The latest Department of Defense (DoD) news, updates and press releases regarding coronavirus, or COVID-19.
For guidance specific to the Pentagon Reservation and DOD offices and facilities in the National Capital Region, visit the WHS COVID-19 Guidance page.
For guidance specific to DODEA schools, please go to the DODEA COVID-19 page.
DOD Awards $138 Million Contract, Enabling Prefilled Syringes for Future COVID-19 Vaccine
May 12, 2020
Statement attributed to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman:
“Today the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announce a $138 million contract with ApiJect Systems America for “Project Jumpstart” and “RAPID USA,” which together will dramatically expand U.S. production capability for domestically manufactured, medical-grade injection devices starting by October 2020.
Spearheaded by the DOD’s Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF), in coordination with the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the contract will support “Jumpstart” to create a U.S.-based, high-speed supply chain for prefilled syringes beginning later this year by using well-established Blow-Fill-Seal (BFS) aseptic plastics manufacturing technology, suitable for combatting COVID-19 when a safe and proven vaccine becomes available.
By immediately upgrading a sufficient number of existing domestic BFS facilities with installations of filling-line and technical improvements, “Jumpstart” will enable the manufacture of more than 100 million prefilled syringes for distribution across the United States by year-end 2020.
The contract also enables ApiJect Systems America to accelerate the launch of RAPID USA manufactured in new and permanent U.S.-based BFS facilities with the ultimate production goal of over 500 million prefilled syringes (doses) in 2021. This effort will be executed initially in Connecticut, South Carolina and Illinois, with potential expansion to other U.S.-based locations. RAPID will provide increased lifesaving capability against future national health emergencies that require population-scale vaccine administration on an urgent basis.
RAPID’s permanent fill-finish production capability will help significantly decrease the United States’ dependence on offshore supply chains and its reliance on older technologies with much longer production lead times. These supplies can be used if a successful SARS-COV-2 vaccine is oral or intranasal rather than injectable.”
DOD Providing Leave Leniency Due to COVID-19 Travel Restrictions
April 20, 2020
Travel restrictions made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in the Defense Department providing leave leniency for service members who accrue too much leave and might otherwise lose it.
Each year, active-duty service members are granted 30 days of leave, but at the end of each fiscal year, they normally lose any unused leave exceeding 60 days. With the leniency granted due to the pandemic travel restrictions, service members can now accrue a leave balance of up to 120 days until Sept. 30, 2023.
Matthew Donovan, undersecretary of personnel and readiness, signed the authorization for that change April 16.
DOD encourages service members to take leave whenever possible; however, it’s not always possible due to deployments and operational commitments, Pentagon officials said, though some extensions have been granted due to long deployments.
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit service members particularly hard because many are not allowed to travel to see friends and loved ones who live many miles away — a big incentive for taking leave, Donovan said. Therefore, he continued, the restriction on the leave balance ceiling was relaxed.
“The department’s actions to stem the spread of COVID-19 have significantly limited the ability of service members to take leave during this national emergency, and we know that leave is vital to the health and welfare of our force,” Donovan stated in his memorandum.
For DOD’s civilian workforce, Office of Personnel Management policy already makes allowances for leave accrual under exigent circumstances, such as COVID-19. All restored annual leave must be scheduled and used not later than the end of the leave year ending two years from the year the annual leave was earned after the termination of the current emergency. The normal leave balance service members may carry over each year is 240 hours. However, more hours may be carried over during the current emergency.
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper signed a memorandum today restricting all DOD uniformed and civilian personnel and their families from traveling to, from or through places identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel health notices as Level 3 COVID locations.
The memo is in effect until June 30, though that could change because reviews are taking place every 15 days based on CDC guidance.
The travel restrictions include permanent changes of station and all other official travel, as well as personal leave. Also, flights to or from non-Level 3 countries cannot transit through Level 3 nations.
As of today, the CDC website listed Germany, Italy, Qatar, Afghanistan, South Korea and Japan — countries where large numbers of service members are stationed — as Level 3 locations. Many other countries also are at Level 3.
Numerous exceptions to the travel ban have been made on a case-by-case basis, Donovan said at an April 18 Pentagon news conference, citing exemptions for medical treatment, personal hardship, separation and retirement.
“The coronavirus disease continues to present significant risk to our forces as the DOD considers domestic and overseas personnel travel,” Esper stated in his memorandum. “These movements present the threat of spreading COVID-19 within our ranks and communities. My priorities remain protecting our service members, DOD civilians and families; safeguarding our national security capabilities; and supporting the whole-of-nation response.”
This is not the first time extensions have been granted, officials noted. Special leave accrual of up to 75 days was granted during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, due to long or multiple deployments.
Update to Travel Restrictions
April 20, 2020
Effective today, Secretary Esper approved an extension to the stop move order through June 30 to aid in the further prevention of the spread of COVID-19. While the Department acknowledges that this order will have great impact on our service members and their families who are looking to proceed with their lives, the rapidly changing environment has created significant risks to service members, as the DOD continues personnel movements and travel. The decision was made in order to protect U.S. personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force. The Department now has procedures in place to allow for additional waivers and the resumption of travel for several categories of travelers that were previously suspended, including deployments.
As COVID-19 Crisis Continues, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act Protects Military
April 15, 2020
Active-duty service members and members of the National Guard and Reserve have stepped up to shoulder the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic. They should not be burdened with additional financial worries, and help is available, tailored to their needs.
The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division was created in 1957 by the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957. The act works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of society.
As part of its work, the Civil Rights Division is tasked with enforcing the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which was enacted in 2003. The SCRA is a federal law designed to ease financial burdens on service members during periods of military service.
All active duty military members are covered by the act, including those in the Coast Guard, reserves and National Guard. Commissioned officers in active service of the Public Health Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also covered. The act also provides certain benefits and protections to the families of those on active duty, though Guard and Reserve members not on active duty are not covered.
The act covers issues such as rental agreements, security deposits, prepaid rent, evictions, installment contracts, credit card interest rates, mortgage interest rates, mortgage foreclosures, civil judicial proceedings, automobile leases, life insurance, health insurance and income tax payments.
Under the SCRA, the attorney general is authorized to file a federal lawsuit against any person or entity that engages in a pattern or practice of violating this law. When a lawsuit is filed under the SCRA, the attorney general has the authority to seek monetary damages on behalf of individual service members and has the authority to seek civil penalties, as well as different types of remedies or reliefs.
Service members and their families could become locked into an untenable lease agreement due to a COVID-19 stop-movement order. For example, they might have entered a new lease agreement prior to a permanent-change-of-station move. When the stop-movement order canceled their move, they may now be forced to pay two rents. Under SCRA, service members caught in such a bind can get their second lease terminated.
Additionally, SCRA allows individuals to break a lease when they go onto active duty, if the lease was entered into before going onto active duty. Also, the act allows a service member to terminate a residential lease entered into while in the military, if the member received orders to move to a new assignment or to deploy for a period of at least 90 days.
A service member may seek protection from eviction of rented or leased property under SCRA. The service member or family member who has received notice of an eviction would need to submit a request to the court for protection under the SCRA. If the court finds that the service member’s military duties have materially affected the family’s ability to pay rent in a timely manner, the judge may order a stay, or postponement, of the eviction proceeding for up to three months or make any other just and reasonable order.
Military members may also terminate automobile leases in certain circumstances. Just as residential leases, if a service member enters into an automobile lease before going on active duty, the member may request termination of the lease upon entering active duty. However, for this to apply, the active duty must be for at least 180 continuous days.
If a military obligation has affected a service member’s ability to pay on financial obligations such as credit cards, loans, mortgages and so on, the service member can have the interest rate capped at 6% for the duration of the military obligation. However, the 6% cap applies only to loans entered into prior to active duty, not those signed later.
“Since COVID-19 has come to our shores, active-duty service members and members of the National Guard and Reserve have shouldered new burdens as they work to protect our country,” Eric S. Dreiband, the assistant attorney general with the Civil Rights Division, said in a news release. “We owe it to them to ensure that COVID-19 does not jeopardize their economic livelihood.”
Defense Production Act Contract to Provide 39 Million Masks
April 13, 2020
A Defense Department contract under the Defense Production Act will provide more than 39 million N95 respirator masks over the next 90 days to help in the fight against the coronavirus, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
“This will help ensure our government has the industrial capacity to meet the nation’s needs,” Esper said during a Pentagon news conference today.
Also, he said, a $415 million contract awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency is providing 60 systems that can decontaminate as many as 80,000 N95 respirator masks each day, allowing those masks to be reused.
“This will allow medical professionals to reuse masks up to 20 times and will reduce the nation’s need for new inventory,” Esper said. Six decontamination units have already been delivered to cities including New York; Columbus, Ohio; Boston; Chicago; and Tacoma, Washington, and the rest should be available by early May, he added.
Combined, the 60 systems will allow for the decontamination of some 4.8 million masks each day once they’re all in place. Distribution of those systems will be handled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services, Esper said.
DOD has delivered 10 million of the new N95 masks to FEMA and HHS already, the secretary said, and is prepared to provide 10 million more.
The Defense Department has more than 50,000 service members from all services deployed in support of the fight against the coronavirus, Esper told reporters, with more than 4,000 of those being military doctors, nurses and medical professionals. Around 2,100 of those are now in New York City, including 300 who are in civilian hospitals to relieve civilian medical professionals.
Experience has shown that local hospitals in cities such as New York do, in fact, have the number of beds needed to treat patients, but that medical professionals in those facilities have been overtaxed, Esper said, so that is where the U.S. military is focusing its assistance now.
“What’s obviously become strained, stressed, are these hard-working nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists and everybody who’s been at this now for weeks,” he said. “They’re getting burned out and worn down.” They’re also falling victim to the coronavirus themselves, he added.
“So that’s where we’ve now pivoted in the last week or so — to move our doctors — and we’re doing that now,” Esper said. DOD is moving some doctors off the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, which is docked in New York, and putting them into the New York City hospitals to provide relief, he said.
Meanwhile, Esper said, the department is deploying 14 Army urban augmentation medical task forces to priority regions. Six of those task forces are in New York, three are in New Jersey, two are in Massachusetts, and Connecticut, Michigan and Pennsylvania have one each.
The Navy, he said, now has fully established expeditionary medic medical facilities in New Orleans and Dallas, while the Army Corps of Engineers is constructing 25 alternate care facilities around the nation that are expected to make available an additional 15,500 beds in cities such as New York, Detroit and Chicago. Construction of a 450-bed medical facility in Miami also is being discussed, Esper said.
Growth in DOD Telework Capability May Outlive Coronavirus Pandemic
April 13, 2020
To keep business on track during the fight against coronavirus, the Defense Department has greatly expanded its telework capability with a variety of tools. Once the coronavirus threat has receded, some of those enhancements for telework may continue on in some capacity, DOD’s chief information officer said.
“We are creating a much more robust enhanced teleworking capability, [and] we’ve obviously always had one. What we’ve now done is we’ve just put a multiplier effect into the quantity, the types of services, the collaboration tools, etc.,” Dana Deasy told reporters today at a Pentagon news conference. “So there will be some permanency to what we have here. … There is going to be an enhanced teleworking capability that will be sustained at the end of COVID-19.”
The telework capability that might outlive the pandemic will be related to enhanced network capability, and will also include a larger base of teleworking equipment, Deasy said, but it’s not just limited to technology.
DOD Learns Lessons for Future From Coronavirus Fight
April 13, 2020
“We’ve also just developed some new tactics and techniques that allow us to ramp up quite quickly,” he said, adding that the department had “significant help” from industry partners to support the large numbers of Defense Department employees who are working offsite due to social distancing and stay-at-home orders.
Air Force Lt. Gen. B.J. Shwedo, the Joint Staff’s director for command, control, communications, and computers/cyber and chief information officer, said as many as 4 million DOD military and civilian workers are now teleworking.
The Army, he said, has about 800,000 telework-enabled members on Defense Department networks, and the demand is increasing daily. The Navy, he said, had 100,000 remote workers on its networks before the coronavirus pandemic, and that has more than doubled to 250,000 workers. “Planned improvements in the next two to three weeks will bring the total to 500,000 remote users,” Shwedo said.
The Navy’s use of Outlook Web Access, he said, was at about 10,000 users before the pandemic, and usage may climb to some 300,000 users by the end of the month. The Marine Corps, he said, expects its OWA users to increase from about 70,000 to more than 105,000.
The many telework-enabling tools now available to Department employees are explained at http://public.cyber.mil, Deasy said. One of those, he said, is the “commercial virtual remote” environment that provides collaboration capabilities including video, voice and text.
