NEWS | March 9, 2021

USINDOPACOM hosts international bio-threat exercise

By USINDOPACOM Public Affairs

CAMP SMITH, Hawaii -- U.S. Indo-Pacific Command hosted Exercise Able Resolve Feb. 16-18, 2021, at Camp Smith, Hawaii to prepare military forces to respond effectively to regional biological threats.

The exercise was co-sponsored by the command’s Surgeon General and Director for Resources and Assessment and included members of the Australian Defence Force’s Science and Technology Group and Joint Health Command.

“This pilot exercise was designed to better understand how to advance bio-surveillance in a joint, interagency, and bilateral forum,” said Rear Adm. Pamela Miller, the INDOPACOM Surgeon. “One of our key objectives is to learn about evolving bio-surveillance systems, which collect and analyze information, model the impact of various interventions, and provide decision support that might assist the U.S. and our allies in responding to current and future biological threats in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Within the surgeon’s office, force health protection and public health personnel attempt to leverage surveillance data from a variety of sources in order to ensure that relevant and timely health information gets to the commander. This information directly influences strategic decision making and impacts overall USINDOPACOM mission assurance.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been unmistakable,” said Miller. “These and other impacts, such as the need to restrict the movement of service members, has directly affected the U.S. Joint Forces’ ability to carry out training missions with our allies and partners, and maintain mission readiness.”

Dr. George Ka'iliwai III, the INDOPACOM Director for Resources and Assessments, said they co-sponsored the exercise with the Surgeon as they both recognize the importance of having an effective bio-surveillance capability, especially given the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “Everyone here has seen the resources and time needed to respond to this current pandemic,” said Ka'iliwai. “The outputs of this exercise help me assess and refine bio-surveillance and preparedness requirements and will help me communicate what resources we need to improve integrated bio-preparedness and timely decision support.”

During the table top exercise, participants used the Joint Operations Planning Process to develop courses of actions to protect forces deploying into a staging area experiencing a sustained, infectious biological threat.

For the purpose of the exercise, bio-surveillance was defined as the process of planning, collecting, analyzing, interpreting, modeling, and disseminating information about biological threats. Possible biological threats in play included emerging and pervasive infectious diseases, environmental disasters, biological weapons and warfare.

To determine the effectiveness of their early warning systems, the exercise went through three modules: intelligence indications and warning, disease spread, and biological threats.

Participants used the information to develop a current understanding of biological threats in the Indo-Pacific Region. Through the scenario they created courses of action to present to senior leadership.

“The goal is for participants to be able to brief U.S. and Australian Surgeons General with recommended courses of action,” Miller said. “This will help achieve an acceptable force health protection level while deploying forces into a region under a sustained infectious disease threat.”