Transcript

US Northcom and ARNORTH Commanders Discuss Ongoing COVID-19 Efforts

April 21, 2020
Air Force General Terrence J. O'Shaughnessy, Commander, U.S. Northern Command; Army Lieutenant General Laura J. Richardson, Commander, U.S. Army North

STAFF: Hey, good morning, everyone. I want to thank you for joining us today.

Today we've got General Terrence O'Shaughnessy, commander, U.S. NORTHCOM and NORAD, to speak with you today, and also Lieutenant General Laura Richardson, commander, U.S. Army North. They'll be talking on their role in support of the whole-of-government efforts against COVID-19. We'll be taking questions both from the floor and from the phones, as has been the case in recent weeks.

And without further ado, we'll hand it over to NORTHCOM for opening comments. Sir?

GENERAL TERRENCE J. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Well, good morning. And -- and thank you for giving me and my joint force land component commander -- who's doing just a fantastic job -- Lieutenant General Laura Richardson, the opportunity to update you on our operation.

And I'll start with assuring you that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, as well as our components and regions, are conducting out no-fail mission of defending our homeland.

We showcased that yet again just a couple weeks ago, when NORAD forces intercepted multiple Russian aircraft operating near Alaska within our Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone. And this is the third time in two months we've intercepted Russian military aircraft in our AADIZ.

In addition, we're tracking, prepared to respond to North Korean missile activity and continue our Operation Noble Eagle operations.

And as our commander in chief and secretary of defense have stated, we are at war with COVID-19. And to win this war -- which we will -- we have approached it as we would any large-scale military campaign, and we're laser-focused, while remaining agile in adjusting our approach to match the circumstances on the ground.

And as we've expanded our operations to more than a dozen states, we've implemented an adaptive medical concept of operations. This is based on lessons learned in the three-pronged approach we employed for New York City, and we've developed three conditions-based expeditionary medical force employment options that are dynamically scalable and tailorable.

The first one, embedding, occurs when we deploy DOD medical providers directly to a civilian hospital or treatment facility.

The second, which we're calling extending capacity, is when DOD adds modular capability to an existing civilian facility by working out of a portion of a facility such as a wing in a hospital.

And finally, the third force employment option is our fully equipped Alternate Care Facility, or ACF, where DOD operates or supplements a fully developed alternate care facility that is independent of a previously existing facility.

And these three force packages can be simultaneously executed and tailored to meet the needs of the state and local officials.

And let me give you a quick update on our efforts since we last spoke.

We currently have around 15,000 Northern Command dedicated forces in the fight all across the nation in support of FEMA, and we're constantly evolving our support to ensure we're providing DOD capability where needed. And we're working closely with the National Response Coordination Center to prioritize our efforts. And Pete Gaynor, the FEMA administrator, and the entire FEMA team are great partners.

This weekend, we reassigned approximately 50 personnel from the U.S. Naval Ship Mercy in Los Angeles to the Comfort in New York City to support the high-acuity patients we have in the Comfort ICU beds. Additionally, Mercy personnel will begin providing care at a skilled nursing facility in Orange County within the next several days.

These changes will not impact Mercy's missions in Los Angeles to provide quality, timely care as part of its continued support of the nation's COVID-19 response. The ship will continue to treat non-COVID-19 patients, serving as a relief valve for state and local officials.

We've now deployed more than 500 Army, Navy, and Air Force medical personnel to embed daily in 10 public hospitals in New York City, to bolster existing medical staff in these facilities.

This group of 500-plus medical providers and enablers includes Air Force and Navy individual augmentees, as well as members from the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, or UAMTFs. These are roughly 85 people each.

Each team includes emergency physicians, pulmonologists, internists, registered nurses and, on occasion, these teams can be split to provide support in more than one area simultaneously.

And these teams, along with the Navy Expeditionary Medical Facilities, or EMFs, have been deployed to New Jersey, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Michigan, and Texas, working either as a support for civilian hospitals, or in state-organized temporary treatment centers. These DOD members are working side-by-side with civilian medical professionals to provide much-needed relief while saving lives in our nation's most critical hotspots.

We're also helping states by extending capacity where needed. As an example, NORTHCOM forces assume responsibility of a pod within the seventh floor of the Bennett Medical Center in Stamford, Connecticut, where 35 medical personnel are staffing up to 56 beds in -- in multiple pods, based on the success of the initial deployment. We're also looking to expand that capability in Connecticut.