“CVR was created to support the department during the current large-scale teleworking environment due to the COVID-19 national emergency,” he said. “The tool is just one of several tools available to the workforce and provides remote workers with enhanced collaboration capabilities.”
The rollout for CVR began March 27, and it already has more than 900,000 activated user accounts, Deasy said.
“At one point last week, we added over 250,000 accounts in a single day,” he said. “This is the largest rollout ever implemented in this short amount of time.”
The recently stood-up COVID-19 Telework Readiness Task Force has spearheaded much of the effort to get employees online from home to keep doing their jobs, Deasy said. The task force, he said, focuses on areas such as equipment needs, network capacity, operational readiness, information technology personnel, contracting readiness, supply chain, finance requirements and cybersecurity.
“We meet daily for about two hours to review and address various technical issues and requests as they arise,” he said.
Deasy also said efforts during the coronavirus pandemic are not just related to getting employees online for telework. DOD also is helping on the front lines of the coronavirus fight as well.
In New Orleans, he said, the department provided two field hospitals with a one-gigabyte internet connection, [internet protocol] phones, connectivity between locations and switches to connect it all together.
“A request such as this generally requires months of planning, procuring equipment, and, of course, hiring the teams to install,” he said. “Due to our strong partnership with industry, the job was completed in just one day.”
One effect of increased telework and the coronavirus pandemic has been an increase in “spear phishing” — attempts by malicious actors to compromise target computers.
“I’ll tell you that [with] the insight that we’re receiving, we’re getting better and better at getting their [tactics, techniques and procedures] and finding out where these threat vectors are coming from,” Shwedo said.
DoD Contract for 60 N95 Critical Care Decontamination Units: $415M Contract, Each Unit Can Decontaminate 80K N95 Masks Per Day
April 13, 2020
The Defense Department is “all in” for the fight against COVID-19 and to learn from the experience so the department is better prepared when another pandemic strikes, the Joint Staff’s director of joint force development said.
This is part of DOD’s planning efforts in the Pentagon and elsewhere, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue said last week in an interview with defense reporters.
Members of the directorate are part of the crisis management team working night and day on the DOD’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the general said. “We’re learning as rapidly as we can in the application of this fight, but also any future one,” he added.
In addition to the team at the Pentagon, a “shadow” crisis management team is working at the Joint Staff’s facility in Suffolk, Virginia. That team receives the same information and conclusions that the Pentagon team does, and it can step in for the Pentagon team if necessary, the general said. But that team also is looking beyond the current crisis, he said.
“They’re there for redundancy, … but they’re also the development team,” O’Donohue said. They’re working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services, he told reporters.
The team also is using artificial intelligence, machine learning, visualization tools and more to look for patterns or to give advance notice of possible hotspots, he said.
Both teams are looking for ways to protect the force while allowing the force to do the military missions the American people expect, the general said.
The fight against COVID-19 once again highlights the need for staunch allies and partners, O’Donohue emphasized.
The nature of the pandemic is that it is in different stages in different parts of the world, he noted, and the United States was able to learn from the Italian military. Now, he said, other nations are able to learn from the United States.
“We’re learning from them, as militaries go through the same crisis,” he said. “This crisis, as tragic as it so profoundly is, is exercising us in ways that are relevant, to include cross-learning across allies and partners.”
The crisis also stresses the U.S. government as a whole in ways that training exercises cannot, he said. DOD and other federal agencies have long planned what to do in the event of a pandemic, he explained, but it is different when it’s the real thing.
“The management of relationships, the coordination and complex activity, the whole-of-government approach, decision and information tools, all will be things we need in any fight,” the general said. “The focus is relevance now, and how do we learn and get better and exercise those things in the future that have relevance that endures beyond this crisis.”
O’Donohue said the U.S. military is in a good place for readiness, even with the pandemic forcing cancellation of some exercises. “We came off a really good year in terms of exercises, so we have a good basis and readiness level coming into the crisis,” he said.
The United States also is at a higher readiness level than Russia and China, the nation’s great-power competitors, O’Donohue said. “We have a favorable position and relative advantage,” he added. “One of our competitive advantages against any threat is the quality of the force we have, and educating them with the complexity of the environment that they’re in.
“Education is a key component of our strategic competitive advantage,” he continued. “Expediency [in response to COVID] got us out of the classroom. I think many of the things we’ve learned will be retained and take us where we need to go for the future fight.”
DOD Transporting Vital COVID-19 Medical Supplies to Points of Need
April 13, 2020
Transportation is a key part of the Defense Department’s contributions to the whole-of-government effort in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Transportation Command has moved people and supplies around the world in support of the whole-of-government effort to combat COVID-19, Transcom’s commander said.
Transcom has moved COVID-19 testing supplies to the United States from overseas and has delivered field hospitals in places such as New York and Washington state, Army Gen. Stephen R. Lyons said, coordinating movements with U.S. Northern Command, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The command’s mission is to conduct globally integrated mobility operations, lead the broader joint deployment and distribution enterprise, and provide enabling capabilities to project and sustain the joint force.
Lyons noted his command is also working with the State Department to contract with commercial airlines to repatriate U.S. citizens stranded abroad. To date, Transcom has contracted four flights and coordinated other missions resulting in almost 800 travelers being repatriated in support of State Department efforts.
The National Guard in every state and territory is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. About 29,000 guardsmen have been called up by their governors, according to today’s Defense Department media fact sheet.
Besides supporting communities with testing sites and creating additional medical capability, the Army National Guard and Air National Guard are providing transportation for distribution of food and medical supplies. For example, airmen from the California Air National Guard are transporting 500 state-owned ventilators and medical supplies from California to states in need, including New York.
The Massachusetts National Guard is delivering personal protective equipment to first responders and hospitals throughout the state and providing staff augmentation and meal delivery to the Holyoke Soldiers Home.
The Iowa National Guard transported 280 pallets of medical supplies to 90 of the state’s 100 counties.
The Arizona National Guard recently flew 300 sets of masks and gowns to a medical facility in the Navajo Nation town of Kayenta. The shipment also included some 2,000 gloves for health care workers. Additionally, several dozen guardsmen are working on building an alternate care facility in that area. Additionally, the Arizona Air National Guard delivered 40,000 yards of fabric from North Carolina to Arizona to be made into medical gowns.
Logistic teams from the West Virginia National Guard transported critical personal protective equipment to 55 counties throughout the state. They also delivered 5,500 meals using refrigerated trucks and packed an additional 2,000 meals for distribution.
The Louisiana National Guard, as of April 2, transported more than 360,000 N95 masks, 1.2 million gloves, 300 ventilators and about 50,000 protective suits to testing sites throughout the state.
The Nevada National Guard is organizing and transporting PPE for distribution to hospitals across the state. At the direction of medical professionals, they are also distributing 50 ventilators received from the state of California.
The Defense Logistics Agency manages the global supply chain for the U.S. military and federal agencies.
In West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, getting free school lunches to students who are now at home indefinitely, was a problem. DLA helped arrange the transfer of two former Massachusetts National Guard field ambulance trucks to the city’s school district. The trucks were excess military property, but ran well. The trucks are helping in the meal distribution effort.
DOD Working to Eliminate Foreign Coronavirus Disinformation
April 13, 2020
Under the rubric of “not wasting a good crisis,” Russia, China and others are using the coronavirus pandemic to spread disinformation to further their goals, Pentagon officials said.
The Defense Department is working with the State Department, allies, partners and other agencies to curb this trend, Pentagon officials said in a telephone briefing for reporters last week.
“We’ve seen increasing unity of effort in response to COVID, both within Western democracies, but also across allies and partners, to include terrific sharing of medical lessons learned,” said Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia.
Cooper specifically pointed out instances where the Russian government sought to sow disinformation in the West.
“I think the most pernicious disinformation that we have to contend with is the disinformation that is sowing global … mistrust and confusion,” she said. “These are messages that are endangering global health because they’re undermining the efforts of governments, of health agencies and of organizations that are in charge of disseminating accurate information about the virus to the public.”
An example of this disinformation came to light in March, when Russia Today and Sputnik broadcast that hand-washing was ineffective against coronavirus. Another “alternative news source” in Russia reported that there was no pandemic and that the deaths in Italy were the common flu, she said.
In early January, Russian news outlets broadcast that they had discovered a cure: They hadn’t. Further, they stated that it was really U.S. pharmaceutical companies that were spreading rumors about the virus to drum up business. It wasn’t, Cooper said.
“You can see how they could cause individual citizens to act in ways that contradict good advice that they are being given by public health officials,” Cooper said.
While Russia may be the most egregious culprit, China is also involved in the disinformation process, Chad Sbragia, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for China, told reporters. “In terms of specific disinformation campaigns, the one … that [I] was most concerned with … was the false accusation that COVID-19 began with a U.S. Army service member bringing that to China somehow,” he said. “That was just patently false and, frankly, unhelpful. It’s those kind of activities that we see that are just not what the global environment community needs at this time.”
Given that the virus first appeared in China and that Chinese medical professionals had first-hand experience in how to combat COVID, the United States was disappointed with the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda and disinformation campaign effort to shift responsibility of the pandemic to others — “which was unfounded, futile and really counterproductive,” Sbargia said.
Iran has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, and the Iranian government has also spread disinformation, saying the United States was responsible for the virus.
“We’re seeing a variety of actors around the world who are using COVID-19 to target or blame Western allies, or the United States in particular,” Cooper said. “And I really think … of it as a global disinformation ecosystem where a news item that generates in one part of the world then gets amplified and picked up elsewhere.”
U.S. officials have been exposing this disinformation, Cooper said. “We’re calling on all countries — Russia included — to rein in malign actors that are spreading misleading, disruptive information about the virus,” he added.
Force Health Protection Guidance – Supplement 8
April 13, 2020
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matthew Donovan recently signed the eighth Force Health Protection Guidance. This guidance focuses on the prevention of coronavirus in workplaces. All DOD components will immediately implement appropriate procedures to protect all personnel from disease transmission in DOD workplaces. The department remains aligned with the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Army Deploys Medical Task Forces to Help Hard-Hit Communities
April 11, 2020
The Army has mobilized eight Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces to the East Coast to support the coronavirus relief efforts and curb the spread of disease, senior Army leaders said.
Four task forces travelled to New York City, three are deploying to New Jersey, and one is headed to Connecticut, said Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy. McCarthy discussed the task forces and other measures the Army is taking to combat the COVID-19 pandemic during a media roundtable Friday at the Pentagon.
Army scientists at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland, have been working with researchers from across the globe on COVID-19 vaccines. McCarthy said six possible vaccines have shown the most promise; four are being tested on animals, and two on human subjects. Additionally, two soldiers diagnosed with coronavirus were given an antiviral drug used to treat the Ebola virus, and they successfully recovered, McCarthy said.
”They’re up and walking around,” McCarthy said. ”Obviously, that’s not that substantial of a sample size, but it shows that it can work.”
McCarthy, who met with USAMRDC Commander Brig. Gen. Michael Talley, said the research staff has been working relentlessly to find a viable vaccine.
”If you look across all our lines of operation, our labs are working 24 hours a day in the pursuit of vaccine,” McCarthy said.
To build the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, the Army called up medical professionals from Army Reserve units across the country. The Reserve volunteers were vetted to ensure they were not already engaged in the battle against coronavirus in their own communities, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville.
”We did not want to take medical personnel out of civilian communities where they were actually fighting the virus,” he said.
Each task force consists of 85 people, and each has the capability of providing the same service as a 250-bed hospital, McConville said.
”We went ahead, and we knew that there was going to be a lot of demand for medical professionals,” McConville said. ”…We put together these 15 Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, and they are motivated and ready to go.”
The task forces deployed to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, before moving on to the hospitals where they will augment staff. Some of the units will support patients receiving treatment at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Others will augment community hospitals.
Each task force has 14 physicians – including an infectious disease specialist and four respiratory specialists. In addition, each has 16 medics, 13 nurses, five physician assistants, two dentists, four pharmacists, two clinical psychologists, a psychiatrist, two occupational therapy specialists, four dieticians and 18 other supporting staff.
The task forces are designed to perform low-acuity care, officials said, but they can also test for COVID-19.
The remaining seven task forces are on standby and can be ready to travel within 24 hours once a location is identified by Army North and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, McConville said.
About 25,000 National Guard troops have deployed across the United States and its territories in support of the COVID-19 response. Guardsmen have built mobile COVID-19 test sites to relieve some of the burden of screening emergency room patients for coronavirus at treatment facilities in Miami and Chicago, McCarthy said. He added that the test sites will be able to process thousands of screenings at a faster rate.
