DoD Restricting Base Access, Travel and Exercises in Response to Coronavirus

 In ASEAN, Defense, Indo-Pacific, Local, GCC, N11

The Defense Department is ramp­ing up the pre­cau­tions it is taking against the coro­n­avirus as the dis­ease con­tin­ues to spread glob­al­ly.

Service mem­bers’ travel is restrict­ed in some places, access lim­i­ta­tions have been placed on bases and exer­cis­es have been post­poned, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters Monday at the Pentagon.

“My number one pri­or­i­ty remains to pro­tect our forces and their fam­i­lies,” Esper said. “Second is to safe­guard our mis­sion capa­bil­i­ties, and third to sup­port the inter­a­gency, whole-of-gov­ern­ment approach. We will con­tin­ue to take all nec­es­sary pre­cau­tions to ensure our people are safe and able to con­tin­ue their very impor­tant mis­sion.”

Esper said he has been meet­ing daily with mem­bers of the joint staff, mil­i­tary ser­vices and com­bat­ant com­mands on the virus. Additionally, at the end of last week he met with mil­i­tary and civil­ian lead­er­ship and the ser­vice sec­re­taries.

“Geographic com­man­ders have all the author­i­ty they need and will pro­vide spe­cif­ic guid­ance as the sit­u­a­tion evolves,” Esper said.

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He added that DoD is assess­ing how the virus might affect exer­cis­es and train­ing.

To that end, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the U.S. and South Korea will post­pone joint-sim­u­lat­ed com­mand post train­ing in response to the virus.

Milley said Cobra Gold, a large, multi­na­tion­al exer­cise in Thailand is ongo­ing and not imped­ed.

“The over­all broad impact to the uni­formed, U.S. mil­i­tary is very, very min­i­mal,” Milley said. “That’s not to say it’s zero, but it’s very, very min­i­mal. Very few cases have been diag­nosed, etc. That’s not sur­pris­ing because we have a young demo­graph­ic, a healthy demo­graph­ic, lots of immu­niza­tions.”

Doctors diagnosed the first U.S. ser­vice member with coro­n­avirus on Feb. 25. The 23-year-old is sta­tioned at Camp Humphreys in South Korea. He is cur­rent­ly in self quar­an­tine, though he vis­it­ed two other based in South Korea before his diag­no­sis.

Milley said access to bases in South Korea and north­ern Italy is cur­rent­ly restrict­ed. He added that there are travel restric­tions on troops in U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

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POLITICO obtained a Feb. 27 memo stat­ing all leave and lib­er­ty travel to and within CENTCOM is banned.

“Example: Personnel assigned to a unit in Riyadh cannot take a pass/leave/morale, wel­fare and recre­ation trip to United Arab Emirates or Jeddah for the week­end,” the memo states.

Protective gear and test kits are also being dis­trib­uted, with a pri­or­i­ty of the dis­tri­b­u­tion in Korea.

Acting Defense Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Matthew Donovan issued a Feb. 25 memo on risk-based mea­sured respons­es to the out­break.

The memo tells instal­la­tion com­man­ders to max­i­mize tele­work before the trans­mis­sion of the dis­ease hits the area.

If people are infect­ed on the instal­la­tion, com­man­ders are encour­aged to restrict travel, modify exer­cis­es and pro­vide pro­tec­tive equip­ment for high risk per­son­nel.

If infec­tions con­tin­ue, com­man­ders should con­sid­er declar­ing a local public health emer­gency and lim­it­ing access to the base, can­cel­ing large gath­er­ings.

If there is a wide­spread infec­tion, com­man­ders should do all of the pre­vi­ous tasks and also cancel non-mis­sion essen­tial activ­i­ties and imple­ment quar­an­tine.

Milley noted that DoD is help­ing to form a vac­cine for the virus.

“The mil­i­tary labs are work­ing very con­sis­tent­ly on a vac­cine and work­ing in direct sup­port with Health and Human Services to do that,” Milley said. That work is being done at Ft. Detrick, Maryland.

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Source: Federal News Network

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