, thank you.

Tom.

Q:  The memo you put out today says all deployed service members and DOD civilians and contractors will complete a virus screening.  And testing, quote, "if available and appropriate."  So why at this point, three months in, can't you assure military service members and contractor civilians that they'll be tested?

MR. DONOVAN:  Well, this is -- you're referring to the Force Health Protection Guidance that went out.  This is really codifying the procedures that we've had in place for many weeks now, as well, too.  Primarily when it says "virus screening," screening is different than testing.  Screening is where you're checking for symptoms, checking for fever and that sort of thing.

And then for testing, if it says "where appropriate" it's because the Secretary put out his tiered framework for diagnostic testing, so we have tier 1, which includes, you know, the very strategic capabilities and nuclear triad, and you know, ships going to sea and that sort of thing.  So it depends on, you know, where they're deploying to and what mission that they're holding at the time, whether they would be tested.

MR. HOFFMAN:  And to be clear, like at this time, we're not aware of any location or any unit where there's an inability to be tested if needed.  And that's been true for months at this point.

MR. DONOVAN:  Uh huh.

MR. HOFFMAN:  So, all right.

Elizabeth.

Q:  Thank you for taking my question.

You said earlier in the beginning that the recommendation is that two-thirds, or currently two-thirds of Pentagon employees are teleworking.  I notice on the chart for phase zero it recommends that only 20 percent are in the building.  So do you feel that there are not enough folks working from home currently?  And you know, what is your satisfaction with how that's been going for the last several months?

MS. HERSHMAN:  So we're currently at Phase Zero.  We haven't moved into the next phase, and that's where we're staying at roughly 20 percent, and that's a guideline, and that's been actually pretty consistent over the last several -- many weeks actually, and we're tracking that and continue to track that daily.

What we have seen is fairly sufficient use of telework and people being able to monitor performance and continue the work of -- according to our mission.  So I have -- in all the leaders that I've talked to, and we actually meet regularly with the leadership at OSD and check in and see how things are going, and they said that, for the most part, they're usually at about 90 percent or above in terms of capability.

MR. DONOVAN:  I can tell you my, you know, just in Personnel and Readiness, we're about 95 percent teleworking, but that's also because a great deal of our work can be done on unclassified networks.  It's when you have folks that need access to classified networks where the numbers go up a little bit.  But you know, the added network capacity that the CIO has added and some collaboration tools have been very effective.

Q:  And as you, you know, look to add more people into the building, what if you have somebody who says I don't feel comfortable returning to work yet?  Will that be OK if somebody says I'd like to continue working from home?

MS. HERSHMAN:  We've actually talked to the leadership and said, look, you know, it's up to you to determine how to manage your workforce, but that is something that we're encouraging people to express and to give us an understanding.  You know, some folks are saying, I'm just not feeling that well, and that's something where we encourage them to go home to make sure they're safe.

MR. DONOVAN:  We've been also clear to that, you know, some of our civilians are a little bit older and may be in a vulnerable category as well, too.  And we account for that with our weather and safety guidelines that we put out on teleworking and taking leave and that sort of thing.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK.  Yes?

Q:  Can I just quickly follow up on that?  If so many people are teleworking, what does that mean for the future of the workforce?  Will you be more flexible in allowing people to work from home?

MS. HERSHMAN:  I -- we've encouraged each of the leadership to think about what makes sense.  I can say that in my own organization we did some performance management tracking, and we have some role -- some individuals who've actually been more productive.  So we're looking at what makes sense in terms of being able to complete the mission, and that's something that we're considering.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK. Let's go back to the phone for a couple -- Dave Martin, CBS.

Q:  First thing, I thought I heard a commitment to make public the localities as they go green, although you weren't going put out the internal memo.  Do we have a commitment from you, Jonathan, to put out the localities as they go green?

And this downward trend, with the Pentagon Reservation, you said it's -- you're now in day 10 of the downward trend.  Is that for cases on the installations that are part of the Pentagon Reservation?  Or is that for the entire District, Virginia, Maryland area?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So on the first one, David, I'll have to defer to Matt on that, as to whether to release that.  And if he says -- he's nodding here, so I believe we'll be able to commit to getting that information out to you guys as it's published.

MR. DONOVAN:  And we're actually using them for authoritative sources, information that's already out there from Health and Human Services, from the CDC and those types of organizations in order to track the localities and the different states and their statuses.  We're just kind of putting it all together so it can be easier for our folks to get from.  But I don't think it will be a problem with once a week putting out what our status is.