”What it does if you go from the screening to the recovery point and the healthcare continuum, it helps create an arm’s reach in the screening … instead of overrunning an emergency room with hundreds of people, which then presents the challenge for health care professionals to not getting sick,” McCarthy said. ”So by going to the (mobile test site), you can have many of these people get diagnosed, they get prescriptions, and they go home as opposed to overwhelming emergency rooms.”
McCarthy said he plans to visit both test sites next week.
First DOD Defense Production Act Title 3 COVID-19 Project
April 11, 2020
Statement attributed to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman:
First DoD Defense Production Act Title 3 COVID-19 project:
$133 million investment will increase U.S. domestic N95 mask production by over 39 million over the next 90 days
“On the evening of April 10, the Department of Defense received approval from the White House Task Force to execute the first DPA Title 3 project responding to COVID-19.
The $133 million project will use these authorities to increase domestic production capacity of N95 masks to over 39 million in the next 90 days.
The increased production will ensure the U.S. Government gets dedicated long term industrial capacity to meet the needs of the nation.
Additional details, including the names of the companies, will be provided in the coming days when the contract is awarded.
For more information on Defense Production Act Title 3, please visit https://www.businessdefense.gov/DPA-Title-III/Overview/.”
Military Medicine on Front Lines of COVID-19 Response
April 10, 2020
Military medicine is at the front lines of the national COVID-19 response, bringing unique and agile expertise and rapidly deployable resources to the fight, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs said.
Thomas McCaffery told Pentagon reporters today that the Defense Department and its Military Health System have mobilized active and reserve components of doctors, nurses and medical technicians to two ships and numerous expeditionary field hospitals around the country to support local health care systems.
McCaffery and other leaders of the Military Health System took reporters’ questions about the military medical sector being in the middle of the COVID-19 battle.
For example, some 30,000 National Guard service members are offering frontline care to community-based testing, distributing personal protective equipment, medical supplies, food and water, all part of the concerted national response to serve and support hard-hit communities, McCaffery said.
For the first time in its more than 40-year history, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences – the military’s own medical school — has graduated nurses and doctors early so they are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, he noted.
The Military Health System also is heavily involved in better understanding the virus, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
“We are putting all the best brains in our military medical research facilities, working in partnership with other federal agencies on future treatments and vaccines,” McCaffery said. “Our research experts are focusing in on diagnostic testing, … [using] robust laboratory networks to perform testing, and pursuing additional types of diagnostic capabilities to include serologic testing to assess the patients’ blood for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies.”
DOD also has invested $75 million to research three vaccine candidates, McCaffery said, adding that the department is collaborating closely with other federal research efforts.
“These medical research teams continue to be at the forefront in support of the whole-of-government response to this pandemic,” he added.
DOD is working hard to ensure its beneficiaries have continued access to the care they need by ramping up virtual health capabilities, establishing drive-up testing sites and putting the right protection measures in place to minimize exposure risk to patients and health care workers, McCaffery emphasized.
The department has expanded its nurse advice telephone line to include over-the-phone screening tools to meet the surge witnessed just weeks ago, he said, noting that it now handles up to 9,000 calls a day from people who need medical consultation.
To reach the advice line, visit the MHS Nurse Advice Line website for web chat and video chat or dial 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273) and choose option 1.
DOD’s medical treatment facilities are putting in place pharmacy drive-throughs and curbside delivery, in some cases up to 1,200 vehicles and patients a day, McCaffery said, “demonstrating our ability to protect our people while also staying mission-ready.”
“At the same time,” he continued, “we haven’t let up supporting combat readiness for service members, even while we’ve surged laboratory and research facilities to support national and international events.”
As it contends with a historic challenge for the nation, McCaffery said, the Military Health System is bringing all it has to bear in the fight from highly trained medical providers and a world-class health care system to cutting-edge research and development expertise in a wide-ranging arsenal.
On military combat capabilities, the system is trained to be agile and adaptable, he said. “That’s why we’re here,” he added. “And that’s what we do across the Military Health System. That’s what you see in action today.”
The men and women serving in the military medical field are delivering today on the front lines of hospitals and clinics, in the labs and behind scenes, advancing the priorities of the department to protect the American people, maintain national readiness and support the nation’s needs, he said.
Despite COVID-19, U.S. Military Remains Ready to Fight
April 9, 2020
The Defense Department is doing a lot to combat the spread of COVID-19 across the nation, but its primary mission — the defense of the nation and its interests — continues unabated, Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist said.
“To those who wish us harm, make no mistake: even with the challenges that this disease has brought to our shores, the Department of Defense stands ready to meet any threat and defend our nation,” Norquist said during a news conference today at the Pentagon. “Over the last four years, we have rebuilt our military from the negative effects of sequestration. We have more people, more advanced equipment, more munitions and are better trained. If our adversaries think this is our moment of weakness, they are dangerously wrong.”
Norquist said DOD support of state and local authorities in the fight against the coronavirus means that DOD people might end up with a higher rate of infection from the virus than other populations. But at the same time, he said, the youthful demographic of the U.S. military means that fewer of those who contract the virus will suffer severe consequences.
According to Defense Department statistics, of the 1,898 current coronavirus cases among active duty service members, only 64 required hospitalization.
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said readiness across the department is where it needs to be.
“We watch the readiness of the force every day. And the readiness of the force, in aggregate, has not dropped as we’ve gone through this,” Hyten said. “That’s something that we have to watch very, very closely.”
While there are “pockets” of degraded readiness across the force, such as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt staying in port in Guam longer than it normally would, the aggregate readiness is unaffected, he said.
What may eventually affect readiness, Hyten said, is a prolonged reduction in numbers of new recruits entering basic training for military service.
“We’ve had to cut down the pipeline into basic training in order to make sure that the folks that go into basic training, go into basic training in a safe, secure way. Each of the services, working in a different way, have constricted the pipeline of folks coming in,” Hyten said. “For a short period of time, that’s not a big issue. If that continues long, then all of a sudden our numbers come down. And that will eventually impact readiness if it goes on month after month after month.”
But for now, Hyten said, “our readiness is still full up.”
Hyten also said the department has some 50,000 personnel involved in the fight against the coronavirus — of those, he said, about 30,000 are from the National Guard and reserves.
The general cited one team of reservists, led by Col. Hans F. Otto at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, as being emblematic of the dedication reservists and Guard members have had since being called up to duty to fight the coronavirus.
“They call themselves the ‘COVID Commandos,'” Hyten said. “Just four days ago, … their team — one doctor and six nurses — packed their bags, said goodbye to their families, [and] deployed to New York with 24 hours’ notice. … There’s been thousands of stories like that since the president mobilized the reserve [March 27].”
Across the department, military doctors, nurses and enlisted medical professionals are leaving home to deploy to places across the country to aid civilian doctors and protect the nation, the general said.
“They’re moving fast to help their fellow citizens in a time of crisis,” he added. “They’re helping to support the heroic doctors and nurses already there who are tired and have been fighting that disease for the last few weeks, and they need support. That’s what they’re there for. And that’s just a few examples of the sacrifice that citizen airmen and citizen soldiers are making from all units in order to fight and improve the lives of Americans.”
DOD Ramps Up COVID-19 Response Efforts From Coast to Coast
April 8, 2020
The coronavirus pandemic is slowing down a lot of things, but not the Defense Department’s medical apparatus, which is now operating from coast to coast to bring its medical expertise and capacity to bear on the medical crisis around the nation.
In Seattle, the Army’s 627th and 47th Field Hospitals are now fully operational and maintain a 250-bed medical treatment facility at the CenturyLink Events Center.
“We have an important mission,” Army Col. Hope Williamson-Younce, commander of the 627th Hospital Center, said last week as the facilities in Seattle were set up. “We are expeditionary, we’re agile, and we’re responsive. We have medical doctors, nurses and support staff from all over the world. They mobilized in a moment’s notice to support the American people.”
In California, the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived at port in Los Angeles 12 days ago and started accepting patients just two days later.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our crew for all the hard work they did to get us here and ready in such a short time,” said Navy Capt. (Dr.) John Rotruck, the Mercy Military Treatment Facility’s commanding officer.
The Mercy has treated 28 patients so far and currently has 11 beds occupied. If the situation in Los Angeles is anything like that in New York, where the hospital ship USNS Comfort is aiding the effort, then the number of patients aboard the Mercy will start to rise as local hospitals learn about DOD’s capabilities.
Army Maj. Gen. William A. Hall, commander of Joint Task Force Civil Support in New York, said better communication between DOD medical professionals now operating in New York City and local civilian medical providers there have helped with that level of understanding, so the Comfort’s patient count has gone up.
In New York, considered by many as the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States, DOD is working hard to crush the spread of the virus. A Pentagon news release said today that the department is “aggressively pursuing a three-pronged effort in New York City.”
That effort involves augmentation of area hospitals with military medical professionals, the Comfort being expected to eventually have 500 patient beds, and the standing up of a medical care facility at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Both the Comfort and the Javits Center are now taking on patients with COVID-19. The Comfort has treated 58 patients so far, while the Javits Center is currently treating 104 patients.
More military service medical professionals are also arriving in or headed to New York and the surrounding region each day. Eight Army urban augmentation task forces began deploying yesterday, with four going to the Javits Center, three headed to the New Jersey Exposition Center, and one to conduct operations in Stamford, Connecticut.
An additional 775 Air Force and Navy medical personnel arrived yesterday at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, about 60 miles south of Manhattan, and will continue their movement to New York City to support relief operations there.
On the Gulf Coast, a Navy expeditionary medical facility is now operational at the Ernest M. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans and has started medical operations with the treatment of 19 patients. Also in Louisiana, the National Guard is managing multiple food banks across the state and is distributing more than 134,000 pounds of food at five locations.
In other states, nearly 24,000 National Guardsmen are joining the fight against the coronavirus as requested by their governors. Those citizen soldiers and airmen are focused on supporting community-based testing sites, creating additional medical capacity and providing logistical support such as transportation and distribution of medical supplies and food.
In Connecticut, Guard units are expanding hospital capacity across the state with a focus on creating space for non-COVID patients to be seen. In Georgia, guardsmen are deploying infection control teams to nursing homes, assisting staff with cleaning facilities and training on proper cleaning methods to prevent the spread of disease. In New Hampshire, guardsmen are supporting 14 alternate care sites with about 1,700 beds.
Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said that in addition to providing personnel to directly work with COVID-19 patients and to bring relief to communities where needed, DOD is one of many agencies and businesses working on the medical science side to find a cure for COVID-19.
“While the DOD emergency science efforts don’t physically touch New York, they are taking place in our labs around the country,” he said. “U.S. military researchers are at the forefront of vaccine and therapeutic development.”
Hoffman said the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases began non-human primate vaccine testing April 6.
Defense Health Official Urges Personnel, Families to Wear Face Masks
April 7, 2020
Defense Department personnel and their families — military and civilian — are urged to wear face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, a Defense Health Agency official said.
“The Department of Defense urges individuals on DOD property, installations and facilities to wear cloth face coverings when a 6-foot social distance cannot be maintained to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Cameron J.L. Nelson, chief of DHA’s occupational medicine branch, said, noting that this complies with guidance disseminated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“This guidance is especially important for families and others who may need to go out in public to perform essential tasks, such as food shopping,” he added.
The face-covering mask can be fashioned from simple household items such as a clean T-shirt or cloth, as demonstrated in CDC’s do-it-yourself guide.
Because surgical face masks and other personal protective equipment are in short supply in the health care arena across the United States, the CDC advises that homemade cloth face coverings should:
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face;
- Be secured with ties or ear loops;
- Include multiple layers of fabric;
- Allow for breathing without restriction; and
- Be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to the shape.
CDC officials say cloth face coverings are especially critical in areas of significant community-based transmission.
Using a simple cloth face covering not only can slow the spread of COVID-19, but also can help those who could unknowingly have the virus from spreading it to others, the CDC said.
Cloth face coverings should not be placed on children younger than age 2, on anyone who has trouble breathing or who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance, the CDC advises.
Cloth face coverings should be washed routinely in a washing machine, CDC authorities said.
When removing a used face cloth covering, the CDC says people should use caution and not touch their eyes, nose or mouth, and immediately wash their hands after taking the covering off.
The CDC emphasizes that its recommendation on face cloth coverings complements, and does not replace, the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America, 30 Days to Slow the Spread, which remains the cornerstone of the national effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
CDC officials will make additional recommendations as the evidence for appropriate public-health measures continues to develop.
“Everyone must do their part to protect themselves and their families,” Nelson said.
