April 01, 2020

Warner, Kaine Raise Alarm Over Health of Crew on American Warship Abroad

Reports indicate that more than 100 sailors have tested positive for COVID-19 ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today expressed concern with the health and welfare of military personnel aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt – an American aircraft carrier that has been reported to have more than 100 sailors aboard who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). In a letter, the Senators questioned Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly about the conditions aboard the vessel and about any actions being taken to ensure the health and safety of sailors and other military personnel.

“We are writing about the recent developments aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) due to coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, so we can better understand the Navy’s plans for safeguarding its personnel and what Congress can do to assist your efforts,” wrote the Senators. “As you are aware, there are countless Virginians with family members serving aboard Navy warships who are all concerned about the health and well-being of their loved ones.  We share these concerns for all our personnel serving in the military at this challenging time.”

On Monday, in a letter to senior military officials, Capt. Brett Crozier detailed the USS Theodore Roosevelt’s deteriorating conditions, noting that the ship’s environment is especially conducive to the spread of the disease due to the large number of confined sailors and the sharing of resources and facilities, among other things. The vessel – which is currently docked in Guam – has more than 4,000 crew members onboard, including the more than 100 sailors who have tested positive for COVID-19.

In their letter to the Navy, the Senators – who have heard directly from the relatives of servicemembers aboard the ship – requested answers to the following questions:

  1. Has the Navy developed new measures and policies to ensure critical components are managed by crew that are known to be free of COVID-19?   How many COVID-19 tests would the Navy require to implement such a policy?  How many tests do you currently possess?
  2. Does the Navy have an adequate number of berthing barges to house crewmembers for nuclear vessels that require daily maintenance of critical components while those ships are cleaned/decontaminated?  
  3. Does the Navy have an adequate number of berthing barges to house crewmembers for vessels slated for deployment in the next 120 days while they are cleaned and decontaminated?
  4. Is there any plan, similar to those being pioneered by the US Transportation Command for military airlift pilots, to effectively “cocoon” ships’ crews to avoid new contamination from outside sources?
  5. What measures are in place to safely re-supply currently deployed ships without unnecessarily exposing the crew to COVID-19?
  6. Is there any requirement to extend personnel slated for retirement or separation to safely operate Navy vessels?  Can Congress provide additional incentive pay for Navy personnel whose separations, retirements, deployments or working conditions have been impacted by COVID-19?
  7. Have you been in contact with the Department of Energy about the lessons learned from the COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Roosevelt for dissemination amongst nuclear power plants operating in the U.S.?
  8. Are there any other authorities or resources the Navy requires to better secure the health and safety of Navy personnel & their families during this crisis? 

Text of the letter is available here and below. 

 

April 1, 2020

            

The Honorable Thomas B. Modly

Secretary of the Navy 

1000 Navy Pentagon 

Washington, DC 20350-1000  

 

Dear Acting Secretary Modly: 

We are writing about the recent developments aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) due to coronavirus (COVID-19) infections, so we can better understand the Navy’s plans for safeguarding its personnel and what Congress can do to assist your efforts. 

As you are aware, there are countless Virginians with family members serving aboard Navy warships who are all concerned about the health and well-being of their loved ones.  We share these concerns for all our personnel serving in the military at this challenging time. 

In an effort to ensure Congress is best assisting the Navy in meeting the challenges posed by the coronavirus, we ask that you provide a response to the following in an appropriate format, as we understand that details affecting readiness are sensitive and potentially classified: 

  1. Has the Navy developed new measures and policies to ensure critical components are managed by crew that are known to be free of COVID-19?   How many COVID-19 tests would the Navy require to implement such a policy?  How many tests do you currently possess?
  2. Does the Navy have an adequate number of berthing barges to house crewmembers for nuclear vessels that require daily maintenance of critical components while those ships are cleaned/decontaminated?  
  3. Does the Navy have an adequate number of berthing barges to house crewmembers for vessels slated for deployment in the next 120 days while they are cleaned and decontaminated?
  4. Is there any plan, similar to those being pioneered by the US Transportation Command for military airlift pilots, to effectively “cocoon” ships’ crews to avoid new contamination from outside sources?
  5. What measures are in place to safely re-supply currently deployed ships without unnecessarily exposing the crew to COVID-19?
  6. Is there any requirement to extend personnel slated for retirement or separation to safely operate Navy vessels?  Can Congress provide additional incentive pay for Navy personnel whose separations, retirements, deployments or working conditions have been impacted by COVID-19?
  7. Have you been in contact with the Department of Energy about the lessons learned from the COVID-19 outbreak on the USS Roosevelt for dissemination amongst nuclear power plants operating in the U.S.?
  8. Are there any other authorities or resources the Navy requires to better secure the health and safety of Navy personnel & their families during this crisis? 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

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