March 26, 2020

Keith's Congressional Corner

“But we will get through it. It’s not a question of when, we will,” Milley said. “We will get through it, and we’ll pull together as a country, as a military and we of the United States military are going to do whatever is required to defend the people of the United States.”
- Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS)

Since our last Legislative Update, the world has changed dramatically because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our nation is under attack from an invisible enemy, our strong economy is crashing, and the stock market is plummeting. Congress has focused its entire attention on the burgeoning pandemic.

We are thankful there are legislative efforts to support the military both in its response to this crisis and caring for Airmen and their families.

The virus has reached more than 163 countries and regions around the world—in only three months.

Our nation is experiencing challenges unforeseen and unlike any before.

Yet, millions of Americans are stepping up by following responsible guidelines for social distancing, self-quarantines, etc. There is a whole-of-government approach to winning this battle. The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) is leading the charge, and Airmen are excelling as the nation’s wingmen.

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency. The Department of Defense (DoD) instituted its Pandemic Response Plan to combat the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Air Force and Space Force will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented an aggressive public health response to protect and care for Veterans and has been reaching out to its retired medical personnel in hopes of drawing them out of retirement.

The Defense Department has ramped up efforts to defend our nation from this challenge and has used its strategic reserves to help the nation combat COVID-19. Thousands of National Guardsmen and Reservists have been activated. The DoD, largely through the Reserves, constitutes one of our nation’s largest sources for medical surge capability.

The Pentagon ordered a stop-order to all overseas troop movements, deployments, exercises, and permanent change of station (PCS) moves for two to three months.

Currently, the Pentagon and many military installations are utilizing maximum teleworking capability, cancelling activities and events through May 15th. Only essential personnel are reporting to work. In a new development, the DoD has instituted Telemedicine capability.

“The Department of the Air Force will continue to do our part to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 as we protect the health of our personnel while ensuring complete readiness to defend our nation.”
- Air Force Spokesman to Air Force Magazine

The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, sent the cadets home and will resume classes online.

“Commanding during a crisis is an opportunity for you, your Chief, and your spouse (or volunteer lead spouse) to rise to the occasion and lead through the storm. This is a time that will be remembered by all ...COVID-19 is a worthy adversary. We must take it head on at every echelon of command. Fight’s on!”
- Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force, in message to Wing Commanders

Air Education and Training Command (AETC) sent Air University students who arrived on temporary duty status back to home stations. Basic Military Training (BMT) continues as it is considered mission essential. Technical training, flying training operations, and Officer Training School and ROTC have also been deemed mission essential.

On March 16th, AFA’s President Orville Wright met with Lt. Gen. Place, the Director of the Defense Health Agency and his team, to discuss health care issues vitally important to AFA’s members, Airmen, and their families. General Place closed by discussing the COVID-19 virus and effects on military healthcare. The shock waves through the healthcare system highlight the preparedness level of communities through the lens of medical readiness.

President Donald Trump announced on March 18 that the Department of Health and Human Services will permit all medical care providers to practice across state lines, regardless of their state license, to treat more coronavirus patients. Note: this is License Reciprocity, an issue which AFA has been advocating.

As of March 31st, the Military Health System (MHS) will postpone non-emergency surgeries and dental procedures for 60 days in order to shore up capacity for the Defense Department’s increase in coronavirus cases. Surgeries or procedures will continue for active duty personnel or reserve component troops on active orders and deployable.

Currently, pharmacies at military treatment facilities (MTFs) remain open. However, patients can fill their prescriptions through mail order utilizing a co-pay. IF pharmacies at MTFs close, patients can fill their prescriptions through mail order utilizing a co-pay.

Most space-available travel has been suspended until May 11th, at the earliest.

Child Development Centers on Air Force installations will be provided for ‘Mission Essential Personnel.’

Most promotion testing will be delayed until May.

The National Cemeteries Administration (NCA) has updated its current policy pertaining to burials and funeral honors due to concerns about the virus.

AFA will continue to report on developments that affect the Department of the Air Force Airmen, their families, and Veterans.

Conditions seem to be changing by the hour, however, there are some good links available to keep track of the ongoing developments—for the Department of the Air Force, federal agencies, and at AFA.

Air Force Association COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 Corona Virus Disease 2019

Air Force Magazine

Snapshot: DOD and COVID-19

Air Force Magazine Daily Report

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

COVID19 2020

Coronavirus: What you need to know

DoD Coronavirus Travel Restrictions FAQ

Air Force and Space Force Highlights

“I think we need to plan for this to be a few months long at least and we’re taking all precautionary measures to do that, to be in it for the long-haul.”
- Dr. Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense 

DOD on Coronavirus Pandemic: ‘We Will Get Through It’ | 24 Mar 2020 | by Brian W. Everstine
The crisis caused by the new coronavirus outbreak could take months and weaken military readiness, though that drop is expected to be small, the top military leaders told service members in an online town hall March 24.