DOD Guidance on the Use of Cloth Face Coverings
April 6, 2020
Secretary Esper issued guidance to the workforce on April 5 on the use of cloth face coverings. Effective immediately, all individuals on DoD property, installations, and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers. This guidance applies to all service members, DOD civilians, contractors, families (apart from residences on installations) and all other individuals on DOD property. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.
Death of National Guardsman From COVID-19
March 30, 2020
A New Jersey Army National Guardsman passed away on Saturday. The individual had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been hospitalized since March 21.
“Today is a sad day for the Department of Defense as we have lost our first American service member – active, reserve or Guard – to Coronavirus,” said Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. “This is a stinging loss for our military community, and our condolences go out to his family, friends, civilian co-workers and the entire National Guard community. The news of this loss strengthens our resolve to work ever more closely with our interagency partners to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Starting in January the Department of Defense has adopted dramatic mitigation measures to protect service members, civilian employees, contractors and their families from Coronavirus. These include mandating social distancing, termination of certain work and training activities and providing testing and care for our community members.
Corps of Engineers Teams Evaluate Sites as Possible Alternate Care Facilities
March 30, 2020
At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teams are evaluating facilities for possible conversion into alternate care facilities as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Tulsa District has assembled field assessment teams tasked with evaluating existing sites and are working closely with FEMA and with state and local partners to best facilitate a quick response should the need arise to have additional alternate care facilities opened, officials said.
“We are here to solve our nation’s greatest engineering challenges. We are committed to serving the citizens of our three states and doing what we can to get through this crisis,” said Army Col. Scott Preston, Tulsa District commander.
Nationwide, the Corps of Engineers has received eight FEMA mission assignments totaling about $1.1 billion and has engaged 15,000 personnel in the response effort.
Information pertaining to specifications and implementation of the alternate care sites is available at https://www.usace.army.mil/Coronavirus/Alternate-Care-Sites/.
Contractors with experience in build-out or retrofit of arenas, convention centers, dorms, hotels and similar buildings into alternate care space can send capability statements to: [email protected]. Officials emphasized that this email address is only for capability statements for firms interested in the build-out and retrofit of existing space into alternate care facilities.
Other vendors — such as for cleaning and disinfecting services, supplies, etc. — should register their firm at https://www.beta.SAM.gov to become part of the National Disaster Response Registry.
During emergencies the Army Corps of Engineers is the federal government’s lead public works and engineering support agency. Its extensive work in building medical facilities for its military stakeholders makes the organization uniquely qualified to tackle this engineering challenge, officials said.
(Brannen Parrish is assigned to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District.)
COVID-19 Data Reporting Guidance
March 30, 2020
Attributed to Department of Defense Press Secretary Alyssa Farah:
“As we continue to grapple with the novel nature of COVID19, we are constantly assessing and adapting not only how we respond to combating the virus, but also how we share critical public health information with our communities. Therefore, the Department of Defense has issued department-wide guidance to ensure continued public reporting of cases of COVID19 positive DOD personnel through the responsible military service. The services will each provide a daily public update. Additionally, the Department of Defense will continue to offer a public daily update of the full number of cases in all services and of civilians, contractors and dependents.
In keeping with our commitment to transparency, we will assiduously continue to make the public aware of the presence of any potential new COVID-19 outbreaks within our base communities. Base commanders are instructed to continue to work with local community health officials to share information on base community cases. As we confront this growing crisis, and out of a concern for operational security with regard to readiness, we will not report the aggregate number of individual service member cases at individual unit, base or Combatant Commands. We will continue to do our best to balance transparency in this crisis with operational security.”
For more information about the DOD response to COVID-19, visit this page.
Partnering With the U.S. Defense Industrial Base to Combat COVID-19
March 28, 2020
Statement attributed to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman:
“The Department continues to aggressively partner with the defense industry to mitigate impacts from the COVID-19 national emergency.
Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord’s Acquisition and Sustainment leaders in Industrial Policy, Defense Pricing and Contracting, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the Defense Contracting Management Agency (DCMA) continue to work closely with the military services, the Hill and State Governors to make significant progress supporting the whole of government effort to combat COVID-19.
This week DLA modified an existing contract for the procurement of 8,000 ventilators from four vendors worth an estimated $84.4 million. This will be a time-phased delivery over the next several months and we expect orders to begin shipment within the next few days, with 1400 being delivered by early May. Delivery locations will be determined by FEMA.
In addition, DLA’s support to the Navy’s hospital ships, the USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy, includes over $2 million in pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, 975,000 gallons of fuel, as well as food and repair parts. These New York City and Los Angeles deployments respectively will help local medical systems by helping alleviate strain on civilian medical infrastructure.
DTRA has helped deliver six C-17 (military air) shipments, totaling 3 million COVID-19 test kit swabs, to support U.S. medical professionals testing needs. DTRA will continue to work with U.S. Transportation Command to support future deliveries. Future flights starting next week will increase test kit amounts significantly in the months ahead.
The Department has processed several hundred contracts and orders related to COVID activities, including everything ranging from transportation, communication to medical supplies. DCMA is implementing a mass modification to approximately 1,500 contracts to raise the limits on progress payments from to 90% for large businesses, and to 95% for small businesses.
This will provide immediate cash flow to industry, especially small businesses in the supply chain, once incorporated into the contract. The department has a high expectation level that prime companies are also ensuring cash flow is moving to small businesses in their respective supply chains.
The department continues to partner with industry to retool and remission production lines to manufacture masks, gowns, ventilators and other critical personal protective equipment.
The industrial policy defense trade associations calls continue, and the department held its first defense industry small business call today. Industrial Policy’s Small Business Office, and the military service small business offices, were on the line to provide updates and receive feedback, and continue to work with the Small Business Administration and their small business emergency loan program to help protect these companies.
The Joint Acquisition Task Force is integrated within FEMA’s National Coordination Center, and will help communicate demand signals for medical products to industry. It will also help identify areas of fragility in the defense industrial base, and to help develop capacity.
The department will continue to leverage its traditional DPA Title authorities to support the industrial base and the national emergency, but to date, DOD has not executed any DPA efforts that fall under Executive Order 13909 the President issued on March 18, 2020.
The department is using the Defense Acquisition University to help keep the 140,000 acquisition professionals updated.
Under Secretary Lord remains very grateful and proud of the 140,000 strong acquisition workforce, who continue to selflessly support efforts to combat COVID-19.”
- DOD: https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/
- Defense Contracting Management Agency: https://www.dcma.mil/
- Industrial Policy: https://www.businessdefense.gov/coronavirus/
- Defense Pricing and Contracting: https://www.acq.osd.mil/dpap/pacc/cc/COVID-19.html#EAFandNIA_Code
- Defense Acquisition University: https://www.dau.edu/
Department of Defense Statement on the use of National Guard Forces Under Title 32 Section 502(f)
March 28, 2020
“On Friday, Secretary Esper modified and accelerated the process for how the Department of Defense authorizes the use of National Guard forces under Title 32 Section 502(f).
The modification creates a conditional pre-authorization in response to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requests that ensures quicker federal funding for State National Guard forces mobilizing to aid in whole-of-government COVID-19 response efforts.
“This authorization enables your timely use of the National Guard to save lives and protect public health and safety,” Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper said in a letter to each Governor sent Friday night. “The men and women of the National Guard are Citizen-Soldiers who stand ready to serve their communities as we fight COVID-19.”
The authorization is subject to several conditions:
- The States and territories or FEMA must identify specific requirements for COVID-19 support in accordance with the Stafford Act.
- For requirements originating from the States and territories, these requests must be submitted to FEMA
- FEMA then provides the Department of Defense with a fully reimbursable mission assignment.
Noting that FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center is the single point of entry for all requests for assistance, Secretary Esper told the governors that DOD will immediately approve requests meeting these conditions.
This action is one more measure the Department of Defense is taking to assist our interagency partners in the effort to check the advance of COVID-19.”
–attributable to Jonathan Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs
Army Corps of Engineers Creates Alternative Care Facilities
March 27, 2020
Though the Army Corps of Engineers has done important work in the past seven days related to the coronavirus pandemic, transforming buildings into hospitals in the next two to three weeks is more important, the commander of the Corps said.
Army Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite called it a “very complicated situation” during a Pentagon news conference today.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave the Corps of Engineers a mission assignment for planning and site assessments of alternate care facilities in response to the COVID-19 virus.
“As I’ve been saying all week, there’s no way we can solve this with a complicated solution,” the general said. “We needed a very, very simplistic solution. So we went in and designed four types of facilities.”
Compartmentalized rooms in hotels and dormitories are harder for doctors and nurses to staff without an open area where one or two nurses can see 20 people at once, he said. “But what we’re seeing in the last week is most of the cities in the states want to go to a wider area, where they can have more people in a population, … probably 30 or 40, in kind of a node,” he said.
When he spoke to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the past week, Semonite said, the governor told him one building is needed. “By the end of the day, we probably need three buildings by tomorrow night. We need seven or eight buildings,” the general said.
New York’s Javits Center, a convention venue, is one such facility-turned-hospital.
The Corps of Engineers is working side by side with FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services and local governments, the general said, stressing that it’s a team effort that involves talking with mayors and state officials to determine what works best for each area.
The Corps wants to be able to tailor a solution that works best for a given city or a given state, he explained.
The Javits Center is probably the best example, Semonite said. “What is nice about using a permanent facility is that you have all the infrastructures there. … We’re going into these facilities that already have electricity. They already have water. They have all the fire protection. They have all of the driveways open. They have all the capability they need. … The Javits Center is an amazing facility.”
Semonite said every 10 feet in a convention center, there’s a big steel door, cold water, hot water and a place for sewers. “So you can actually do things like sinks right in the middle of a convention center,” he said.
The whole-of-government COVID-19 response includes the FEMA hospitals and HHS doctors, the general said. “And [Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper] has sent Army field hospitals to be able to augment the staff, so the whole team is working side by side.”
Today, the Corps is looking at 114 facilities in 50 states and five territories that they’ve assessed, Semonite said.
“We’ve already got contracts, and we’re cutting contracts every night to be able to get contractors to be able to come into the facilities,” he told reporters. “[And] I want to continue to stress [the] standard design validated by the federal government, which is then passed down through states and cities to sites.”
It’s a new experience for the Corps of Engineers, Semonite noted. “We’ve never done a pandemic before,” he said.
Army Leaders Detail Efforts Against Coronavirus
March 26, 2020
Army leaders detailed how the service is deploying field hospitals to New York and Seattle, and what the Army is doing to ensure its missions continue.
Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville and others briefed reporters at the Pentagon today on steps the service is taking in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. They spoke about force health protection, coronavirus testing and how the service maintains its combat effectiveness.
The Army has also reached out to retired personnel who have the qualifications to help in the fight against COVID-19.
The Army has 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — 100 are soldiers, 64 are civilian employees, 65 are dependents, nine are cadets and 50 are Army contractors.
McConville said that the service is rushing two field hospitals to the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.
The 531st Army Hospital from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 9th Army Hospital from Fort Hood, Texas, received orders to deploy to New York City on March 23.
“The advance party is on the ground as I speak. The main body will arrive at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, tomorrow,” the chief said. They will set up at the Javits Center in New York this weekend, and they will be operational for non-COVID-19 patients beginning March 30.
This means around 600 soldiers will be deploying to New York. They bring enough equipment for 284 beds, but since the facilities are being provided by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the number of beds will be much greater.
About 300 soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital from Fort Carson, Colorado, will deploy to Seattle. Soldiers are coordinating with state and local authorities and conducting a site survey of the CenturyLink Field and a state fairground. A location decision is pending, the general said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is operating in all states, territories and possessions, McConville said. The Corps is assisting FEMA and state authorities. The engineers are on the ground conducting site assessments for alternate care facilities.
More than 10,000 National Guard soldiers are supporting COVID-19 pandemic response efforts in communities in every state across the nation, the Army chief of staff said. Their missions are purely humanitarian and disaster relief — not policing.
“When we look at our soldiers across the 54 states, territories and District of Columbia, we are there to really protect our communities, not to police them, and we have no forecast or any planning taking place and we are not aware of any mission set to go down that way,” said Army Lt. Gen. Dan Hoskinson, the chief of the Army National Guard.
The Army directed commanders around the world to raise the health protection condition from Bravo to Charlie. This move gives commanders more authority to control access to bases. For immediate response forces, the health protection level was raised to Delta.
The Army also has to be ready to respond to global situations, even in the middle of a pandemic. “We’re continuing to train mission essential personnel,” McConville said. “But really, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to balance protecting the force so we can protect the nation.”
Each Army commander is looking at their critical missions to determine what training they need, the chief said. “There are soldiers that need to perform critical functions around the world, and they will continue to do that based on the commander’s assessment of the threat to the force and the threat to the mission,” he said.
