Atlanta, United States (CNN) – Last Thursday morning, the U.S. Department of Defense welcomed extraordinary visitors.
Dr. Anthony Fauchi and Dr. Deborah Birks, two of the chief advisers to President Donald Trump’s management team to combat the Corona virus, wore masks in the safe conference room of the Pentagon.
They were there to meet General Mark Millie, chief of the US Army Joint Chiefs of Staff and his deputy, General John Hightin, to discuss the military’s efforts in pandemic management, and the medical expertise needed to protect the 1.4 million military personnel in the country.
The meeting stressed a critical issue of national security that the president did not discuss in detail, which is the challenge of ensuring the military’s readiness to deploy and fight in the midst of an epidemic.
As the country prepares for a possible second wave of the virus this fall, the obstacles facing the Pentagon are enormous. It ranges from pooling robust testing capabilities to ensuring a constantly renewable supply of personal protective equipment, while continuing to provide medical personnel to support the civil healthcare system.
Besides maintaining military performance, there is an awareness that the epidemic can upset geopolitics and create new and unpredictable threats to US national security.
One of the clearest indications of the level of anxiety within the Pentagon is the fact that Defense Secretary Mark Esber has placed severe restrictions on the amount of information that is shared with the American public. While it publishes information every day about the number of individuals who have been confirmed to be infected with the Coronavirus, the military does not release information it believes will reveal weaknesses in the US readiness that opponents may exploit.
The Pentagon said in a statement on its website: “The Ministry of Defense will continue to balance transparency in this crisis with operational security.”
The feeling that the Pentagon was not transparent multiplied on Friday, when it was revealed that Esper was not immediately ready to accept a recommendation to return Captain Brett Cruiser to command the USS Theodore Roosevelt, who was toppled after being called upon to take decisive measures to protect the ship’s crew, after A number of its members were infected with the virus. Although Esper announced that he wanted to read the full investigation before accepting the decision.
Cruz was expelled earlier this month because of what the then Marine commander, Thomas Moodley, said was a bad captain because Cruz had widely circulated a warning about the spread of the virus aboard his ship, a warning that ultimately reached the press.
Reasons for concern
There are many causes for concern as the epidemic crisis persists. The military has long had basic plans on the shelf on how to deal with a pandemic. When the virus began to spread widely, the Pentagon sent thousands of its elements to their homes to work remotely, and senior leaders began wearing masks and socializing. In high-security command centers in the Pentagon and in the North American Command in Colorado, crises teams met but carefully checked that they were operating in separate areas in the event of an outbreak.
The virus prompted the army to cancel the exercises, and briefly halted the process of bringing in recruits and returning the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier to the port, after more than 800 sailors had proven positive and one died after an outbreak on board.
Now, more than 40 Navy warships have been affected by the outbreak, and CNN learned on Friday that there are at least 18 cases aboard the USS Kidd, which is in the eastern Pacific Ocean, and a port that can return to it must now be found.
There are nearly 4,000 cases among the active workforce, but the outbreak in the Roosevelt aircraft carrier has caused most of the concern in the military medical community.
The Navy and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are cooperating in a study to try to determine how the virus can spread across the entire ship even with isolation measures in place. Although 120 sailors are infected with the virus, they have no symptoms, and they raise questions about the limitations of the current testing system.
“At the moment, it is not possible for us to improve our preparedness,” Haitien told reporters at the Pentagon this week. He also warned that some forces are still having a positive outcome after 14 days of isolation, even if they were originally asymptomatic.
Currently, a plan has been approved by the US Secretary of Defense to prioritize who will be tested in the military first. It is based on the urgent need to maintain the readiness of the military and the ability to confront international threats.
No more work as usual
Beyond the practical goal of maintaining readiness, there is a growing understanding that the nature of the US military, what it does, and the concept of what constitutes a threat to national security may change due to the epidemic.
“Has the business returned as normal? No, I don’t see that,” asked the US Army’s chief of staff, General Mark Millie, earlier this month at the Pentagon.
When asked what happens next, Millie suggested that the epidemic means that the nature of threats to the United States is changing.
“There are countries, very fragile states, in different situations of civil war or who have internal violence in their societies, there are great pressures as a result of this virus,” Milli said.
Because of the epidemic, Milli said, there is a risk of further instability in politically and economically fragile countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, “so no, it will not be business as usual.” He added: “We have to take a closer look at how we will work as an army and defense ministry in the future.”
Millie added that the army must understand what “lessons” it has learned in order to be effective in a post-epidemic world.
It is too early to get a definite answer about what will happen next, but with a $ 700 billion budget and massive bureaucracy, you’ll need some specific questions to answer questions to avoid the classic Army’s problem allocating huge budgets for weapons systems, such as armored tanks designed to combat threats from conflicts that have become less important.
Without a doubt, the military must still be able to perform critical tasks such as providing a reliable nuclear deterrent and fighting terrorism, but many Defense Department contracts have troubled workers, so it is not even possible to calculate when everyone will return to work with fully-functional production lines again, let alone On influencing important research efforts in advanced technologies and materials.
Former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told CNN that any defense secretary will need an “open vision” to deal with the coming challenges.
“You have to constantly review what you’re doing, how you were doing it, and match that to today’s challenges,” Hagel said.
This is the challenge, the Pentagon will have to respond and react gracefully because the next major threat may not come from China or Russia. It could be another pandemic, electronic attack or even climate change paralyzing an army that still depends on billions spent on ships, planes, tanks and conventional missiles.