And finally, we're supporting through fully-equipped alternate care facilities which include the Javits Center and our two highly-capable hospital ships, USNS Comfort and USNS Mercy. And to date, we've treated more than 1,400 patients in a DOD-manned hospital, as well as the many other -- other -- our -- our embedded doctors, nurses and medical personnel have treated in state and local hospital and the ultimate care facilities.

And as I mentioned, nearly 15,000 U.S. NORTHCOM-directed personnel focused on COVID-19 operations are all across the nation, on the East and West Coast, as well as inland locations. Some of our people are operating in military units, where others are deployed as individuals.

To help command and control this effort, we've really embraced emerging technologies by some great -- by partnering with some great companies like Apple, Esri, Monkton and Palantir who are dedicated to fighting this fight with us, and these technologies are allowing us to have immediate communication with our forward-deployers, whether it is individuals, units or teams, ensuring we know how they're doing, what they need, and this technology and searching effort is consistent with and leverages our homeland defense approach, where the emerging Joint All-Domain Command & Control System, also known as JADC2, is core to our all-domain command and controls.

JADC2 is also helping our team gain predictive insights on future hotspots, proactively provides support capabilities exactly where we need it by synergizing multiple data feeds through real-time end user reporting and collaborative planning. Our team have a -- has a better insight for predictive analysis as more of a comprehensive common operating picture has been developed. JADC2 also helps us know where we should be looking for the next hotspots, which is critical in the national approach to fighting COVID-19.

The American public can be proud of its soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. The scope of our response is unprecedented, and NORTHCOM forces are leaning forward answering our nation's calls. Whether defending our homeland or providing much-needed military capability and capacity to win this war against the invisible enemy, know that our commands are responding now and are prepared to respond where needed in the future across all 50 states as part of a unified, whole-of-America effort orchestrated by FEMA, HHS and the National Response Coordination Center. This is truly a unified response, and U.S. Northern Command is honored to be part of the team.

And now let me turn it over to Lieutenant General Richardson, a Joint Force land component commander, for some -- for some comments from the Javits Center. Thank you.

Over to you, Laura.

LIEUTENANT GENERAL LAURA J. RICHARDSON: Hi. Good morning, everybody. I appreciate -- appreciate this opportunity to give you all an update on what I've seen as I've traveled around to visit our deployed service members over the past couple of weeks.

So, I visited seven states since last Sunday, a week ago Sunday. New York City, at the Javits Center and the Manhattan site, where our mortuary affairs soldiers are working in support of the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner; New Jersey, at the Edison Events Center; Stamford, Connecticut at the Bennett Medical Health Center; Boston at the Alternate Care Facility, or ACF, at the Boston Convention and Events Center; Detroit at the ACF at the TCF Center. And this week I've been to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the Baton Rouge General Hospital Mid City Campus; Philadelphia at the ACF at Temple University; Newark, New Jersey to University Hospital; and I'm -- I'm -- now I'm back in New York City at the Javits Center again, and we'll -- we'll go visit some of our personnel working in the ten city public hospitals this afternoon, as well as our folks working on the floor here at Javits.

So I've traveled to all of the different states and have seen the three different types of facilities we're supporting: the embedded hospital staff model, the extended capability model and the alternate care facilities. And quite honestly, I've just been struck by the profound gratitude of all the civilian medical professionals at these hospital and care facilities that I have had the chance to meet, and -- and actually have received briefings from them, too, on their capabilities, and they're just so proud of their -- their organizations and their hospitals.

Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are making a significant impact out there. I've had multiple hospital CEOs me that people arrived in the nick of time. In some cases, they literally didn't know how they were going to make it through the next few shifts before our people arrived.

I just wanted to let you all know that -- how thankful our partners in this fight are for the assistance our medical professionals are providing, and how proud I am to see them at work truly making a difference in people's lives.

Thank you, and I'm ready for your questions.

STAFF: All right, thank you, sir, ma'am.

We will -- we will go to the phone for questions first. First up is Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg.

Q: Hi.

General O'Shaughnessy, I had a couple questions about your first-to-fight forces. What steps have you taken to minimize COVID -- COVID-19 infections for your -- your strip alert aircrews in doing Operation Noble Eagle flights? And also, for the National Guard units who man the missile-defense warning sites at Fort Greely, in Vandenberg, and in Colorado Springs?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Tony, thanks for the question.