Analysis: Defense Stocks May Take Years to Recover from COVID-19 | 24 Mar 2020 | by John Tirpak
Defense stocks may have a hard time recovering from the stock market’s loss of more than 30 percent in less than a month, as soaring national debt and competing security priorities put pressure on future defense budgets, according to Capital Alpha Partners analyst Byron Callan.
“It’s going to take a couple of years” for a recovery in defense stocks, said Callan, who specializes in the defense and aerospace industry. The COVID-19 crisis “is going to reverberate through the 2020 election.” Unlike the attacks of 9/11, “this touches every American,” he told Air Force Magazine.
“Lockheed Fatigue,” Need for Affordable Tactical Mix Drove F-15EX Decision | 23 Mar 2020 | by John Tirpak
CAPE deemed a mix of fourth- and fifth-generation fighters as an acceptable way to achieve needed capacity, and the F-15 was picked over Lockheed Martin’s F-16 in order to nurture the fighter industrial base, he explained at a background briefing with reporters.
The official said he wanted to provide context for the F-15 decision because it has sparked so much interest and raised questions. Many, including a group of Republican senators, believe money spent on new F-15s could instead help buy more fifth generation F-35s. The Air Force has maintained for nearly 20 years it would not buy any new fourth-generation aircraft because they couldn’t survive against enemy air defenses in the coming decades. 

When fully established, we may not look like the services you’ve become accustomed to. But we will be equally proficient at providing space forces ready and willing to protect U.S. and allied interests in space while providing unequaled capability to the joint force.”
- Gen. John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations (CSO) 

Pentagon Fleshing Out Space Force Organizational Details | 23 Mar 2020 | by Mandy Mayfield
As the fanfare around the new military service dies down, many unanswered questions surrounding the structure of the Space Force still remain.
The newest member of the armed services was officially stood up in December and received its first budget from the Trump administration as a “separate but co-equal” branch in February. But structurally, the details of organizing, manning and training the new service and its members will be hammered out in the coming months.
Gen. John “Jay” Raymond was sworn in as the Space Force’s first chief of space operations in January. Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett assigned more than 16,000 uniformed and civilian members of the Air Force to the Space Force, the service’s vice commander, Lt. Gen. David Thompson said in February. Most of those personnel came from what was formerly known as Air Force Space Command.

KC-46, P-8 production to stop as Boeing temporarily shuts down facilities | 23 Mar 2020 | by Valerie Insinna

Production of the Air Force’s KC-46 refueling tanker and the Navy’s P-8 maritime surveillance plane will stop as Boeing shuts down all facilities in the Seattle area amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Air Force Depots Not Slowing Down | 20 Mar 2020 | by Brian W. Everstine
The Air Force’s depot maintenance activities continue unabated during the COVID-19 crisis, but Air Force Materiel Command is staying alert for supply chain issues that could affect throughput. “To date, no mission requirements have been impacted, and aircraft are still being inducted into the depots,” an AFMC spokeswoman said March 19. “Although we are monitoring for slowing of supply chain operations, we are not aware of any supply or material disruptions at this time,” she said.
The US Air Force flew 1 million coronavirus test swabs to the US from Italy, and more are likely on the way | 20 Mar 2020 | by Ryan Pickrell
As the US pushes to ramp up coronavirus testing, the US Air Force has flown roughly a million testing swabs to the US from overseas, and more missions are expected, Air Mobility Command said Friday. Earlier this week, Air Force personnel loaded 13 pallets containing 500,000 COVID-19 testing swabs onto a C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft at Aviano Air Base in Italy.
Congress May Intervene to Speed KC-46 Fixes | 4 Mar 2020 | by Rachel Cohen
Lawmakers are beginning to weigh how the fiscal 2021 defense policy bill could help solve the KC-46 tanker program’s woes and speed its introduction into regular operations. Congress could dictate the terms of how Boeing should fix the tanker’s faulty remote vision system and how long that should take, as well as lay out possible repercussions, such as cutting the annual buy, withholding funding, or calling for a new tanker competition, according to Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the top Republican on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee.
Goldfein: USAF Won’t Use KC-46 Unless It Has To | 3 Mar 2020 | by Rachel Cohen
Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told Senate legislators March 3 the service will not use the new KC-46 tanker unless absolutely necessary to fight a powerful adversary.
Boeing’s new Chief Executive Officer David Calhoun “committed to me that the KC-46 was his top military priority and he was going to do what was required to fix it,” Goldfein said. “I have seen a change in the behavior of that company since he took over.
Goldfein to SASC: Boeing KC-46 Still Faces ‘Profound Problems;’ Would Only Fly In War | 3 Mar 2020 | by Theresa Hitchens
Senate Armed Service Committee members pushed back hard today on Air Force 2021 plans to retire KC-135 and KC-10 tankers, questioning Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein about efforts to speed availability of the troubled KC-46.
“Many of us are very, very concerned,” said Republican Sen. Joni Ernst. Indeed, both Democrats and Republicans piled on the issue — asking myriad pointed questions about capability shortfall and the schedule for addressing the problems with Boeing’s troubled KC-46. 
Our 36th Annual Air Warfare Symposium last month in Orlando boasted record-breaking attendance. The new HH-60W Jolly Green II helicopter was officially named. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein received the Order of the Sword. SpaceX founder Elon Musk opined that the day of fighter pilots is coming to an end. For those that could not attend, the entire event is on our website at Air Warfare Symposium Videos. Click here for photos.

Key Dates to Watch


  • Sep 14-16 - AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Gaylord Conference Center, National Harbor, MD

If you have questions, please contact:

Keith Zuegel, (Ret.), USAF
Senior Director, Government Relations
Air Force Association (AFA)