MR. HOFFMAN:  And I think Matt makes a good point there, is that we're not doing this as a -- you know, the Pentagon's assessment as to whether there's a 14-day trend in a certain area.  We're looking to HHS and CDC for what they've determined.  So we'll basically just repackaging and resharing information that they've already put out there, but we'll do that.

And then --

MS. HERSHMAN:  The other question is, with regard to the Pentagon Reservation only, and we have eight days of a downward trend, and that includes our, you know, the Pentagon facility as well as our leased spaces, such as the Mark Center; installations are managed and tracked differently.

MR. HOFFMAN:  Yeah, so, Pentagon Reservation would be different than Joint Base Andrews, Bolling and some of the other ones.

MS. HERSHMAN:  Correct.

MR. HOFFMAN:  It's the leased civilian facilities...

MS. HERSHMAN:  Yes.

MR. HOFFMAN:  ... including the Pentagon building itself.

Does that answer your question, David?

Q:  Yeah.  So you’re only paying attention to your internal numbers, your Pentagon Reservation's numbers in determining when you make that 14-day mark for going green?

MS. HERSHMAN:  So, I -- yes, my area of responsibility is just for the Pentagon Reservation.  That's what my group is tracking.

MR. HOFFMAN: So, but I think to your point is we treat the Pentagon as an installation as we would treat other installations.

MS. HERSHMAN:  Yes.

MR. HOFFMAN:  And so with regard to each installation you look at what the surrounding community is doing.  And so Joint Base Andrews, Bolling, they would be looking at Northern Virginia...

MS. HERSHMAN:  Right.

MR. HOFFMAN:  ... and the area of Maryland, as will the Pentagon.  It's just we talk about it a little bit differently.  But it's considered an installation.

All right, we'll go Tara Copp.

Q:  Perfect.  Thank you.  I had a follow up on David's question.  So to follow up on that, if the cases in the Pentagon and the Mark Center are going down, you know, we've heard repeatedly over the weekend that, you know, Washington, D.C. is number one in cases, the cases in the Northern Virginia area are spiking.  So if the communities around the Pentagon are still showing an upward trend, but the people who work, you know, the cases within the Pentagon itself are going down, how does that impact the decision?

MS. HERSHMAN:  So we're taking that into consideration as well.  We have been, every day that we're tracking the cases in the Pentagon, for the Pentagon Reservation, we've also been looking at the cases in the national Capitol region, and that's something that we're taking into consideration.  So while we're look -- as I mentioned, we're looking at state and local requirements and what they're doing in terms of keeping things closed or opening things up, we're looking at their case trends, and we're keeping that analysis too.  All of that is weighted into our decisions on whether it seems -- it is deemed appropriate to go to that first phase of opening.

MR. HOFFMAN:  And if you look at the chart, you know, it clearly lays out the consideration for D.C., Maryland and Virginia conditions.  So that's clearly one -- that's actually the first indicator we look to when making a decision about changing the conditions in the phases of the Pentagon.

MR. DONOVAN:  And that's not unlike what we're doing worldwide across the department.  For example, Fort Campbell in Kentucky is right on the border of Tennessee.  So that installation commander would be looking at Kentucky conditions, Tennessee conditions, as well as the surrounding communities.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK.

Q:  So it would be accurate to say that both have to be in a downward trend, that both the cases inside the Pentagon and the communities outside?

MS. HERSHMAN:  On the average, yes, and again, that includes plateaus. But if again, we're looking at a linear regression and the averages are showing a consistent downward trend.

MR. HOFFMAN:  Okay.  Lucas?

Q:  Jonathan, are the Chinese readying two aircraft carriers put to sea off the coast of Taiwan right now?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I don't have any information for you on that one.

Q:  Are you seeing any threatening behavior from the Chinese military right now?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I wouldn't -- I have no information for you on the Chinese carriers right now.  I can refer you to INDOPACOM on that.  We monitor Chinese traffic and action on a regular basis.  We've seen them -- whether it's sailing additional ships to the South China Sea or making additionally threatening actions against some of their neighbors like Vietnam and the Philippines, we've seen that continue.  I wouldn't be in a position to characterize whether it's an increase or not. We've just seen this continuing behavior.