Fact Sheet: COVID-19 Military Personnel, Pay, and Benefits Policy
March 26, 2020
(1) ALTERNATE PLACES OF DUTY AND TELEWORK
Q1.1: I am unable to report to duty with my unit because my wife has tested positive for COVID-19, and I was told to stay home. Will I be given leave to care for her?
A1.1: You should discuss this issue with your chain of command, who may be able to provide you with options based upon your specific circumstances. Potential options you may wish to discuss with them include: leave, designation of an alternate place of duty, and telework.
Q1.2: Why haven’t all military members been told to stay home instead of coming in for duty?
A1.2: The military must still perform all essential missions, but military commanders have been given guidance to apply leave and liberty policies liberally to the maximum extent while continuing to ensure they can fulfill these missions. Military commanders have broad authority to assign members to alternate places of duty, such as a member’s residence or government quarters, which could include allowing members to care for family members. Military commanders can also authorize members to perform duties remotely if possible.
Q1.3: Is telework an option for military members?
A1.3: Yes, telework-ready military members, who can perform appropriate military duties remotely, may be assigned to an alternate duty location in their residence or government quarters. Military commanders will determine those members who can work remotely and assign appropriate duties. Not every military member is able to telework, and it is up to the discretion of each commander to determine how to effectively utilize telework. In certain circumstances, you may be ordered to telework and will not be given the option of reporting for duty at your regular duty location. You should check with chain of command for specific guidance on who is authorized to telework and who must report for duty at the primary duty location.
Q1.4: I am unable to telework from home because my job is to perform maintenance on helicopters. What do I do if I am potentially exposed to COVID-19 and need to stay home?
A1.4: Members who are sick should notify the chain of command and seek medical attention, as appropriate. The commander will make a decision whether or not to order you into restriction of movement for self-monitoring. An inability to perform traditional “telework” is not a barrier to complying with restriction of movement orders. Your commander has authority to assign you to an alternate place of duty, which could include your residence, during a period you are ordered to restriction of movement for self-monitoring.
(2) BASIC ALLOWANCE FOR SUBSISTENCE FOR ENLISTED MEMBERS
Q2.1: Will Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) stop if I start receiving food (room service) from the government dining facility while under self-monitoring?
A2.1: No, your BAS should not stop but you will likely have to pay for those meals under the dining rate rules, unless granted an exception to policy by your commander.
Q2.2: If I am self-monitoring at home, can I get Basic Allowance for Subsistence Level II (BAS II) instead of BAS?
A2.2: Generally, no. BAS II (i.e., twice the monthly rate) may be authorized for those members ordered to lodging that cannot store food, which in turn requires the member to get his or her meals from a commercial source. BAS II may only be authorized for an individual in these circumstances if it is uniformly authorized for all enlisted members in similar situations at the same installation or in the same geographic area.
Q2.3: If I am self-monitoring at my house (or any non-government provided facility such as a hotel) and would normally have my BAS auto-deducted because I eat at a government dining facility, can I stop the auto-deduction?
A2.3: Yes, but only if your meals are not being provided by the government. Isolated members who are given “room service” from the government facility should have those meals deducted from their BAS as they would normally do.
Q2.4: I am an officer, will my Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) change?
A2.4: No, BAS for officers is not changed at this time.
(3) FAMILY SEPARATION HOUSING
Q3.1: If my dependent is not authorized concurrent travel on my PCS orders to my new duty station because of the travel restrictions, am I eligible to receive a second basic allowance for housing allowance?
A3.1: Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) at the new duty station and Family Separation Housing Allowance (FSH) will be authorized if ALL of the following conditions are met:
- government quarters are not available at the new duty station,
- the member has obtained private-sector housing, and
- the dependent does not reside at or near the new permanent duty station.
Q3.2: How much do I get if I am eligible for Family Separation Housing Allowance (FSH) in the U.S.?
A3.2: You will continue to receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) at the “with-dependent” rate for your dependent’s location or the old permanent duty station (whichever is more equitable). Additionally, FSH will be paid in a monthly amount equal to the “without-dependent” BAH rate applicable to your paygrade for the new permanent duty station.
Q3.3: If my dependent visits me at my new duty station, will I continue to receive Family Separation Housing (FSH)?
A3.3: Your FSH will continue uninterrupted while your dependent visits at or near the new duty station, but the visit cannot exceed 90 continuous days. If, for unforeseen reasons, such as illness or another emergency, a visit lasts 91 or more days, FSH stops at the end of the 90-day period. FSH is authorized again on the day the dependent depart from the permanent duty station. If one or more, but not all, dependents visit for longer than 90 days and you are authorized a with-dependent housing allowance on behalf of the dependents who are not visiting or do not reside in the vicinity of your PDS, then FSH will continue uninterrupted.
(4) FAMILY SEPARATION ALLOWANCE (FSA)
Q4.1: I have been hospitalized at a medical facility near my permanent duty station and near where my dependents live. I am unable to see them. Am I eligible for Family Separation Allowance (FSA)?
A4.2: No, unfortunately Family Separation Allowance (FSA) is not authorized in this situation.
Q4.3: My command ordered me into restriction of movement for self-monitoring near my permanent duty station and I am unable to return to be with my family even though we live nearby. Am I eligible for Family Separation Allowance (FSA)?
A4.3: No, unfortunately Family Separation Allowance (FSA) is not authorized in this situation. You may be eligible for other benefits, such as Hardship Duty Pay – Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM) depending on where you are ordered to self-monitor (see Section 7).
Q4.4: I am away from my family on TDY and not allowed to return because of the stop movement order? I was receiving Family Separation Allowance – Temporary (FSA-T). Will that continue?
A4.4: Yes, FSA-T will continue until the TDY ends, as long as the total length of the separation is 30 days or more.
Q4.5: I am currently in the middle of a permanent change of station (PCS) move. As a result of the stop movement order, I am separated from my dependents and expect to be separated from them for an extended period of time. Am I eligible for FSA?
A4.5: Yes. Members who are separated during the PCS process, where a member is at the original or new duty location, but the dependents are at the other, should receive Family Separation Allowance – Restricted (FSA-R) if the directed separation lasts longer than 30 days. If the separation lasts longer than 30 days, FSA-R will start and will apply retroactively.
(5) PER DIEM ALLOWANCES WHILE ISOLATED OR AWAITING TRAVEL
Q5.1: I was ordered in to self-monitoring after I returned from official government travel. What benefits are available to me?
A5.1: The Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) was updated to provide guidance on per diem allowances that are impacted by COVID-19. This website is a helpful source of information: https://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/news_Coronavirus.cfm
Q5.2: We are in the middle of a permanent change of station (PCS), but our travel was halted after I checked out of my command. How do I pay for lodging and meals?
A5.2: You will likely be eligible for per diem while awaiting transportation to cover lodging, meals, and incidental expenses. You will want to communicate with both your detaching command and your gaining command about your situation while awaiting travel.
Q5.3: I was ordered to self-isolate while in the middle of temporary duty travel for official duty. What will happen when my TDY orders are supposed to end?
A5.3: If you are ordered into restriction of movement for self-monitoring at a TDY location, your command may authorize continued TDY travel and transportation allowances. Your TDY orders should be modified to extend the TDY assignment to cover the period of self-monitoring, allowing your per diem and travel allowances to continue until you can return to your permanent duty station.
(6) HOUSEHOLD GOODS SHIPMENTS
Q6.1: I was supposed to move my household goods next week. Will that still happen?
A6.1: No, if the actual move has not commenced (i.e., HHG has not been packed-out/picked up from the residence), the responsible Personal Property Office will suspend or reschedule the shipment and inform the members their shipment will be rescheduled to a later date.
(7) HARDSHIP DUTY PAY – RESTRICTION OF MOVEMENT
Q7.1: I have heard about this new pay called HDP-ROM. What is that?
A7.1: Hardship Duty Pay – Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM) is a newly-authorized pay that compensates service members for the hardship associated with being ordered to self-monitor in isolation (i.e., restriction of movement) somewhere other than at their home or a government-funded lodging facility. HDP-ROM is only payable in situations in which the member remains assigned to the same permanent duty station; it is not payable when a member is isolated while on official travel or Permanent Change of Station (PCS). For allowances payable while on travel or PCS, see Section 5.
Q7.2: I haven’t been feeling well and am worried that I may have Coronavirus. I don’t want to infect my family and friends. Can I just isolate myself at a hotel and then request HDP-ROM to defray the cost?
A7.2: No, HDP-ROM may only be paid in the case were your commander (in conjunction with military or civilian health care providers) determines that you are required to self-monitor and orders you to do so away from your existing residence at a location not provided by or funded by the government.
Q7.3: I have been ordered to restriction of movement for self-monitoring because I recently returned home from travel during which I may have come in contact with someone infected by COVID-19. I have spent the past two weeks alone in my personal residence. When will I receive my Hardship Duty Pay – Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM) payment?A7.3: Although you have been ordered to restriction of movement for self-monitoring, you have been allowed to do so at home in your personal residence. You receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) for your residence. Therefore, you are not eligible for HDP-ROM.
Q7.4: I am in the middle of a PCS move and just checked out of my old command. But, now I was ordered to stay at my old duty station as a part of the stop-movement. Am I eligible for HDP-ROM?
A7.4: No, however you will likely be eligible to receive per diem while awaiting transportation. See Section 5 or check with your personnel office.
Q7.5: I just returned from a deployment and transited through a CDC THN Level 3 country. I am required to self-monitor but don’t want to potentially expose my dependents. Am I eligible for HDP-ROM?
A7.5: Your commander may order you to self-isolate from your family who did not travel to the CDC Level 3 country and are not currently affected by COVID-19. If no on-post government facilities (e.g. barracks, dorms) or government-funded lodging (e.g., government contract off-post hotel rooms) are available and you are required to incur additional costs for lodging, which are neither reimbursed nor defrayed by any other source, you are eligible for Hardship Duty Pay – Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM). You will receive a taxable payment of $100 per day, not to exceed $1,500 per month. HDP-ROM compensates you for the hardship incurred from being ordered by your command to restrict your movements and self-monitor under conditions where you incur lodging costs.
Q7.6: I just returned from deployment and am not required to self-monitor. However, we think one of my dependents was exposed to COVID-19 while I was gone. If I return to my residence, I will also be exposed. Am I eligible for HDP-ROM?
A7.6: Your commander may order you to restrict your contact with your potentially exposed dependents. If no on-post government facilities (e.g., barracks, dorm) or government-funded lodging (e.g., government contract off-post hotel rooms) are available and you are required to incur additional costs for lodging, which are neither reimbursed nor defrayed by any other source, you are eligible for Hardship Duty Pay – Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM). You will receive a taxable payment of $100 per day, not to exceed $1,500 per month. HDP-ROM compensates you for the hardship incurred from being ordered by your command to restrict your movements to isolate you from your family under conditions where you incur lodging costs.
Q8.1: Can I still take the ordinary leave that was previously approved?
A8.1: Yes, but only in your local area. Military members who already have leave scheduled are still able to take leave; however, current restrictions limit military members to taking leave in the local area.
Q8.2: If I traveled to a location away from my permanent duty station and am required to self-monitor for 14 days, will I be charged extra leave?
A8.2: Not necessarily. If you become ill or are required to self-monitor, you should alert your chain of command immediately. Depending upon your circumstances, your command may place you in a different leave or duty status for the duration of your illness or period of self-monitoring.
Q8.3: I am worried about exceeding my 60 days of leave and losing it because of this crisis. What can I do?
A8.3: It is too early to determine how long the crisis will last or what the long-term effects on your leave benefits may be. We expect to revisit the limitation on carrying forward more than 60 days of leave toward the end of the summer. In the meantime, your command may still authorize you to take leave as long as you remain in the local area.
Q8.4: Can I take emergency leave to travel and care for my parents or another relative in another state?
A8.4: Possibly, but that will need to be authorized by your chain of command. Except in very limited circumstances, leave may only be taken within your local area. However, exceptions may be authorized in compelling cases where the travel is: (1) determined to be mission-essential; (2) necessary for humanitarian reasons; or (3) warranted due to extreme hardship.
(9) RESERVE SPECIFIC GUIDANCE
Q9.1: I am a member of the Reserves. Will my annual training be cancelled?
A9.1: The reserve components have broad discretion to reschedule, cancel, or determine other ways for Reserve and National Guard members to complete training requirements. Recommend checking with your specific unit or military commander for guidance.
Q9.2: How can reservists and Guard members continue to perform duty if their units are cancelling unit assemblies and drill weekends?