And one of the things that I'd really highlight here is the -- that -- that the methods that we're using to keep that mission a surety at absolutely the highest level is a little bit different in all the -- all the areas that you mentioned. You know, what we're really trying to do is we're trying to drive our risk down to zero. That's obviously very challenging in the COVID-19 environment. But some areas where we just have -- we have very little redundancy in, where we don't have, say, multiple different options to -- to perform a mission, then we are -- we are literally driving that so that there is no chance of a COVID-19 impact to them.

And so that, for example, would be some of our crews doing, for example, the ballistic missile defense, some of our command and control skill sets where we have -- we have isolated them. They are living on government facilities. They're being provided food through a -- to the government facilities. We -- they -- they go from that -- those government facilities to their -- their areas of performing their mission set without any interaction with the outside world. They're away from their families and -- and essentially able to perform that mission without any risk of exposure to the virus.

Q: Okay, what -- go ahead.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Now, in other areas -- no, go ahead.

Q: No, no, continue. That's what -- yeah.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: In -- in --in other areas, for example, for some of the bases, for example, where we have our fighters, what we've seen is the -- the need to -- to actually have a modification, for example, to some of our alert facilities to ensure that they remain -- remain free of the COVID-19, and also even simple things like when we're transferring an aircraft that is part of the generic fleet, if you will, that is now going to take on an alert posture to ensuring that aircraft doesn't have any COVID-19 infection, if you will.

And so we're applying a lot of the things that we did in our chemical, biological, radiation, and nuclear aspect to this COVID-19. Now, some of that might be maybe a little bit of overkill, but -- but we understand that this is a -- a mission set that we can't fail on, and so we're taking no chances. We're ensuring that we will have the ability to respond when needed, and we're going to ensure that we absolutely have depth, redundancy, and ultimately, mission assurance in those roles.

Let me see if General Richardson has anything to add to that.

LT. GEN. RICHARDSON: You covered it pretty good, but I will -- I would like to just tack on, in terms of the -- absolutely in terms of the chemical, biological, and nuclear environment -- so just on that.

In terms of the gear that you wear and the protection, it is the same mindset and it's the same sort of training. That's how you have to treat your PPE, that's how you have to treat everything that we have to protect our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as they're working in alternate care facilities, as they're doing all of their jobs.

And even at my headquarters, the same sort of mindset, the same sort of protections and -- and all of that are in place.

Q: Okay.

And, General O'Shaughnessy, one quickie. Secretary Esper disclosed a couple weeks ago that on February 1st, he signed an execute order basically executing the Joint Staff's standing pandemic plan. Can you -- can you lay out what actually that execute order meant for NORTHCOM in terms of preparation?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah, thanks, Tony.

And one of the things that we -- we found was there's a wide spectrum of things that were covered in the -- in the direction that we got from the secretary of defense, as you would imagine.

And if you go back to that timeframe, part of it was -- starting at that point, was the ability to support HHS in the repatriation of our citizens from China, if you recall from the Diamond Princess, and then eventually the Grand Princess, as we were really looking, at that point, to support HHS in finding a place for our -- for American citizens that just needed a place to go through the quarantine.

And so that was an aspect of that. It was also about the planning for the future, to ensure that -- that we were now thinking through -- which of course we were -- all the -- all the things that could happen as a result of the COVID-19.

And so that -- that planning is what set us up for success, I believe, today, in what we're able to highlight and some of the great medical and capability that we've been able to provide to the local and state authorities, as result of some of the planning that we brought to fruition as a result of that EXORD.

And also with the global aspect of -- of just making sure that we, as -- as the Department of Defense, have the ability to -- to operate globally, force -- have the force projection capability as well as defend the homeland in this environment.

And so we -- we had some pre-existing plans in place, we had the direction that was specific, that -- that -- won't go into great detail on, but from the SecDef on that. But it -- I -- the biggest point I would make is, it was a wide spectrum of tasks and things for us at NORTHCOM to look at, based on our homeland defense aspect, based on our global responsibilities, and then based on what we were going to do right here in the United States. Over.

Q: Thank you very much.

STAFF: We'll take one more from the phone and then we'll take a few from the floor.

Up next, we've got Idrees Ali with Reuters.

Q: Sure. Thanks.

Two quick questions. Firstly, how many U.S. military personnel have tested positive for COVID in the United States and its territories?

And the second question I had is, there's been some criticism, including lawmakers, that there's no real protocol at the Pentagon and DOD about which service members should be tested and at what point. I'm just wondering, is there a protocol that you have at NORTHCOM about who should be tested, when, and sort of how to measure that?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah, so for -- on the -- on the first question, I'll just focus on our response on the -- on the NORTHCOM forces that are under our command and control and authorities.

