COVID-19 hits acting defense secretary’s inner circle after visit by Lithuanian MoD

TATA IN QUARANTINE AFTER POSITIVE TEST: One week ago, Lithuanian Minister of Defense Raimundas Karoblis made an in-person visit to the Pentagon, welcomed by acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller and meeting top DOD officials, including the civilian service secretaries of the Army and Air Force on Friday and the Navy secretary the following Monday.

Yesterday, the Lithuanian Embassy notified the Pentagon that Karobils tested positive for COVID-19, setting off a flurry of testing of Miller’s inner circle. So far, only Anthony Tata, who has been performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for policy, has tested positive. After two successive positive tests, Tata will isolate at home for the next 14 days in accordance with Center for Disease Control protocols, according to the Pentagon.

CONTACT TRACING UNDERWAY: The Pentagon is aggressively undertaking contact tracing of everyone who may have had close contact with the Lithuanian delegation or Tata. Following CDC guidelines, anyone who might have been infected is getting rapid COVID tests. “We will report additional positive cases as appropriate,” said a Pentagon statement.

‘FASTIDIOUSLY FOLLOWING GUIDELINES’: “The Department has learned much over the last 10 months of COVID, and even recently we have recommitted to fastidiously following the CDC guidelines with respect to mitigation measures — face coverings, social distancing, contact tracing, hand washing and virtual engagements among others,” said Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman in a statement last night.

“As CDC COVID mitigation guidelines were followed during the Acting Secretary’s bilateral meeting with the minister, as well as meetings with Mr. Tata, Acting Secretary of Defense Miller is not quarantining,” Hoffman said. “Similarly, each of the Service Secretaries are not quarantining based on testing and mitigation measures that were in place during the Lithuanian delegation’s visit and CDC guidelines.”

“We will continue to evaluate conditions, take appropriate preventative measures, and undertake additional necessary testing,” he said. “Despite COVID, we will remain vigilant and at our posts to ensure the safety and security of the American people. We wish Minister Karoblis and Mr. Tata well and hope they recover quickly.”

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HAPPENING TODAY: Halifax International Security Forum begins this morning with informal, off-the-record sessions, followed by two on-the-record sessions later in the morning. Among today’s speakers is Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, rumored to be among the people on the shortlist to be secretary of state. Full agenda here.

ALSO TODAY: President-elect Joe Biden turns 78. When he takes the oath of office Jan. 20, he will be the oldest president in U.S. history, eclipsing Ronald Reagan, who was 77 when he left the White House in 1989.

BRITS STEP UP: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, declaring that “the era of cutting our defense budget must end,” has announced a deal that will boost U.K. defense spending by $21.9 billion over four years, a 10% increase.

Britain already spends more on defense than any other NATO nation except the United States, and the increase in military spending is the biggest since the end of the Cold War.

“Equipping our forces requires long term investment. Our national security in 20 years’ time will depend on decisions we take today,” Johnson said in a televised statement. “I’ve done this in the teeth of the pandemic, among every other demand on our resources, because the defense of the realm and the safety of the British people must come first.”

The additional funds, Johnson said, will restore Britain as “the foremost naval power in Europe” and fuel a “renaissance of British shipbuilding across the U.K.” The increase will fund a new artificial intelligence center, a new cyber force, and like the U.S., a new RAF space command.

WELCOME NEWS: “The U.S. Department of Defense applauds the announcement by the United Kingdom to significantly increase defense spending,” said acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller in a statement.

“The UK is our most stalwart and capable ally, and this increase in spending is indicative of their commitment to NATO and our shared security. With this increase, the UK military will continue to be one of the finest fighting forces in the world,” Miller said. “Their commitment to increased defense funding should be a message to all free nations that the most capable among us can — and must — do more to counter emerging threats to our shared freedoms and security.”

THE FINAL 6 VIE FOR SPACECOM HQ: The Air Force has announced the list of finalists for the future headquarters of U.S. Space Command, a plum prize for whichever state wins.

Of the two dozen communities that were vying for the award, the final six are:

  • Kirtland AFB, N.M.
  • Offutt AFB, Neb.
  • Patrick AFB, Fla.
  • Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.
  • Port San Antonio, Texas
  • Redstone Army Airfield, Ala.

The Air Force plans to make the final decision early next year, based on criteria including infrastructure capacity, community support, and costs. Meanwhile, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., will remain the interim location for U.S. Space Command headquarters.

The Rundown

Washington Examiner: Rethinking North Korea: How bad would it be to let Kim Jong Un keep his nuclear weapons?