A9.2: There are options for use of alternate duty locations for performance of some reserve and National Guard duties in lieu of performing duty at the primary drill location. Where possible, military commanders will issue guidance to continue performing certain Reserve and National Guard duties via alternate duty locations. In situations that do not allow alternate duty locations, commanders will reschedule Inactive Duty Training (IDT) or grant authorized absences for the period in which drilling is limited. Commanders will need to be mindful of the minimum service requirements each member of the Reserve and National Guard needs to perform to achieve a creditable year of service toward retirement, and considerate of the anniversary dates for their members.
(10) ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Q10.1: Where can I go for more information?
A10.1: These websites provide important information on DoD’s response to COVID-19:
Service members and their families are encouraged to call Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647 and consult https://www.militaryonesource.mil/coronavirus for information and referrals to helpful resources. Military OneSource is available 24/7/365 and is also accessible via phone outside the United States at no cost to the caller (see https://www.militaryonesource.mil/international-calling-options for details).
Nearly 10,000 Guardsmen Called Up for COVID-19 Response
March 25, 2020
Nearly 10,000 National Guardsmen called up across the United States, with more expected soon, are performing a variety of missions in response to COVID-19 pandemic response efforts.
Some are even federally funded, though they remain under the control of their respective state governors, but none of those Guardsmen are involved in law or quarantine enforcement, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said.
“There’s no discussion, … there’s no plan to use the National Guard in Title 32 or state active duty status or in any other status to do quarantine [enforcement] or enforce shelter-in-place operations,” Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said during a telephone news conference today.
Though it’s possible the National Guard could be used in such a capacity if governors ask the Guard to do so, the general said, that has not happened.
“Once again, [there is] no plan to use the National Guard in any kind of large-scale lockdown capacity of the United States of America,” Lengyel told reporters.
Rather, he said, guardsmen who have been called up are providing transportation, command and control functions, engineering, and planning and logistics throughout the country. In 12 states, he added, Guard members are also either directly administering tests or supporting medical professionals in their efforts. In Arizona, he said, some Guard members are even helping to keep the supply chain afloat for their local communities.
“They’ve got trucks showing up at stores [with] nobody to unload the trucks,” he said. “In some cases, they’re using National Guard members to … assist, if you will, that supply chain, to keep products available to people in the community.”
Lengyel said the federal government is helping out by providing funding to the National Guard at some locations in the United States.
“The president recently approved 100% federal funding for the National Guard in some of the hardest hit states: Washington, New York and California,” he said. That funding, he said, doesn’t mean those Guardsmen are now under federal control. Those Guardsmen remain in support of their governor.
“[The president] left control of the National Guard to the governors and the adjutant generals, who are the people who know best how to apply these resources and people to fix problems in their states,” Lengyel said.
The general said that as the number of Guardsmen called up increases by as many as 1,000 a day, the military and civilian experience inherent in the National Guard will prove that those citizen soldiers and airmen are ideal candidates to assist in combating COVID-19.
“Our combined combat and civilian-acquired skills helps to create a blueprint for an ideal military component capable of addressing a myriad of challenges presented by this COVID-19 response,” he said. “If you need us to drive trucks, fly planes, be mechanics, or plan large response efforts, the National Guard is able to adapt to whatever mission the governor may need us to.”
Navy Officials Announce 3 COVID-19 Cases Aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt
March 24, 2020
Three sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt underway in the Pacific Ocean were diagnosed with COVID-19 and were evacuated from the ship, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly said.
“We’ve identified all the folks they’ve had contact with, and we’re quarantining them as well,” Modly said at a Pentagon news conference today, where he appeared with Navy Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations. “This is an example of how we are able to keep our ships deployed at seas and underway, even with active COVID-19 cases. Our force remains on watch throughout the world [during] this crisis, and they’re continuing to execute their primary mission under the National Defense Strategy.”
Navy ships are sailing, Navy planes are flying, and training is still happening to safeguard U.S. national interests and those of the nation’s allies and partners around the world, Modly said.
In the meantime, the hospital ship USNS Mercy deployed 1,128 military personnel and civilians yesterday to Los Angeles in support of the nation’s COVID-19 efforts, providing a spectrum of medical care, including critical and urgent care for adults, he said. The Mercy was off the coast of California today and should be in Los Angeles in the next couple of days, he added.
Another hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, is preparing to do the same mission for the city of New York, Modly said, noting that both ships will operate under the operational control of the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Northern Command. “We will coordinate closely with state and local public health authorities to ensure the well-being of our personnel and the local population,” he said.
The ships will serve as referral hospitals for dockside patients not infected with COVID-19, Modly emphasized. Rather, he said, they will handle the overflow of acute trauma cases and other urgent needs, and they will not handle pediatrics or OB/Gyn cases. “This will allow our shore-based hospitals to focus their medical care and resources on patients with COVID-19,” the acting secretary told reporters.
This is a perfect example of how the Navy and Marine Corps can respond to the needs of the American people wherever and whenever they’re needed, Modly said. “The Navy and Marine Corps front lines are constantly being redrawn, and we’re realizing today that unpredictability is with us,” he added. “And that’s why we need to be ready at all times to adjust and adapt to any emerging threat, even one too small to be seen by the human eye.”
Modly said he wrote to the force recently to urge sailors and Marines to always be ready, not just as an organization, but also as individuals, to exhibit the personal qualities of speed, transparency, adaptability, collaboration, humility, trust and “a healthy dose of skepticism as we address these challenges.”
“And I can say every one of these people has exhibited these qualities in getting the Mercy and Comfort prepared for these missions, as well as the many other ways our force is supporting the whole-of-government response to this pandemic,” he said.
Military families are at the top of his mind daily, Modly said, and the Navy is committed to doing everything it can for their well-being while minimizing the impact on their daily lives as much as possible.
“I’m confident the agility of the Navy and Marine Corps team will help to save lives and protect this nation as it always has, and always will,” Modly said.
Gilday said that overall, the Navy has 86 COVID-19 cases: 57 active-duty service members, 13 Navy civilian employees, 11 Navy family members and five contractors.
About one-third of Navy personnel is at sea, aboard fewer than 100 Navy ships out of a fleet of about 300, the chief of naval operations said.
The Roosevelt was in port about 15 days ago, Gilday said, but it would be difficult to tie the three active cases to one particular port visit.
“We took great precautions when the crew came back from that shore visit, and did enhanced medical screenings of the crew,” he said. “We are moving very quickly to isolate those cases. [We] … understand who they came in contact with over the recent days and weeks, so we’ve begun to look inside the ship and at how we can isolate and contain as best we can. We’re taking this day by day.”
DOD’s Military OneSource, Family Readiness, Spouse Programs Available During COVID-19
March 24, 2020
The Department of Defense is closely monitoring the impacts of the coronavirus disease outbreak on service members, their families and survivors. Resources and services offered through Military OneSource, the Military and Family Life Counseling program, and the Spouse Education and Career Opportunities program will continue to serve the military community.
“We are working hard to provide timely and accurate updates and helpful resources for our service members and their families,” said Kim Joiner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. “Our families can feel confident about finding official information and guidance on our websites and social media platforms. While we have made necessary changes in response to this pandemic, one thing remains the same – our commitment to serving our military community.”
- A dedicated section is available on Military OneSource to keep service members and their families informed about the impacts of COVID-19 on the military community.
- Beginning March 24, Military OneSource will offer non-medical counseling video sessions for children and youth who may feel overwhelmed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Military OneSource will be live on Facebook Monday through Friday at noon Eastern Time to highlight available resources. All videos will be available for on-demand viewing.
What’s the Same
- Military OneSource is available 24/7/365 to help service members and their families with stress management and challenges related to COVID-19, as well as provide non-medical counseling and support. Call 800-342-9647 or connect through live chat. OCONUS? Click here for calling options.
- Military OneSource specialty consultations, such as relationship support, new MilParent support, health and wellness coaching and more
- Financial counseling and MilTax services
- Language services, including real-time interpretation and translation services
- Access to Resilience Tools, including CoachHub, Moodhacker and Love Every Day
- Access to the MWR Digital Library including many education and entertainment resources
- SECO career coaches remain available. Call 800-342-9647 or connect through live chat to schedule an appointment. OCONUS? Click here for calling options.
- Online SECO tools and resources remain available including My Individual Career Plan, or MyICP, the Research Occupations Tool, the Scholarship Finder, the College Scorecard Tool, MySECO Resume Builder, and more.
- SECO online events and webinars are still active, including the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP) Partner Connect discussion and the Virtual Military Spouse Symposium.
- Non-medical Counseling: While Military OneSource continues to offer non-medical counseling by telephone (1-800-342-9647) and online via secure chat and video, in-person counseling may be affected or unavailable depending on state and local policies. We encourage families to check with their local providers to confirm.
Military OneSource is a DOD-funded program that is both a call center and website that provides comprehensive information, support, and resources on every aspect of military life. Service members and the immediate family of active duty, National Guard and reserve (regardless of activation status), survivors and DOD expeditionary civilians are eligible for Military OneSource. Veterans and their immediate family members are eligible for Military OneSource up to 365 days post-separation or retirement. All services are available at no cost.
Esper Lists DOD’s Top Priorities During COVID-19 Pandemic
March 14, 2020
Protecting the Defense Department’s people, maintaining military readiness and supporting the whole-of-government interagency response are DOD’s top three priorities amid the coronavirus pandemic, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
Esper, joined by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark A. Milley and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón ”CZ” Colón-López, conducted a virtual town hall meeting today to answer questions about DOD’s coronavirus response.
”I’ve made protecting our people our top priority,” Esper said, referring to service members, DOD’s civilian employees and contractors, and their families.
Meanwhile, the secretary said, maintaining mission readiness is important so DOD can be ready to fight and win if called upon to do so.
DOD is ”all in” on supporting the interagency effort to protect the American people, Esper said, noting that the department has deployed thousands of National Guardsmen in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four territories.
The Army is deploying field hospitals to major U.S. cities, and the Navy has deployed the hospital ship USNS Mercy to Los Angeles, the secretary said, adding that the hospital ship USNS Comfort soon will deploy to New York City.
World-class researchers at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and other locations are working with researchers elsewhere to come up with vaccines, Esper said, while other DOD efforts include opening up strategic stockpiles of masks, ventilators and other equipment to help the American people.
Testing kits and personal protective equipment are available for DOD medical workers, he said, but he acknowledged that there will be shortages, just as in the civilian sector until the private sector can ramp up production.
Esper said the department is in close coordination with allies and partners and has even reached out to Iran to offer assistance in battling COVID-19.
The secretary also stressed preventive measures people should be taking to slow the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, wiping down surfaces that are touched and hand washing. The best and most trusted guidance can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which is updated regularly, he added.
”This is not the first challenge the United States has ever faced,” Milley said. ”This is not the first war we’ve ever been in.” As they deal with the invisible coronavirus enemy, military leaders at all levels are expected to follow DOD guidance and to look after their soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, he added.
Combatant commanders and leaders at bases and installations have been delegated with a decision-making authority on matters such as determining when service members and their families can move to new duty assignments, the chairman said.
”We will get through this through solid leadership, caring for our troops and keeping focus on the mission,” Milley said.
Colón-López said the mission is clearly understood and that it’s ”a no-fail mission.” The U.S. military will be flexible and adaptable to deal with this challenge, he said.
Hospital Ship USNS Mercy to Care for Non-COVID-19 Patients in Los Angeles
In a matter of days, the Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy will sail from San Diego and dock in the port of Los Angeles to help lift the burden from local medical treatment facilities that need to focus their resources on patients affected by the coronavirus pandemic, a Navy official said today.
Navy Rear Adm. Timothy H. Weber, commander of the Naval Medical Corps Pacific and director of the Medical Service Corps, spoke with reporters at the Pentagon by telephone to update them on the Mercy’s plans. He was joined by Navy Capt. (Dr.) John R. Rotruck, the ship’s commanding officer.
More than 800 medical professionals, assembled over the last few days, will embark on the Mercy, the admiral said. The doctors, nurses, corpsmen, other medical professionals and mariners will help communities hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.
The Mercy normally handles combat casualty care, and its crew will not treat patients with the coronavirus, the admiral said. The ship and its staff will offer a broad range of medical and surgical support, with the exceptions of obstetrics and pediatrics.
Nearly 60 of the medical staff members are military reservists, Weber said. “We are honored to answer the call in a time of need,” he added.
“Today is a big day for the Mercy, Navy medicine and our national response to the coronavirus,” Rotruck said. He noted that Los Angeles has seen some of the greatest impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to date.