Is -- right now, you know, one of our main concerns is our health care workers that we push forward. You know, they're right in the thick of the fight. And obviously, in the midst of the COVID-19. And by definition, they're going to the hottest spots we have in the nation.

And right now, we're at less than one-half of 1 percent of infection with our -- with our fielded health care workers. And in our overall force, we're at less than one point -- less than 0.1 percent, so 0.001, number-wise.

And we're kind of keeping in that is how we're reporting them. The specific aggregation, that's being reported by OSD and the services. But from the NORTHCOM perspective, that's where we're at.

Now, we understand that our -- especially our health care workers that we're pushing forward, they are at risk. We -- we understand that. We're doing everything we can possibly do, between the PPE, the training, making sure we understand the environment -- that's part of the reason why General Richardson is forward right now, and seeing firsthand exactly the environment they're working in.

But we do know that they're at risk and we do know there are going to be infections of our DOD personnel that are doing this mission set, and we're postured to take good care of them if -- when they do get infected.

And let me ask -- General Richardson to add a little bit with what she's seeing. Over.

LT. GEN. RICHARDSON: Yeah, absolutely.

As the -- as the PPE, as I said it before, that's just like your NBC gear. And -- and the strict measures that are used when you put on the gear, and then the PPE, and then when you -- after you've been working, let's say for, example, on a shift for several hours and then you come back out, and it's almost like deconning -- the decontamination process that you go through, the -- the steps of how you take off your -- your PPE, how it's -- how it's sanitized or thrown away.

It's all very orderly, and it's all done in a specific sequence to make sure that you're not carrying anything outside once you leave the doffing area, is what they call it -- they call it donning and doffing -- once you leave the doff area. And -- and that, you've left everything behind, and you're completely sanitized when you go out, when you depart the -- the area where you were working.

Also what's very important are the -- you know, the -- what uniform you wear. Are you wearing scrubs? And then you change before you leave the facility. There's also generally an (inaudible) places, showers offered where you can take a shower before you leave. And then you leave the -- whatever uniform you were wearing, whether it was your military uniform; in most cases, it's scrubs that are provided. And then a medical-grade laundry contract is -- they're either in place by the hospital, or we put that in place to ensure that the -- the cleaning process is very thorough and -- and that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines put on clean gear when they come back for the next day or the next shift.

Q: Sir, if I could just quickly follow up, on the numbers, how many troops and personnel have tested positive in the United States? Because I feel like the taxpayers have a right to know that.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah.

And again, I would say the OSD is the ones who are actually talking through the specific numbers and they're aggregating that in the services.

From our perspective, partially based on -- you know, we have operational concerns of -- we're not going to talk about individual units, we're not going to talk about potential vulnerabilities as we go through that. And that's why we are keeping our answers to the -- to the percentages as we -- as we go forward. Thank you.

STAFF: Okay, Tom?

Q: Thanks for doing this.

General O'Shaughnessy, you mentioned at the outset that the U.S. has intercepted multiple Russian aircraft; the third time in two months. First of all, how unusual is that? And secondly, do you get a sense that Russia is taking advantage of the pandemic to maybe probe more into the U.S. airspace?

And -- and the same with North Korea. They shot off some short-range missiles, do you see any more activity, any unusual activity with regard to North Korea?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I'll start with the Russian air activity that we've seen. It's -- it is -- it's not necessarily a spike out of historical norms, if you will. What we do see is I think a continuous effort for them, as they -- as they do, in the COVID-19 environment, outside the COVID-19 environment, to continually probe and check and see our responses.

And we just want to make it very clear to them -- which we did, by the way we intercepted them -- that there are no vulnerabilities as a result of COVID-19. We are postured to maintain that ability to respond at a moment's notice, and have no degradation in -- in our ability to defend the homeland.

But we -- and we expect to see continued activity there. And so that's why we're postured the way we are, and that's why we're always ready to respond.

With respect to North Korea, we have seen continuous activity. It's not necessarily outside of the realm of historical norms, especially given some of the significant dates that have gone by. And so we -- as always, we're ready to defend the homeland with the ballistic missile capability, defense capability to be able to respond. And we're -- we continue to be on-step there.

So not necessarily, I guess, broad view, out of the historic norms, but clearly a continued effort on multiple fronts that we see, to -- to potentially test for any vulnerabilities from us. Of course, we are always ready to respond to. Over.

Q: Can you expand on that a bit? Multiple activity, multiple fronts?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah.

