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DOD Continues Global Military Operations Even as It Battles COVID-19

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Even as the Defense Department supports the whole-of-government response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it continues its vital national security missions, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.


Esper and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held a Pentagon news conference today on DOD's support for the nation's COVID-19 response. Esper also gave examples of some of the security missions DOD has undertaken, including:

  • Conducting counterterrorism missions in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan;
  • Conducting freedom of navigation operations around the world;
  • Monitoring North Korean weapons tests;
  • Improving the U.S. defensive posture in Iraq;
    A small vehicle loads a pallet onto a helicopter.
    Iraq Ops
    Soldiers assigned to 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division load a pallet onto a Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter at K1 Air Base, Iraq, March 27, 2020.
    Photo By: Army Spc. Kenneth Stroud
    VIRIN: 200327-A-JF523-4094
  • Escorting Russian bombers out of U.S. airspace; 
  • Deterring Iran's aggressive behavior;
  • Working with Afghan security forces and Operation Resolute Support partners in Afghanistan;
    Two jets fly in a blue sky.
    Two Falcons
    Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons fly over Afghanistan, March 17, 2020.
    Photo By: Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Lotz
    VIRIN: 200317-F-AI558-0283
  • Continuing enhanced counternarcotics operations in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility;
  • Working with NATO allies in Europe; and
    Soldier lies on the dirt to set up a claymore mine.
    Mine Testing
    Army 1st Lt. Gregory Doty, liaison officer, Hammer Troop, 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, assembles an M18 claymore training mine as part of the testing phase for the Expert Infantryman Badge and the Expert Soldier Badge in Bemowo Piskie, Poland, March 31, 2020. The soldiers are deployed in support of NATO's enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Poland.
    Photo By: Army Sgt. Timothy Hamlin
    VIRIN: 200331-A-LY216-1002
  • Continuing to defend U.S. interests in space.

And last month, the Space Force launched its first satellite into orbit, Esper noted.

A rocket launches off a platform; smoke and flame appear underneath it.
Rocket Launch
An Atlas V rocket launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., to take an AEHF-6 satellite into orbit, March 26, 2020. The sophisticated communications relay satellite is the first Defense Department payload launched for the Space Force.
Photo By: Joshua Conti, Air Force
VIRIN: 200326-F-KD758-1007M

Regarding North Korean weapons tests, Milley said the intelligence analysis of their recent missile launches would take a few days, but the tests were short-range and not particularly provocative or threatening.

Regarding COVID-19, Milley said there are going to be a lot of lessons learned, and a comprehensive after-action review will follow. It won't be business as usual after the pandemic, the chairman said.

Two men speak from behind podiums.
Milley Remarks
Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hold a Pentagon news conference on the Defense Department’s actions in support of the nation’s COVID-19 response, April 14, 2020.
Photo By: Marvin D. Lynchard, DOD
VIRIN: 200414-D-BN624-001

"There are countries out there in states that are very fragile that are in various states of civil war and have violence internal to their societies," he said. "There's significant stress as a result of the COVID-19 virus on the internal politics of other countries. There's a significant stress on their economies, on resources. There's risk of instability, So, no, it's not going to be business as usual. We've got to take a hard look at how we, the Department of Defense, conduct operations in the future."

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