“We will be ready on arrival to support [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] and state and local efforts to protect the health of the American people in this whole-of-government approach directed by the president of the United States,” the captain said.
“We are not treating COVID-19 patients, and we are taking proactive measures to ensure anyone coming aboard is properly screened,” Rotruck said. The Mercy has infectious disease prevention measures that will be followed just as any hospital ashore would, he added.
“We will be bringing relief to where we are needed most,” the captain said. The Navy’s hospital ships are uniquely outfitted, for humanitarian and disaster relief, and those serving on the ships are highly skilled and highly trained, he added.
DOD Aims to Fill Medical Gaps With Military While States, Cities Ramp Up
March 23, 2020
The Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy will go to Los Angeles to help relieve pressure on hospitals there so they can focus more on COVID-19 patients, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
“We’re working closely with [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] to set the conditions for the ship’s arrival later this week, so that she can start receiving non-COVID-19 medical patients to free up bed space in some of LA’s most heavily stressed hospitals,” Esper said during a news conference today at the Pentagon.
Esper said in the next couple of weeks, the USNS Comfort, currently at Norfolk, Virginia, will head to New York City for the same purpose. The crew and staff there, he said, are preparing for that mission.
Five military field hospitals and expeditionary medical units are on “prepare to deploy” orders, Esper said, and are expected to mobilize this week to various parts of the country. Where those units go, he added, will be based on discussions with FEMA.
“Right now, I anticipate sending a hospital to Seattle and a hospital [to] New York City,” Esper said. “Beyond that, once that’s confirmed, we will look at sending to other places and, as necessary, we will continue to alert units to prepare to deploy and then deploy them as appropriate.”
The hospital ships, military field hospitals and expeditionary medical units must all be manned by medical personnel, Esper said, and a majority of them are drawn from Reserve units. If those personnel are called to active duty to man military medical facilities, he noted, they will need to be pulled from their civilian jobs elsewhere.
“We’re very conscious as we draw people to staff up the ships or the hospitals, where we’re pulling them from,” he said. “You want to make sure that you don’t, you know, have an impact on an area that really needs it simply because you’re trying to staff up a ship or hospital.”
Esper said military medical personnel will also come from active duty units, and he added that DOD is limited in what it can provide if it is going to safeguard the ability to run its own military missions.
The secretary said he sees the military filling gaps in cities that need assistance until those cities can deal with COVID-19 on their own.
During the early stages of the pandemic as cities ramp up capability, DOD can come in for a few weeks to provide that capacity until the cities can convert gyms, hotels and college dorms into medical facilities, he said. “I see us playing this role where we’re the gap-filler for a period of weeks with our capabilities, once the capacity is met through these other mechanisms,” Esper told reporters
The Army Corps of Engineers is also now beginning work around the country to use contracting capability to convert nonmedical facilities such as hotels, dormitories and other buildings into temporary medical facilities, Esper said.
“Constructing [new] facilities, hospitals, whatnot, would take far more time than it would to take existing infrastructure and convert it,” he said.
Esper said the state of New York has been “very aggressive” in identifying sites to be converted. He said the Corps has a four-phase model to make that happen. That includes identifying sites; converting locations to enable them to provide medical capability; installing equipment; and having the state provide medical staff.
“That’s the way you can expand capacity in the volume you need — we’re talking thousands — but it takes some time,” Esper said, adding that he’s been in contact with the state of New York and other governors about how the Corps can help.
Partnering With the U.S. Defense Industrial Base to Combat COVID-19
March 22, 2020
Statement attributed to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman:
“The Department continues to aggressively partner with the defense industry to mitigate impacts from COVID-19.
Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord’s Acquisition and Sustainment leaders in Industrial Policy, Defense Pricing and Contracting, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and the Defense Contracting Management Agency (DCMA) have made significant progress this week in addressing specific concerns outlined by defense industry leaders.
During the 4 daily COVID-19 update calls with defense industry associations leaders this week, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy Ms. Jennifer Santos, several key concerns identified by industry included 1) critical defense contractor workforce ability to continue working; 2) ensuring cash flow to the defense industrial base; and 3) getting standardized guidance out to industry.
On Friday the Department issued two memos that address all three concerns. After working closely with the Hill and the Department of Homeland Security, Under Secretary Lord issued a Defense Industrial Base Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce memo that defined essentiality in the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) workforce, ensuring the defense industrial base’s critical employees can continue working. The memo also reiterated her commitment to the safety of the workforce and support of the national security mission.
In addition, on Friday Mr. Kim Herrington, Director of Defense Pricing and Contracting, issued a Deviation on Progress Payments memo, which stated that once in contracts, the progress payment rate that contracts can get paid for will increase from 80% of cost to 90% for large businesses and from 90% to 95% for small businesses. This is an important avenue where industry cash flow can be improved. DCMA will work on mass modifications to contracts where applicable (vs one by one) using DCMA authorities. In addition, the Department is accelerating payments through several means to prime contracts and directing prime contracts to expedite payments to subcontractors.
Vice Admiral David Lewis, DCMA Director, has worked closely with the contracting workforce and the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to ensure that invoices are continuing to be paid in a timely manner.
On Friday, the Acquisition and Sustainment Small Business Office reached out to defense industry small businesses, and is working with the Small Business Administration and their small business emergency loan program to help protect these companies.
The Department is fully engaged with the interagency to leverage the Defense Production Act to help reinforce critical elements of the DIB. It is especially important to understand that during this crisis the DIB is vulnerable to adversarial capital, we need to ensure companies stay in business without losing their technology. The Department will be discussing this in more detail next week.
Under Secretary Lord remains grateful for the productive discussions with the defense industry associations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hill and State leaders. She’s especially proud of the incredible efforts of Department leaders and contracting officers across the nation who are helping ensure a secure, reliable and resilient Defense Industrial Base.”
DOD Announces Death of Contractor
March 22, 2020
The Department of Defense is saddened to report that a Crystal City-based contractor, who worked at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, passed away on March 21, 2020. The individual had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been under medical treatment at a local hospital. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and co-workers and we thank the medical professionals who worked to save his life in the face of this virus.
The spaces in DSCA where the individual worked have been cleaned in accordance with CDC guidance when he tested positive and the person’s co-workers have been teleworking.
The Department remains committed to protecting our service members, their families, and our civilian co-workers.
Transition Programs Adapt to Coronavirus Threat
March 20, 2020
The military’s Transition Assistance and Yellow Ribbon Reintegration programs are changing to decrease the potential of transmission of the coronavirus, officials in Washington announced.
Due to the worldwide nature of the Defense Department and the virus outbreak is in different stages in different parts of the globe, The Military-Civilian Transition Office is asking commanders and supervisors to adapt the programs in their regions to fit the coronavirus situation.
A memo from the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness addressed the situation. “This outbreak is dynamic and manifests differently by location, setting, population and individual,” the memo says. “As a result, responses [to the coronavirus] will need to be flexible, tailored and incremental.”
The rescheduling of Transition Assistance Program events are service-specific, at the discretion and decision of commanders and based on DOD guidance. Final decisions on TAP events are up to commanders, but the recommendations are to reduce class sizes and follow the Centers for Disease Control recommendations on gatherings and the need for social distancing.
The Military-Civilian Transition Office also recommends shifting as much of the program as possible into the virtual world.
“We understand the impact COVID-19 has on the community as a whole and the unique challenges it presents in regard to TAP service delivery,” said Tamre Newton, director of the Military-Civilian Transition Office. “The guidance issued by OUSD P and R gives commanders the flexibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of transitioning service members, their families and caregivers while still ensuring they receive the resources and transition support they require for a successful transition to civilian life.”
The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program is for reserve component service members. The program has released an online event tool, available at www.YellowRibbon.mil. The tool is designed to provide deployment-cycle support to reserve component service members and their families in situations in which they are unable to attend in-person events.
“While this tool is not a replacement for in-person events, it is meant to be a fallback for situations when there is simply no other alternative,” said Peter Toelle, chief of program.
Service members and their families, resource providers and community partners who are registered to attend upcoming in-person Yellow Ribbon events will receive status updates through their reserve component representatives. Registered attendees can also access the confirmation link provided at the time of registration.
“YRRP’s mission doesn’t change if in-person events are temporarily restricted,” said Toelle. “National Guard and reserve service members continue to mobilize, so we will continue to provide support throughout the deployment cycle regardless of the format.”
(Courtesy of the Military-Civilian Transition Office )
National Guard Ramping Up COVID-19 Response
March 19, 2020
About 2,050 National Guard soldiers and airmen in 27 states have been activated to support COVID-19 response efforts, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said.
Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said today that by this weekend that number most likely would double, and it is even possible that tens of thousands of guardsmen could be activated as the situation unfolds, depending on the needs of communities.
There are about 450,000 Guard troops in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories, he noted, with logistical and other capabilities that include airlift, ground transportation, command and control, engineering, kitchens, tents and medical personnel.
Lengyel provided a snapshot of what the Guard is already doing:
- The New York National Guard is helping local officials distribute food, much of it in the hard-hit area of New Rochelle.
- A Tennessee Air National Guard C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft delivered 500,000 swabs to be added to COVID-19 test kits in Memphis yesterday.
- More than 500 soldiers are assisting with collecting samples from drive-through testing in Broward County, Florida.
- In Maryland, the National Guard is supporting medical assessments and testing site operations.
- The Wisconsin National Guard is supporting transportation missions for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.In Louisiana, the Guard liaison officers are assisting the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security in emergency preparedness.
- Across the U.S., civil support teams are supporting the local departments of health with drive-through testing stations.
“We remain flexible and committed for whatever mission we may be called to do,” Lengyel said. He noted that the governors of each state have the flexibility to use the Guard in ways they seem most fit and productive.
So far, six Guardsmen in the U.S. currently have tested positive for COVID-19, he said. Force health protection measures are in place in an effort to prevent more.
Hospital Ships, Other DOD Assets Prepare for Coronavirus Response
March 18, 2020
Two Navy hospital ships will be part of the Defense Department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman said.
The USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy are being prepared for deployment “as needed to assist potentially overwhelmed counties with acute patient care,” Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the defense secretary for public affairs, said during a news conference today at the Pentagon. He was joined at the briefing by Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon.
The Comfort is now in Norfolk, Virginia, for maintenance, and the Navy has been asked to expedite that, Hoffman said, adding that it may take “a little while” for that ship to be ready to go. It will go to New York when its maintenance is complete.
The Mercy is on the West Coast and is ready to go in “days, not weeks,” he said, and where it will go will be determined when it’s ready to sail.
Both ships face issues with manning, however. Friedrichs, said the ships would likely be manned with typical staffs of personnel trained for combat casualty care, rather than for dealing with a contagious disease like the coronavirus.
“Our understanding is that the intent is the ships will be used to take non-coronavirus patients, which is what our staffs are best assigned and organized to do,” he said.
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper suggested yesterday that one role for military medical professionals in regard to coronavirus response would be to take non-coronavirus patient care off of the hands of civilian hospital staffs so that those staffs could instead deal with coronavirus patients. Military medical personnel, and military medical facilities are geared more toward trauma care than dealing with contagious patients, he said.
The Defense Department has also put a number of active duty medical units on alert. That includes different types of units, Friedrichs said. “Right now, what we are trying to do is make sure we have a range of options available to meet the requests that may come to us from [the Department of Health and Human Services] and from communities.”
Altogether, Friedrichs said, enough units have been put on alert to provide 1,000 beds, a number that doesn’t include those on the Navy’s hospital ships.
DOD has a variety of deployable medical units it could draw on to provide those 1,000 beds, Friedrichs said, including Air Force Expeditionary Medical System units that can be transported rapidly on aircraft; the Army’s much larger Combat Support Hospitals, which can also be deployed by air or over the ground; Army field hospitals; and Navy Expeditionary Medical Facilities.
Hoffman also said that as of 5 a.m. today, 49 military personnel, 14 civilian employees, 19 military family members and seven contractors had confirmed cases of coronavirus.
COVID-19: Exploit What You Can Control
March 17, 2020
“Can’t,” “don’t,” “contain” and “restrict” are negative words present everywhere in the news, the media and conversation. The threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus will undoubtedly remain a challenge for everyone for months to come. Significant abrupt restrictions and closures are making many within our communities feel very controlled and unhappy.
With so much heightened fear, paranoia and global concern due to COVID-19, stress and anxiety continue to skyrocket. While the containment strategy the United States is executing is difficult, it is vital to follow directed medical and public health expert precautions, mandates and guidelines to “curtail the curve” and control the rampant spread of this highly contagious and deadly illness.
As we all do our part to help, fear is natural. However when left unharnessed, fear can lead to panic and destructive behavior. We are already seeing this in grocery stores and other shops — just try looking for toilet paper!