Just as you -- as you highlighted yourself, you know, we see the Russian aspects, the Russian military -- Russian military aviation as well as the -- on the North Korea side, we've seen short-range activity that we saw recently from -- from that. So that's what I mean, multiple fronts.

STAFF: Okay. Next up, Tara -- Tara from McClatchy.

Q: Thank you both for doing this.

General O'Shaughnessy and then General Richardson, the last time you briefed us, you mentioned that you were deploying 540 additional forces to the southern border to prevent additional -- or prevent any potential coronavirus people from crossing the border.

Given the president's tweet last night, what's the status of that deployment? And are you considering sending additional forces at this time?

Thank you.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. Thanks for that question, because it allows me to highlight that those -- those forces are in place. We have taken additional 60 surveillance sites, and our -- we come fully operational in those until that team of 540 has done the training, have been put in place relative to support our -- our CBP personnel. And that is actively ongoing.

We -- and as we see with the continued discussion relative to that from -- from the -- from the White House, we're employed as we've been directed. I have not had additional tasking over the last few days but we are fully operational in what we have previously tasked on. Our total number about 2,500 on the -- on the border doing this mission set from the active duty at this time.

Q: Twenty-five hundred active duty? And then additional Guard forces, correct?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: That's correct.

Q: And can you give us a description of what these forces are doing right now? And if there is an increased effort to prevent any sort of immigrations, or crossings, what would you -- what else -- what other resources would you need at the border?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah, so what we are doing is -- is much like we -- we had been doing before, it’s just now increased sites that we're actually to -- to populate. But our -- our job in that is really the detection monitoring aspect of it.

So -- so we man these -- these mobile cameras, if you will. We point out when we see activity, and then the Customs Border personnel or the patrol agents actually are the ones who respond to that activity.

And that -- those techniques, tactics and those procedures are all in play as they were before, and they just continue with additional sites. We have not had additional tasking to date as a result of any additional conversations. But, we are actively in place with the mission set that we've been given.

Q: Just one last on the Mercy. Can you give us a status update of the sailors aboard that ship that have tested positive?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes. So we take care of all of our personnel, whether they're airmen, soldiers, sailors, Marines or civilians in this case, the sailors are appropriately being taken care of. There's been no impact to the ability to perform the mission. And we continue with the mission as -- as depicted on -- not only on the Mercy but also on the Comfort.

STAFF: Okay, we're going to take on from the -- on the floor, and head back to the phones. Barbara Starr, CNN?

Q: So, General O'Shaughnessy, going back to North Korea as a no fail mission. What's your working assumption right now for Northern Command? Do you believe that Kim Jong-un is still fully in power and fully in charge of command and control of North Korea's weapons complex, as you look at it?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yes, thanks, Barbara.

Our responsibility and mission set here, to defend against any North Korean launch of a ballistic missile remains in place. That's our -- that's the focus that we have, and we take that seriously at all times.

And so I'm aware of the -- the reporting that you're referencing. But from our mission standpoint, we remain vigilant, remain postured to respond, and we will continue to do so, going into the future.

STAFF: Okay, heading back to the phones. Courtney Kube, CBS?

Okay, we'll move to the next. Rose Thayer, Stars and Stripes?

Q: Hey, good morning. Thank you for doing this.

I wanted to ask about the timeline for troops that are deployed. Have you given them, sort of, a window of how long they should expect to be on the ground in these different hotspots, and if there's any intention at a certain time period to maybe transition and trade out the units that are there?

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah, thanks for that question, Rose.

We're going to be employed as long as our nation needs us to be employed.

Now, for the individuals that are actively employed right now, we're looking at each of the units individually. We do have additional capability, capacity that we can flow in; in fact, we are flowing in. On some of the areas we're already deployed, we're flowing in additional assets just to give them enough redundancy so that they can get a schedule that will give them time to -- time off while they're actually forward-deployed.

Because we know this is a very difficult, challenging mission set. We want to make sure that they're taken care of while they're there. We also understand the urgency of what they're doing.

So -- so there's, kind of, two parts to your question. On the specific missions, we're going to be doing this as long as our nation needs us to do it. For the individual units, individuals, we're trying to set them up so that they can sustain their operation and have a battle rhythm that will allow them to do that.

In fact, that's one of the reasons we have, again, General Richardson doing the battle field circulation, that's one of the reasons we've been able to embrace the technology where, every day, I'm talking to dozens of -- of the forward-deployed members through our devices that we've -- we've distributed to the force.