Q:  Is the Chinese Communist Party evil?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Alright.  We're going to go to the next question. Alright.

Q:  What so fired up about the New York Times editorial last weekend, Jonathan?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So, I think -- look, with the New York Times editorial, I was taking an opportunity to defend the 2.3 million men and women in uniform currently serving in the military who were called by the editorial board, saying that they celebrate white supremacy.  That's not true, that's not accurate, that's not fair to the men and women in uniform.  I was responding to that.  That's all.

HOFFMAN:  Alright.  We'll go to Jack Detsch, Foreign Policy.

Q:  Thanks.  The New York Times is reporting right now that senior military officials are going to brief President Trump on options to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan.  Is that one of the options on the table?  And do you have a timeline for when the president will be advised of that?

MR. HOFFMAN:  So I don't have an update for you on the numbers or any specific meeting with the president.  I think it's been clear for some time that the U.S. has been looking at different options and how we are going to continue with our presence in Afghanistan.

The bottom line is, is we have said for many, many months and years now, that the future of Afghanistan is going to be best suited for peace when there is an agreement between the Inter-Afghan parties.

What we've actually seen in the recent – I think in the weekend, with the three-day ceasefire, the 900 prisoners who are being exchanged and a potential commitment to a longer ceasefire is incredibly encouraging.  And so what the department is looking at is -- is trying to encourage and help the Afghan government and the Taliban reach some sort of agreement so there can be peace there.

But I have no update for you on numbers.  I would not share with you what potential options that we would be discussing with the president, though.  So.  Keep going to -- yes?

Q:  Can I follow up on that?

Q:  You've long said and multiple officials have long said that any withdrawal beyond the 8,600 would be conditions based.  Is that still the policy?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Yes.  So we would look at what the -- right now we're moving to 8,600.  That is a part of the agreement that we made with the Taliban back in I believe December or January2, so we had 135 days, so in July we'll reach that number.  That's part of the recommendation by the commander.  Any reductions under that will be conditions-based, after the U.S. government assesses the security environment and the Taliban's compliance with the agreement, and in coordination with our NATO allies and partners.

But like I said, the best path to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is a political settlement among Afghans and we support the efforts to get there.

Q:  And current conditions wouldn't -- wouldn't merit a total withdrawal, in your opinion?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I'm not going to characterize the conditions, I'll just say from looking at the agreement from the ceasefire from this weekend, the fact that the Afghan government has actually reached the creation of the Afghan government, the fact that they're undertaking prisoner exchanges and discussing a longer ceasefire is all promising.

Q:  But the agreement with the Taliban calls for all U.S. troops to leave over the next year or so ...

MR. HOFFMAN:  Conditions-based, so it's -- it's all conditions-based.  So I want to try to keep on topic here a little bit.  We've got -- we've got a little bit more time of -- of these -- of these two individuals time.  So let's go back.  I believe that was Jack so we'll go to Sadi from Al Jazeera.

Q:  Hi, Jonathan, thank you for doing this.  I had a question on -- on Libya.  Can you shed more light on the assessment by -- by AFRICOM on the Russian jets  -- total number of -- of jets, the one about -- in Libya and whether the Pentagon would be considering any steps to counter this move, especially that the U.S. is conducting anti-terrorism operations in the area?  Thank you.

MR. HOFFMAN:  So the U.S. has opposed military offensives in -- in the area.  We've asked for all parties that are operating -- it's the Russians and the Turks and others -- to cease their behavior there.  We want a secure and stable Libya.

We believe the -- the -- our mission there supports a diplomatic and counter-terrorism efforts in enhancing the partnership.  We would -- we would ask that others consider similar activities to give the Libyan people the safety and security they deserve.

With regard to the -- the number and types of aircraft, I think was the question initially -- I don't have the exact breakdown.  It was approximately 14 military fighters, a mix of Su-24s and MiG-29s.  Right now, that's all of the information on that that I can share with you.

All right, we will try again on -- for another COVID question.  All right, Lara Seligman.

Q:  Hi, Jonathan.  I think I do have another COVID question for you.  So I'm just a little bit confused on the guidelines and -- and maybe I missed -- maybe I missed this but can you just clarify who is going to be the decision maker on deciding whether to open these facilities?  Will it be down to the combatant command or the service or is it the base commander?  So who -- who ultimately is the decision maker?

