Deputy Defense Secretary: US Military remains ready to fight despite COVID-19

Deputy Defense Secretary: US Military remains ready to fight despite COVID-19
200407-N-EC658-1025 NAVAL BASE GUAM (April 7, 2020) Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) move meals, ready to eat (MREs) for Sailors who have tested negative for COVID-19 and are asymptomatic at local hotels in an effort to implement social distancing and stop the spread of COVID-19. Sailors remain in quarantine in their assigned lodging for at least 14 days, in accordance with DoD directive and the Governor's executive order. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julio Rivera/Released)

US Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist said that the Department of Defense (DoD), despite COVID-19, continues to guarantee the defence of the nation and its strategic interests.  

According to DoD data, of the 1,898 current coronavirus cases among active duty service members, only 64 required hospitalization.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten admitted that, while there are “pockets” of degraded readiness across the force, such as the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, the aggregate readiness is unaffected. 

“To those who wish us harm, make no mistake: even with the challenges that this disease has brought to our shores, the DoD 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 added. 

Norquist said that the youthful demographic of the U.S. military means that fewer of those who contract the virus will suffer severe consequences. 

Air Force Gen. John 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.”

“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”, he added. 

Hyten also said the DoD has about 50,000 personnel involved in the fight against the coronavirus — of those, he said, about 30,000 are from the National Guard and reserves. 

Neal Path

Neal Path is a reporter covering international affairs and defense news. He leads a team of specialist technical journalists and defense forecasting analysts, working across a range of online products. Neal Path is a defense technology specialist and has written widely on most areas of defense technology, but his particular areas of interest include missile defense, precision weapons, naval warfare, sensor capabilities and military operations.

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