So I can talk and flatten the -- the command structure, if you will, by talking directly to the individuals to get a sense for what they're doing, how they're doing it and how they are doing as they do it. And every day, they are actually reporting through an application on the device that we give them will tell us how they're feeling both mentally, physically, and we have a great team forward with both mental health personnel and a chaplain, and we're able to keep tabs on our force that way.

And let me ask General Richardson to expand on that.

LT. GEN. RICHARDSON: Thanks again.

Honestly, in terms of as I get to travel around this, I get to do the same thing, generally face-to-face with the social distancing procedures and everything like that. But it -- it makes a difference when you can look folks in the eyeballs and you can ask them questions, and you can just get -- you can touch it, feel it, sense it, smell it -- all those – kinds of things, you really get a good feel for things.

And then I go through -- I try to go through as much of what -- of what they -- actually go through themselves on a daily basis. You know, I -- I want to check the procedures and the standards across the board for the donning and the doffing for the PPE and ensure that the standards are the same, and -- and make sure that we're being as strict as possible because I really see that is -- that's exactly how we protect our -- our folks in this COVID fight when they're working with patients all day long that are -- that are COVID-positive.

So it actually is very, very helpful also at -- that General O'Shaughnessy mentioned in terms of being able to -- to -- to, what do I want to say, electronically communicate with -- with our folks, too, in a method that the -- the younger -- the younger generation likes to communicate that way, and -- and be able to just reach out. And everybody really appreciates the commander calling and just checking on them and asking them how things are going and that sort of thing, because they normally don't get that, and so -- all this time. And so -- so they -- it makes folks just like they're part of the team when they're out there working to -- to help the nation.

STAFF: Okay, we've got time for a couple more questions. Next up, Paul Sonne, Washington Post.

Q: Hi there. Thanks for doing this.

Hi there, thanks for doing this. I sort of have two questions. One was, do you know the breakdown of how many, how many service members are deployed to each of those types of those three types of -- of -- of care facilities?

And then I was also wondering what the lessons learned are from the Javits Center as you have traveled around. I know there was some discussion in the early days about the Javits Center not being that occupied, and people at hospitals, workers at hospitals in New York City being frustrated that there wasn't more direct augmentation of hospitals, because it was difficult to transfer patients there. There was a requirement, and that kind of changed. So I was wondering if you're finding that one of those three types of facilities you're staffing is more effective than the others, or if you -- what sort of lessons are you -- do you guys have and how you're adjusting your posture accordingly.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah, thanks for that question. It's actually a really relevant question, especially with respect to, you know, how we started this overall campaign.

And -- and -- and we, the Department of Defense, but -- but more importantly, I think, the -- the nation that originally had a different type of picture of what the problem set was really going to be. And -- and that's what we were originally going into, and it -- and it, you know, well covered, but you know, we were going in with a non-COVID relief valve pulled from the Comfort and the Javits Center, as an example, of the -- of the ones that have been most reported on.

But one of the things that I'm really proud of is our team's ability to understand that the problem changed, and the problem changed because of the great response we got from American citizens to actually abide by instruction from the local, state, and federal authorities, asking them to do the social distancing, that shut-down orders that were being received, you know, across our nation from governors really had a significant impact, and we all are familiar with the -- the models that had drastic -- originally showing drastic numbers that would -- that would completely be over the capacity of any of the hospital systems that we had.

And what we were able to do is very quickly adapt to what we were seeing on the ground, and -- and -- and we -- and the new modeling, and we were really trying to do some predictive analysis with a bunch of different data sources, and that's part of our public/private partnerships with some of the companies that have really helped us with that -- as well as some DOD facilities like Lincoln Labs, and taking our, no kidding, nation's smartest engineers and -- and looking at this problem set that -- that we were quickly able to assess that the problem had fundamentally changed, and the problem was no longer the capacity. It wasn't just the capacity of the hospitals, but it was literally our health care workers and the staffing at them, driven by a couple of different things. One is just the large numbers, obviously, and the exhaustion of the -- of the force; the attrition, to some degree, of the health care force; and -- and then ultimately, the higher level of staffing that you need per patient based on a high acuity as a result of the -- the COVID -- the nature of the COVID virus. All of those combined drove us to reassess what we were doing.

And my hat's off to the forward teams, because it was that close coordination with the -- in -- in the particular case of Javits and Comfort, as an example -- that close coordination with the New York City officials, the state officials. We burned up the phone lines from our quarters, both myself personally and my staff here. Laura Richardson burned up the phone lines from her end. Because we wanted to understand what -- what was it really happening in the places that we were trying to support.

