- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2020

A pair of lawmakers on Thursday unveiled legislation that would send coronavirus test kits to U.S. service members in the Middle East.

Wisconsin Democrats Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Mark Pocan said in a statement that they teamed up to sponsor the legislation after receiving calls from military families in their home state that service members deployed to Afghanistan were stationed in areas with confirmed COVID-19 cases, but they did not have testing kits on hand.

“It is unacceptable that testing kits aren’t immediately and readily available for servicemembers in the Middle East where there are confirmed cases of COVID-19, and this legislation will fix that,” Ms. Baldwin said. “We owe it to our men and women in uniform to protect their health while they are working to protect our national security.”

If passed, the bill will require the Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to make COVID-19 test kits available to troops in the Middle East within one week of its enactment.

The legislation’s announcement came roughly a week after the Pentagon said the COVID-19 kits cannot be tested in the Middle Eastern countries where U.S. troops are stationed in, and instead the samples are being sent to Germany to be tested.

“In the midst of a global pandemic, no one should be left to fight this virus on their own — especially not our military personnel serving overseas,” Mr. Pocan said.

He claimed the Pentagon’s “lack of responses and answers” on the department’s preparedness has been “disappointing,” and he is growing less confident that military leaders are prioritizing the health of military personnel overseas.

“When troops abroad are suffering from coronavirus-like symptoms, they should be tested, not ignored,” Mr. Pocan said.

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