WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is making plans to combat the coronavirus, DOD leaders said yesterday during a news conference.
For the past six weeks, defense leaders have been meeting to plan for any possible scenario with the virus that first surfaced in China. “We’ve issued a variety of [memoranda] and directives advising the force on how to deal with coronavirus,” Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
The DOD civilian and military leadership, including all the service secretaries and combatant command commanders, have worked together to ensure the department is ready for short- and long-term scenarios, as well as domestic and international situations. Esper stressed that commanders at all levels have the authority and guidance they need to operate.
“(U.S. Northern Command) remains the global integrator for all DOD efforts and entities,” Esper said. “My number one priority remains to protect our forces and their families; second is to safeguard our mission capabilities and third [is] to support the interagency whole-of-government’s approach. We will continue to take all necessary precautions to ensure that our people are safe and able to continue their very important mission.”
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military has existing plans to combat an infectious disease outbreak. The military is executing those plans.
DOD is communicating regularly with operational commanders to assess how the virus might impact our exercises and ongoing operations around the world, the general said. A command post exercise in South Korea has been postponed, but Exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand is continuing.
Milley also said that military research laboratories are working “feverishly” to try to come up with a vaccine.
Commanders are taking all necessary precautions because the virus is unique to every situation and every location, Esper said. “We’re relying on them to make good judgments,” he said. As new issues come up, DOD planners will work with all to combat the spread of the virus.