And so really, in a matter of days, what’s in historical terms, you know, I think it was really a pretty quick adaption of -- of understanding that our plan that was in place was not going to be the most effective. We were able to change, and -- and as you well know, we changed the Comfort from non-COVID to COVID, but did maintain the high acuity there. The Javits Center, I think, is a huge success story. That started out as -- as literally beds in a convention center, and -- and it was really the Army Expeditionary Hospital and the team that went forward where we had actually deployed with a -- a lot more equipment than -- than they would be needed just to fall in on the -- on -- on what was originally built in the -- in the Javits Center, and that turned out to be a good decision.

But they fundamentally changed the Javits from what was originally delivered to ultimately a -- a medium-level acuity hospital with oxygen, ventilators, ICU beds. And -- and the thousand things that actually come with it, because it's also the pharmacy and the X-rays -- many, many different things that actually have to come together to make that happen. So it -- it fundamentally changed.

But we also were careful. We're -- we're not chasing numbers, right? We're -- you know, you could say, "Well, it's supposed to be a 2,500-bed facility, and you only have 250 people or 350 people at it towards its peak there.” Yeah, but what -- what we did is we were able to meet the demand signal, and that's what I'm -- I'm super-excited about. And what we -- what our team put together was able to do was actually get after what needed to be done.

And now -- now to your -- your question about which of the three methods is the most effective, and the answer is all of them, and it just depends on the very unique situation that we fall in on, and now we have three really good options that we can go in. And frankly, none of them are -- they're all wooden shoe, right? They're all a hand-made wooden shoe everywhere we go. But those are the basic models of what you can afford.

FEMA is very happy with these. In fact, Pete Gaynor, the administrator of FEMA actually sent a letter to each of the states, highlighting some of these as examples of what we could be done, not just with the military but with the -- the states' emergency management teams.

And so as we go and look across -- in fact, we could -- we could -- if you're interested, we could actually go line by line and go through each of the ones and how we're doing it. But they're all just a little bit different.

But we are -- outside of New York, we have examples of all -- they all continue to be successful and both the embed, the enhanced capacity and then the ACFs.

What we do make sure of is we go into these places, for example the ACF, the Alternate Care Facilities, we're ensuring that they have the right equipment before we fall in on them. And so rather than repeat the Javits Center, we had to rebuild it as we were executing, we're now able to do that pre-emptively, and go in and work with the states, work with the local officials, pass our lessons learned and make sure those facilities are actually going to be able to meet the needs.

And let me pass to -- to Laura for some other observations. But this to me is a huge success story. In fact, the biggest aspect of our response, I think, has been our ability to actually meet the needs, what the state and local officials needed in order to -- to actually provide them the best response at each of the locations.

Over to you, Laura.

LT. GEN. RICHARDSON: Okay, sir.

So the -- for example, in the -- if I were to take the medical facilities or the hospitals that were integrated in, -- I could use – I could give an example of our Urban Augmentation Task Force, the 85 personnel team, medical team integrated into, in Connecticut, at the Bennett Medical Health Center.

Also, an 85-person Urban Augmentation Task Force augmenting New York University Hospital. And for example in Philly, they're either going to integrate into the local hospitals, that's still being determined, or into the Temple alternate care facility that they've built out of the arena there. So they're sorting through that right now.

And for example, we have an Urban Augmentation Task Force that will be going into Tewksbury Hospital in Massachusetts, and then in New Jersey, Atlantic City and Salem Medical Center.

We also have, in New York City public hospitals, about 550 individuals, augmentees from the Air Force and the Navy that are working in those city public hospitals. And also, part of Expeditionary Medical Facility, a Navy EMF, working in Baton Rouge with about 75 personnel, augmenting that Mid City hospital that I spoke about.

And then plenty of other teams are augmenting in the -- in the exposition centers and the convention centers that I talked about in Detroit for example, and Edison, New Jersey, here at Javits, that sort of thing.

STAFF: Okay, we've got time for one last question. Let's go to Abraham --
(CROSSTALK)

STAFF: Sorry?

Q: Sorry, did you guys have the breakdown of how many are deployed in different – in those three different capacities?

LT. GEN. RICHARDSON: We'd have to get back to you with a specific breakdown in the numbers.

Q: Are you generally finding that it makes more sense to augment, to do an augmentation rather than staff alternative care facilities?