Washington Examiner: Florida’s Patrick Air Force base makes cut for Space Command headquarters

Washington Examiner: Mike Pompeo: State Department will defund BDS ‘cancer’

Washington Examiner: Australia disbands special forces squadron accused of killing Afghan civilians

New York Times: Blood Lust and Demigods: Behind an Australian Force’s Slaughter of Helpless Afghans

Washington Examiner: Kim Jong Un half-nephew in CIA custody after 2017 disappearance: Report

AP: Top US general in the Mideast says ISIS in Iraq and Syria still long-term threat

NBC News: Nearly one out of four sailors from the Navy destroyer USS Michael Murphy test positive for Covid

Reuters: Trump, Xi to meet at virtual Asia Pacific forum as trade spat endures

Air Force Magazine: GAO: Most Military Aircraft Fell Short on Readiness in Past Decade

UPI: Lockheed, U.S. government offer to sell 40 F-35As to Swiss air force

Space News: SpaceX to transition to fully reusable fleet for national security launches

Just the News: Military reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan prompt speculation, but few surprises to troops

AP: Military pay raise at risk in dispute over bases named for Confederate officers

Bloomberg: Pentagon’s Watchdog Is Pressed Over a Delayed Harassment Probe



9 a.m. 2118 Rayburn — House Armed Services Committee Committee hearing: “The US military mission in Afghanistan and implications of the peace process on US involvement,” with Ryan Crocker, nonresident senior fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Stephen Biddle, professor of international and public affairs, Columbia University; Seth Jones, Harold Brown, Center for Strategic and International Studies.

11 a.m. — PEN America virtual G20 Counter-Summit, with the theme, “Reckoning With ‘Opportunities for All’ in Saudi Arabia,” with Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.; Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore.; Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.; Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla.; Rep. Susan Wild, D-Pa.; Kenny MacAskill, Scottish National Party member of parliament for East Lothian; Marc Tarabella, Belgian politician and member of the European Parliament for the French Community of Belgium with the Parti Socialiste; Ernest Urtasun, Spanish member of the European Parliament and vice chair of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance; Hala Al-Dosari, activist and scholar from Saudi Arabia; Areej Al-Sadhan, tech industry professional and sister of imprisoned Saudi humanitarian worker Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan; and Adam Coogle, deputy director with the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch.

11 a.m. — Air Force Association’s annual Schriever Space Futures Forum, with Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett; Air Force Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of U.S. Space Force; and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. John Hyten.

11:30 a.m. — Halifax International Security Forum session “China vs Democracy: The Greatest Game,” with Adm. Philip Davidson, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command; Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del.; Liam Fox, U.K. Member of Parliament; Emily Lau, former chairperson of the Hong Kong Democratic Party; and Ai Weiwei, human rights activist and artist.


3 p.m. — Halifax International Security Forum session “Space: Contested,” with Chief of Space Operations John “Jay” Raymond, U.S. Space Force.


10 a.m. — Halifax International Security Forum session “75 Years On: Re-Making the Democratic World Order,” with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg; North Macedonia Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska; Kay Bailey Hutchison, U.S. permanent representative, U.S. Mission to NATO; and John Allen, president, Brookings Institution.


11:30 a.m. — Washington Post Live conversation with former President Barack Obama about the first volume of a memoir chronicling his presidency, A Promised Land, with Washington Post opinion columnist Michele Norris and Mellon Foundation president Elizabeth Alexander.


10 a.m. — Association of the U.S. Army’s Thought Leaders webinar with Gen. Thierry Burkhard, the French Army chief of staff; and Maj. Gen. Michel Delion, director of the French Army’s Center for Doctrine and Command Teaching.

1:15 p.m. — Atlantic Council conversation with former national security adviser retired Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, board director, Atlantic Council.



All Day — NATO foreign ministers meet for two days via secure teleconference. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will brief reporters both days online.


5 p.m. — National Security Institute at George Mason University “NatSec Nightcap” conversation: “Advancing Diplomacy Aboard, a Deep Dive into U.S. Foreign Policy,” with Elliott Abrams, special representative for Iran and Venezuela; and Jamil Jaffer, founder and executive director, National Security Institute.


“I’m not dictating what people should do … Each and every family unit should do a risk/benefit determination about the holidays … Maybe the prudent thing to do, for now, is to just pull back and just keep it within the family unit that you live with, instead of having people from the outside come in. I’m not saying everybody should do that. But everybody should at least give it serious consideration.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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