And then unrelated to COVID, I just wanted to follow up on the question about the -- the New York Times op-ed about renaming the bases and I'm wondering if the Pentagon is looking at all at renaming some of these bases that are causing controversy?

MR. HOFFMAN:  I don't -- Matt?

MR. DONOVAN:  So as far as the decision maker, I want to correct you when you say "reopen the installations," the installations never closed.  I mean, the Department of Defense has been in business the whole time.

What we're particularly talking about is who the decision makers are on when people can move between the installations that have not been determined to be green, if you will, or they meet the criteria in the Secretary's -- in the Secretary's memo.

And so for combatant commanders, they'll be the decision maker for the movement when it -- someone is moving into their area of responsibility -- so in other words, in international locations -- and then for -- in the CONUS locations, in the Continental United States, it'll be the service secretaries but they'll be collecting the installation status, if you will, from each installation commander.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK.  And sorry, I -- you got a second question?

Q:  Yeah, my second question was on the New York Times op-ed and I'm just wondering if you could tell me whether the Department is looking at potentially renaming any of these bases?

MR. HOFFMAN:  Well I think the -- one of the disappointing things about the op-ed was that because of the headline where they asserted that 2.3 million men and women in uniform celebrated white supremacy, they -- you know, they failed to -- to jump-start the conversation they were looking to, which I think is a fair conversation about base naming decisions and it's a conversation the Department has -- has had in fact repeatedly in the history.  I believe in 2017, there was an extensive look at this but I -- but I'm not aware of a -- a current look at this.  I can get back to you on that.

OK? 

Q:  Thank you.

MR. HOFFMAN:  We'll go to Kyle Rempfer.

Q:  Yeah, I was wondering when it comes to the domestic and overseas travel for troops, this looks at the final destination and the case trajectories at those locations.  Does this plan take into account stopover locations?  If the units go into Poland to train, does -- and they have to stop over first in Germany and then travel over land, does the trajectory in Germany come into play at all?

MR. DONOVAN:  Yes and that would be up to the combatant commander who would look at intermediate stops and the conditions on the ground, as well.  No, what you're talking about is what we call global force movement activity and those are specifically exempted in the memo, as well, but that doesn't mean that the combatant commanders aren't concerned about the health and safety of all of the -- all of the troops involved.

So they'll certainly check on that, as well.  Is that the answer -- the question you want me to answer?

Q:  Yeah and then also domestically, is there an answer for that, as well?

MR. DONOVAN:  You mean for intermediate stopovers and that sort of thing?  You know, I would say that, you know, in -- one of the things that we're trying to prioritize would be the movement by military aircraft or DOD contracted aircraft to -- for movements of units and that sort of thing, which helps us contain the cohort together.

That -- I think that's what you're asking but as far as traveling through different locations, yes, the commanders are going to look at all intermediate stops and make sure they -- they meet criteria and maintain the Secretary's top priority, which is take care of our people.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK.  I'll -- we'll do one more question and then I think we've got to duck out of here. 

So Jared, Fed News Network.

Q:  Hi, thanks everybody.  I -- just a couple of clarifications.  So it sounds like from the memo there's going to be some cases where decisions about moving into the unrestricted column or at the installation level, in other cases maybe a whole state moves in?  And if that's true, it seems like you might end up with weird situations where, for instance, the Navy says Florida's OK and the Air Force doesn't.

And then the second one is with regard to -- I'm -- is there any middle ground between completely unrestricted and the full compliment of travel restrictions?  Like might you say a particular spot is OK for PCS travel but not for conferences?

MR. DONOVAN:  Yeah, I don't think I can comment on that specific comparison that you made but there will of course always be exceptions, if you will, and I don't want to give you the impression that we haven't been moving folks because we have and -- but it's just under very specific conditions that the combatant commanders and for overseas -- and that the service secretaries are monitoring on the ground.

And for example, if we're in a location -- the NCR here is a good example where we have Army installations, we have Navy installations, and they're all coordinating within each other and the memo specifically says if installations are within a 50-mile commuting range of each other then they'll coordinate their actions to make sure that they're aligned.

MR. HOFFMAN:  OK guys, thank you very much, and Elizabeth, thank you for being here.  Good luck at school.  All right, have a good day, everybody.

MR. DONOVAN:  Thank you.

[Eds. Notes:  1.  As of May 21, 2020, there were 152 positive cases on the Pentagon Reservation.  2.  The agreement with the Taliban was reached on Feb. 29, 2020.]