Recent extended school closures and activity cancellations are already tearing apart the stability that children are accustomed to, need and enjoy. Parents are grappling with new daytime extended child care requirements, unforecasted home school burdens and how to keep children productive.
Many of us feel like we can’t control much in our lives right now due to the threat of this powerful virus, but what we absolutely can control is how we react and what we do. Based on prior military experience as a battalion commander and 20-plus years of service in the Army dealing with intense uncertainty and high stress, I offer the following tips for how to turn this pandemic into a productive and positive experience while concurrently doing our part to maintain social distancing in support the nation’s battle against COVID-19.
Lead … Make Lemons Out of Lemonade (or better yet, make a lemon-infused cocktail!) Take the restrictions and challenges presented by COVID-19 to create incredible opportunities. Continue to lead within your family and among your friends and colleagues. Be an example for your children and others to follow.Turn Uncertainty Into Certainty. This pandemic is plaguing society with heavy uncertainty, yet there is still so much we can control. Redirect your energy away from uncertainty and focus on those aspects of life that are certain.
Community. What are you doing to help your community? What talents or resources can you share for the betterment of others within your area? Do your elderly neighbors need assistance in a manner that you can support them within local restriction guidelines? If you are allowed to shop in your local community, remember that many small businesses are struggling during this crisis so wisely consider where you spend your hard-earned money.
Immunity. Improve your immune system through diet and exercise. Eat well and enjoy Vitamin C – this starts at home. If you do get sick, you will conquer it faster and more successfully if your immunity is strong.
Time. We traditionally never have enough time in our lives. If you are a parent of a school-aged child, you likely have far less time now if schools are closed. If you are not a parent of a school-aged child, you may have a lot more availability with so many activities and events cancelled. So, what are you going to do with this opportunity? Be decisive with time and make a productive plan.Get Outside. Go camping with family, go for a walk/run/bike, and get outdoors. Enjoy spring!
Taxes. We have no excuse for not having time to get taxes done now. Knock them out.
“To Do” List. Closets and “to do” projects: now is the time. Tackle them.
Leverage Technology. Use Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, phone calls and letters to stay connected. We already have the tools and the means. Don’t fret on how to pursue education or communicate: Keep living and learning. CAUTION: Don’t stare at your devices all day.Unplug. Communicate with family and friends. This is an invaluable time to do so.
Opportunity. Focus on how to turn your COVID-19 prevention from a crisis into an unanticipated opportunity for growth, support, health, community and family.
Discounts and Offerings. Many local and national companies are offering exceptional deals and special accommodations to maintain their customer base. Check them out.
Invest. What financial investments can you make now to help later? Stocks are at record lows; consider buying.
Don’t Hoard. So, where is all of the toilet paper for purchase across many stores nationwide, and why do people think they need it for COVID-19? This is a prime example of panic-induced purchases, and we shouldn’t selfishly hoard products that create a lack of availability for others.
Don’t Mentally Suffocate; Stay Positive. Control your reactions to restrictive measures required to prevent and battle this pandemic. Positive, productive mental health is a huge component needed to fight this illness and will directly improve community response.Create. Challenge yourself and your family to be more creative with resources and time. Expand your boundaries within your home. Paint a room, use a new recipe and rediscover your ingenuity.
Focus. Turn your focus from what you can’t do to what you CAN do.
Win. We cannot fall victim to feeling sorry for ourselves or become hindered during this difficult time. Don’t let this virus win – mentally or physically!
We will come together as a nation if we all do our part to prevent and fight the spread of COVID-19. Turning the challenges of this pandemic into opportunities to positively exploit growth individually, within our families, and to protect our communities will bind us together. As we tackle this new (temporary) normal, we can be more productive, stronger and happier if we focus on what we CAN do versus what we cannot!
(Army Col. Elizabeth A. Martin is assigned as a student at the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.)
COVID-19 Prevention Tips
March 16, 2020
Pentagon Spokesman: DOD Ready to Help With Coronavirus, but Capability Limited
March 16, 2020
As concerns of coronavirus grow, the Defense Department stands ready to provide support wherever it’s asked to do so, the assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs said.
“The Department of Defense is ready, willing and able to support civilian authorities to the greatest extent possible with the direction of the president,” Jonathan Rath Hoffman said during a Pentagon news conference today. “We just want to make sure that the conversation that is being had is informed by the facts of what is possible, what is not, and what those trade-offs are.”
While the U.S. military is often depicted in movies and on television as having the capacity to stand up vast medical capabilities at a moment’s notice, both Hoffman and Air Force Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Paul Friedrichs, the Joint Staff surgeon, cautioned against overestimating the department’s capacity to provide medical capabilities to support a contagion like coronavirus.
Hoffman told reporters that DOD has only about 2% to 3% of the number of hospital beds that the private sector has. The department runs only 36 hospitals in the United States, Friedrichs said, many of which are ill-suited for caring for large numbers of contagious patients.
“Many of them are configured to support, as you might imagine, our immediate military needs,” Friedrichs said. “They take care of the active duty population and their families and some retirees. Some large facilities such as the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, have much more diverse services,” he added. “We have a number of smaller facilities in more remote locations, like Fort Wainwright, Alaska, [which] has a small hospital that offers obstetrical services and basic community hospital type services,” the Joint Staff surgeon said.
Hoffman pointed out that military doctors are better trained for wartime injuries than for treating communicable illnesses such as COVID-19.
“Our doctors are, unsurprisingly, trained highly in traumatic injuries and [for] dealing with traumatic injuries,” he said. “We have a much younger population that we’re dealing with treating in our hospitals. And so all of these kind of factor into what is that capability we have for a potential outbreak that generally has been more devastating to older persons who require a different type of attention than we normally do.”
Even military tent hospitals that can be set up ad-hoc to respond to an emergency are designed for trauma care, not contagious diseases, Friedrichs said.
“We do have tent hospitals. They are deployable hospitals. … The challenge is they’re designed to take care of trauma patients and combat casualties,” he said. “We have supported humanitarian operations. … We’ve supported relief efforts during natural disasters. But what we’re trying to be very careful of is not over-promising, you know. We want to be factual about what we have.
“Our fixed facilities are designed to the force that we have,” he continued. “There are not thousand-bed medical centers all over the United States. They are, for the most part, small community hospitals. Our deployable hospitals range in size and range in capabilities that are very much focused and designed to take care of those in combat.”
While both the National Guard and the Reserve components have medical doctors that can be called out to provide support, if needed, both Hoffman and Friedrichs noted that medical personnel in the Guard and Reserve are often also medical personnel in their private-sector jobs.
“If you mobilize the Guard and Reserve medical personnel from their civilian jobs, they’re no longer in their civilian jobs, and that directly impacts the community where they worked, and that’s the trade-off that — whether it’s a natural disaster, or the coronavirus or anything else — that’s part of the trade-off that we look at as we offer options going forward,” Friedrichs said.
So far, Hoffman said, the Defense Department has received requests for assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services for quarantining and housing of people who were evacuated from China, those who had been on the Grand Princess and Diamond Princess cruise ships, and those who flew back to the United States through 11 feeder airports and needed to be quarantined.
“We have not received any other [requests] at this time that we have responded to,” he said.
Hoffmann told reporters that DOD has seen 37 reported cases of COVID-19: 18 military personnel, 13 military family members, three civilian employees and three contractors.
To stem further spread of the coronavirus, he said, the department has issued updated guidance on domestic travel. Effective today though May 11, all domestic travel for military personnel is halted unless it’s for mission-essential travel or humanitarian reasons.
Additionally, he said, DOD has given directors of installation commissaries additional authorities to manage their inventory to provide the best service to military members and their families.
“Today the department has given authority to local commissary store directors to impose restrictions on purchasing high-demand products,” Hoffman said. “This will be in coordination with base leadership. The department is working to make sure that service members and their families on base understand these changes and have access to the goods that they need.”
DOD Officials Explain New Coronavirus Domestic Travel Restrictions
March 15, 2020
Defense officials announced restrictions on domestic travel yesterday for service members, Defense Department employees and family members in response to the new coronavirus, or COVID-19
Deputy Defense Secretary David L. Norquist signed a memorandum halting all domestic travel, to include permanent changes of station and temporary duty travel. The ban is in effect from March 16 to May 11.
Officials speaking on background said the new memo said that service members will only be authorized local leave only.
The ban is in addition to restrictions on all DOD military and civilian personnel and their families traveling to, from, or through areas for which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice. That policy also stops PCS and TDY travel through May.
There are exceptions for hardship, mission essential and humanitarian travel, but those exceptions must be approved. Domestic travel for medical treatment is excluded from the ban.
There are 10 service members who have tested positive for COVID-19. One DOD civilian and two DOD contractors have the virus, as do eight family members, officials said. There are 13 DOD laboratories that can test samples for the virus.
The officials said the new policy is aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus. Each day tens of thousands of service members and DOD civilians are traveling. This ”strategic pause” is ”the best and safest route” to slowing the spread of the virus, they said.
The Pentagon reservation is also taking actions and raised the health protection condition in the building and associated properties to Bravo. This means all tours of the building are cancelled. Starting March 16, offices in the building will go on minimum manning, with vast numbers of employees teleworking.
Offices in the building will have rotating staffs and ”red and blue” teams. Those employees who require access to classified information to do their mission-essential tasks will work from the building, officials said.
Statement by the Department of Defense on COVID-19 Response Measures on the Pentagon Reservation
March 14, 2020
Today, the Secretary of Defense approved a recommendation to increase the Health Protection Condition level to BRAVO at the Pentagon Reservation, and CHARLIE at the Armed Forces Retirement Homes in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Washington, District of Columbia, to assist public health efforts and contain the spread of the virus at the Pentagon and associated facilities in the National Capital Regions, including the Mark Center, Defense Health Headquarters, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and DOD leased facilities, as well as our Retirement Homes. The increase will take effect at midnight on Sunday, March 15, 2020.
The department will continue to issue additional guidance with regard to the COVID-19 as conditions warrant. Our goal is to remain ahead of the virus spread so our military force remains effective and ready.
For more information on Pentagon Reservation, visit https://www.whs.mil/Coronavirus/.
We encourage all DOD personnel to visit https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/ for information on staying healthy during the outbreak.
Statement by Department of Defense on Enhanced Health Protection Measures for the Pentagon Reservation
March 13, 2020
To assist public health efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect DOD employees and visitors, additional force health protections will be implemented at the Pentagon and associated facilities in the National Capital Region, including the Mark Center, Defense Health Headquarters, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and DOD leased facilities.
Effective midnight on Sunday, March 15, 2020:
- All unofficial visits are suspended, to include personal guests and friends of DOD personnel and contractors. All large gatherings, such as retirement and promotion ceremonies, shall cease. All Pentagon Tours have been suspended since March 12, 2020.
- All official visits by international partners and visitors are suspended. Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Chief Management Officer (on behalf of the Fourth Estate), Director of the Joint Staff, as delegated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretaries of the military services.
- Any individual, DOD civilian, military service member, contractor, or official visitor with recent international travel may not enter the Pentagon Facilities within 14 days from the date of their arrival back to the United States. Access may be restored on the 15th day, if the individual remains asymptomatic.
- Sponsoring offices for visits to the Pentagon building, Mark Center, Defense Health Headquarters, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and other Pentagon facilities must register official visitors at least 24 hours in advance through the Pentagon Force Protection Agency Visitor Management System. Official visits to DOD leased facilities will be managed by the designated officials or security managers.
Additional information may be found on https://www.whs.mil/Coronavirus/.
Army Medical Personnel Describe Efforts to Develop Coronavirus Vaccine
March 5, 2020
The Army held a Pentagon press briefing today to discuss their effort in developing a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Army researchers are taking a “whole of government” approach with other agencies, including the National Institutes of Health; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; industry; and academia in the U.S. and abroad to detect, prevent and treat COVID-19, said Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, commander of Army Medical Research and Development Command and Fort Detrick in Maryland.
The work being done by Army researchers is a collaborative effort with those partners to ensure there’s no duplication, added Dr. Nelson Michael, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
Regarding potential vaccines, robust testing will be underway soon, he said.
The first phase of testing has already started: testing potential vaccines in mice to see what their response is and making sure it’s safe, Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of Emerging Infectious Diseases at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research said.
The next phase would be testing in larger animals that are more similar to humans, including monkeys, he said.
Modjarrad said he didn’t want to speculate when human testing would begin.
All DOD personnel can visit https://www.defense.gov/Explore/Spotlight/Coronavirus/ for information on staying healthy during the outbreak.