GEN. RICHARDSON: Either way. It's specifically where the need is, we're going to -- we're going to cover the need for what the state wants us to do. And -- and in both cases, it's just working really well. We want to make sure that the Title 10 resources that are being used are put to work immediately to help out. And we've, I think, found that with hospitals, those -- those have all the infrastructure and everything that's needed.

And so either way works. General O'Shaughnessy I think would like to say something as well.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah, I would just add, so really, it's rarely as case of which of the three we pick. It's actually usually a case of a couple of them being executed simultaneously. And one of the advantages we have is, as the states look at their capability, capacity, they may have an alternate care facility that -- that is just added to their relief valve.

But at the same time, they have a heavy demand in the hospitals. And so what we're able to do is do both simultaneously, where we take our forces and we bring them, they check out in the ACFs, they understand it, and then they move forward to the hospitals.

And so they can actually be part of the relief valve, if it's needed, to staff alternate care facility if the capacity exceeds the hospitals. But they're not just idle while -- while waiting for that capacity to be exceeded; they're pushing right into the hospitals as they're waiting for that.

And so oftentimes, in fact almost every place we have operating across the nation now, we have a couple of the three in place at any given time. And daily, we're moving from one -- one emphasis to another, exactly based on their needs.

And so because of that, I think we're able to get really effective use of our fielded force and driving exactly to where they need them. We can change in a matter of hours how we're actually applying that. Over.

STAFF: Okay, we've got time for one last question. And this is -- we're giving it to Abraham Massey, Washington Examiner.

Q: Terrific. Thank you so much for doing this.

So my question is about a thing a lot of experts have talked about, how widespread testing is going to be what's necessary to bring the country back to work safely. I was wondering if -- if NORTHCOM is doing any preliminary planning for a DOD-managed widespread testing across the country?

And if there's some discussions or planning happening, what stage is that at? What would it look like? And what kind of limitations do you foresee?

Thank you.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: Yeah, so I -- a couple -- maybe a couple points on this. The first is, from our vantage point with the fielded force, we very concerned and are obviously -- our welfare of our forces is one of our top priorities. So that diagnostic testing is important to us, and that we have that capability forward (inaudible) for our fielded force, if they are symptomatic, in accordance with CDC guidelines, then we are applying the test appropriately, you know, across that fielded force.

The second part of your question was really more towards the screening-type aspect of testing. And so we're in conversations -- in fact, just yesterday and the day before, both I was in discussions with the secretary of defense, of how are we going to apply that across the Department of Defense in -- in both the management of our mission assurance and some of our efforts.

As more and more testing capacity is available, how will we actually use that in combination with isolation to ensure our ability to maintain that mission assurance, whether it's operating ships, missile defense, our aviation assets or our -- our surface, ground, maritime, and ground assets.

And so these are discussions that are underway and are very robust and mature with the secretary of defense, happening daily.

But then to your -- to your third kind of part of your question was, what would that -- what would be able to apply, you know, across -- outside of the DOD channels maybe. One of the things we've already seen great success on is, for example, our National Guard and how the National Guard, under the authority of the -- of the governor, is able to be part of some of the state testing, capability and capacity. And we see that continuing as we go forward and -- and see more and more robust testing capacity available across the nation. Over.

STAFF: All right, sir, that's all the time we've got. I’d like to open the floor to you -- to you, General O'Shaughnessy, if you have any closing comments.

GEN. O'SHAUGHNESSY: I do.

And that's, one, I'd just thank you for -- everyone, for allowing us to share a little bit of what our team is doing. I'm super proud of them and -- and excited about what we've been able to do to help our nation in their -- in their time of need. And we have 15,000 NORTHCOM dedicated forces that are proud to support our nation and have a profound impact.

And at the same time, we're making sure we have mission assurance within our no-fail mission of defending our homeland. And it's certainly -- proud to be part of the overall effort as we see our nation coming together with a whole-of-America approach, and we certainly see ourselves as integral to that -- that overarching effort.

Turn it over to Laura.

LT. GEN. RICHARDSON: Yeah, thank you.

And I just really appreciate the -- all the -- the great support with this effort and seeing our folks go out and -- and being able to serve in the homeland, which is not normally what -- what we get to do. And so that's certainly an honor. And -- and we see it every day, and as I travel around to all the different states and the cities, just seeing that absolute team work and the unity of effort across the board between the city, the states, the federal government, the -- everything, with Title 32 and the National Guard and everybody just teaming up together to solve the problems specific to that particular area and to provide the support that’s needed.

STAFF: Sir, ma'am, I want to thank you for joining us today, and as well as everyone in the media, thank you for taking the time to join us today. Have a good day.