An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : Media : News : News Article View
NEWS | May 5, 2020

Esper Details Defense Readiness in Face of Pandemic

By Jim Garamone DOD NEWS

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper discussed the immediate operations against COVID-19 and the second order of effects the pandemic will have on the U.S. military during a Brookings Institution webinar.

The secretary gave Brookings senior fellow Michael O'Hanlon an overview of the DOD's actions during the pandemic during today's virtual conversation, saying he is very proud of the role that more than 62,000 service members and Defense Department civilians have played so far.

Esper issued his first guidance on the coronavirus response in January, and he activated the global pandemic plan Feb. 1. "We've remained ahead of the curve at every turn, and I'm very proud of what we've done at this point in time as we start to see some light at the end of the tunnel."

He noted the deployment of the Navy hospital ships USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy to New York and Los Angeles, respectively, and the more than 45,000 National Guardsmen at work in all states, territories and the District of Columbia. "We have thousands of medical professionals, doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists [and] others who are out on the frontlines," he said. He also noted the more than 2,000 Army Corps of Engineers personnel working to expand hospital capacity.

Esper stressed that the U.S. military continues to work with allies and partners around the world.

But there are effects beyond the sickness brought on by the pandemic, and DOD officials are grappling with them, the secretary noted. "We're very cognizant of the impacts that we see on the force and plotting the way ahead," Esper said. "DOD has been very busy using all of our resources and our researchers to work hard on therapeutics and vaccines, … but we're also cognizant about the impacts that this COVID-19 may have on the force."

So far, the pandemic has had a low impact on readiness, Esper said. "But over time, we are anticipating what could be a greater impact … if we don't see a change in the trajectory … of the virus or how we adapt ourselves," he added.

The military has 2 million service members; fewer than 5,000 have been infected and fewer than 100 have been hospitalized. This is a testament to the overall health of the force and to them following CDC guidance, the secretary said. "So, at this point in time, we are in pretty good shape," he said.

From an organization standpoint, the secretary said he is worried about the long-term impacts on recruiting and basic military training.

It carries over to training, the secretary said. Generally, the smaller the unit, the easier it is to preserve the integrity of the unit and training, he explained. Platoons are easier to test and quarantine, if needed, than brigades, destroyers are easier than aircraft carriers, and so on, Esper said.

"As you get higher in terms of the size and scale and scope of the exercise, the more challenging it becomes, and the more risk you absorb, that you may get soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines infected," he said.



Remains of Korean War Soldier to be buried in Wrightstown, New Jersey
June 13, 2024 - The remains of Army Pfc. Anthony J. Lopa, a Soldier killed during the Korean War, will be interred June 28 at Brig. Gen. William C. Doyle Veteran Memorial Cemetery, Wrightstown, New Jersey. Maxwell Funeral Home, Little Egg...

First Royal Australian Navy Enlisted Sailors Begin Training at U.S. Submarine School
United States Navy and Royal Australian Navy Sailors enrolled in the U.S. Naval Submarine School’s Basic Enlisted Submarine School pose for a photo between training sessions aboard the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, Jun. 11, 2024. 

These nine RAN Sailors are the first group of enlisted RAN Sailors to attend the U.S. Naval Submarine School as part of AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, United States) Pillar 1 Optimal Pathway, aimed at helping Australia acquire a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine fleet.

U.S. Navy photo by Lauren Laughlin
June 13, 2024 - GROTON, Conn.--The U.S. Naval Submarine School in Groton welcomed its first cadre of nine enlisted sailors and the second cadre of three officers from the Royal Australian Navy on June 3rd and 10th respectively. These 12...

Bersama Warrior 2024 first week wraps up with Mission Analysis Brief
Exercise Leadership receives a mission analysis brief as Bersama Warrior 2024 wrapped up their first week of the command post exercise, June 8, 2024 in Kuala Lupmur, Malaysia. (Courtesy Photo)
June 12, 2024 - Forty members of the Washington National Guard and their Malaysian Armed Forces counterparts wrapped up a successful first week of the Bersama Warrior 2024 staff exercise with a mission analysis brief on June 8, 2024, in...

U.S. Navy and Air Force special operations personnel conduct routine training in the Republic of Korea
A U.S. Air Force AC-130J Ghostrider gunship assigned to the 4th Special Operations Squadron from Hulburt Field, Fla. lands at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea (ROK) June 12, 2024. The Ghostrider and its crews are participating in a regularly scheduled joint, combined exchange and training (JCET) event designed to positively affect the combat readiness of special operations forces (SOF) personnel in support of the mutual defense of the U.S. and ROK homelands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacob Cabanero)
June 12, 2024 - U.S. Air Force personnel and an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship assigned to the 1st Special Operations Wing arrived in the Republic of Korea on June 12, 2024, in support of an ongoing joint, combined exchange training iteration...

3rd MLR conducts civil engagements and volunteers during summer exercise series
U.S. Marines with 3rd Littoral Combat Team, 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, paint a local school during the maritime key terrain security operations event of Balikatan 24 at Itbayat, Philippines, May 7, 2024. The event was conducted alongside Philippine Marines with Marine Battalion Landing Team 10. BK 24 is an annual exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. military designed to strengthen bilateral interoperability, capabilities, trust, and cooperation built over decades of shared experiences. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Malia Sparks)
June 12, 2024 - In addition to enhancing their warfighting capabilities through bilateral military training, U.S. Marines and Sailors with 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, and Philippine Marines with 4th Marine Brigade,...