Apr 9, 2020
Department of Defense News Briefing Transcript at Pentagon
The Department of Defense officials held a news briefing at the Pentagon today. Read the full transcript of their updates.
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David Norquist: (00:55)
Okay, we ready? All right, before we begin, I’d like to pause for a moment to reflect on the over 14,000 Americans we’ve lost to this virus over the past several weeks. They and their loved ones are in our thoughts and prayers. This is a tough time for our nation, but with the incredible work of our medical professionals, we shall overcome this challenge just as we’ve overcome all others we’ve faced throughout history. To those who wish us harm, make no mistake. Even with the challenges that this disease is brought to our shores, the Department of Defense stands ready to meet any threat and defend our nation. Over the last four years we have, we built our military from the negative effects of sequestration. We have more people, more advanced equipment, more munitions, and are better trained.
David Norquist: (01:48)
If our adversaries think this is our moment of weakness, they are dangerously wrong. Just as the men and women of our military protect our nation, we continue to take measures as we have since late January to protect our military and civilian communities around the world as we seek to operate safely in a COVID environment. For example, we issued stop moving orders, raised the health protection level, are executing social distancing, wearing face masks, testing, canceling or modifying exercises, maximizing the use of telework and taking actions to isolate where appropriate. Because we are not only continuing to defend our nation but also supporting state and local authorities. DOD personnel may well have a higher rate of infection, but given our demographics of our population, we will also have a lower hospitalization rate. To date, of our 1.4 million active duty members, 64, or less than 100th of 1%, currently require hospitalization, but we watch this very closely.
David Norquist: (02:54)
We are committed to world-class medical care for all of our effected service members. We will continue to protect the force so they can continue to protect you. While we continue doing everything we can as we have since the beginning to support state and local efforts by providing four key resources. Emergency sites, emergency supplies, emergency staff, and emergency science. With respect to emergency sites, we have provided two hospital ships, four army field hospitals, two Navy expeditionary hospitals and eight new urban medical task forces created by the army. One of our ships, the Comfort, which is now providing ICU support to patients in New York City was pulled out of maintenance, deployed and arrived in New York City two weeks ahead of schedule. We also have over 15,000 members of the Army Corps of Engineers working across the country, building over 16,000 hospital beds, and conducting over 800 site surveys to determine additional hospital space.
David Norquist: (03:55)
For example, the Javits Center will soon have 1,750 beds and 96 intensive care units, making it one of the largest hospitals in America. With respect to emergency supplies, the DOD is delivering supplies across the country to include 400 ventilators that are deployed with our forces and another 500 ventilators to the New York Metro area for distribution. We have flown four million test swabs to FEMA and HHS and provided 10 million N95 masks, 3.1 million to New York city and 6.9 million to over 16 other states. With respect to emergency staff, we have 28,000 National Guard supporting the states and thousands of medical personnel deployed to Washington, California, Texas, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. This includes military doctors and nurses embedded in New York City hospitals who only days ago volunteered and were mobilized from their homes across the country. Finally, with respect to science, our military researchers are working closely with the CDC to advance vaccine and therapeutics developments.
David Norquist: (05:02)
We worked hard to provide the support, emergency sites, supplies and staff in advance of peak needs in each region, and when the pressure on those areas subsides, we will move these resources to the areas that need them next. DOD is all in. We will take care of our people, continue our national security mission, and support President Trump’s whole of nation effort to combat COVID-19. In closing, I’d like us to remember that the amazing men and women of our military are highly trained and have repeatedly proven capable of overcoming hardships, adapting to adversity, and accomplishing the mission in spite of significant obstacles. This current crisis is no different. We are, and will remain, prepared to prevail in any conflict anytime and anywhere. With that, I’ll turn to the vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Heiton, to say a few words before we take questions.
General Hyten: (05:58)
Thank you sir. Good morning everyone. Our military remains ready and continues to operate around the globe. That includes providing personnel supplies and support to the public health crisis here at home. Our top priority is the safety and protection of our troops and families from COVID-19. Every day leaders across the service balance mission requirements while protecting our service members health and I believe we’re striking the right balance. Our military continues to support the whole government response to COVID-19. So Secretary Norquist highlighted some amazing numbers, but I’m going to take a different direction. Before I went to sleep last night, my wife and I watched episode two of John Krasinski, Some Good News, the SGN network online. And if you haven’t seen it, look it up. It’s worth your time. There’s a lot of good news out there. So I thought I’d share some of the good news from our perspective.
General Hyten: (06:49)
I’d really like to highlight some of the stories of our people, because we have almost 50,000 deployed right now on this mission and over 30,000 are from the guard and reserve. So a guy named Colonel Hans Otto from the 45th airlift wing in Ohio put together a group of seven volunteers. He’s a reservist. They call themselves the COVID Commandos. Just four days ago, on the 5th of April, their team, one doctor and six nurses packed their bags, said goodbye to their families, deployed in New York with 24 hours notice. Incredibly, one of those seven, Lieutenant Jennifer Garrison only had six hours notice when one of the original team members was unable to make it. These seven great Americans are now working today in Lincoln Hospital in New York. Their deployment is part of a larger mobilization package of more than 1,000 reserve medical professionals from across the nation deployed to New York over the last few days in support of COVID-19 response to take care of their fellow Americans.
General Hyten: (07:43)
So here’s some word from Lieutenant Garrison. She was covering a 12 hour overnight shift in the intensive care unit at the Wright Patterson medical center near Dayton, Ohio over the weekend. She says, quote, “They called me during the shift and asked me if I was willing to go and I said yes. I thought I was going to leave on Monday.” She finished her shift at 6:00 AM on Sunday, went home to her family. Three hours later she got another call said … And so she says, “When I hung up the phone, I just looked over at my husband. I told him they want me to leave today. So he said, let’s go get you packed.” She was on a plane that afternoon on the way to New York, and the next day she’s going to work in the New York City hospitals, and there’s been thousands of stories like that since the president mobilized the reserve on the 27th of March. Think about it, the 27th of March is not that long ago, and now we have thousands of reservists medical professionals deployed all over the country, but in New York in particular. From their normal life at home to the middle of New York in hours or days, right to work, leaving their families, leaving their homes, running towards the trouble. They’re moving fast to help their fellow citizens in a time of crisis. They’re helping to support the heroic doctors and nurses already there who are tired, who have been fighting that disease for the last few weeks and they need support. That’s what they’re there for, and it’s just a few examples of sacrifice that citizen airmen, citizen soldiers are making from all units in order to fight and improve the lives of Americans. The US military and the American people are incredibly resilient and thrive under adversity. I want to assure you that the impact of COVID-19 is felt across every component, every service member, every element of our nation. But we’ll continue to confront the pandemic head on, and we’ll be even stronger after this is over.
General Hyten: (09:27)
So I want to close by crediting all our service men and women, the 50,000 in harm’s way right now, especially those reservists and guardsmen, who are running to the sound of trouble with almost no notice. I want to recognize each and every one of these great people who are in the fight because a nation’s strength come from his people. Those who have had the privilege to wear the uniform for our country are sworn to support and defend the constitution, the nation and its people. We’ve done it for over 250 years in times of war, in times of crisis, in times of emergency. And we’re going to do it again in the face of this pandemic. So when we work with FEMA and the other interagency partners, we’re going to prevail in the end. So with that, we’re happy to take your questions. Thank you.
Speaker 4: (10:06)
We’ll actually start on the phone lines off. Bob Burns, AP?
Bob Burns: (10:11)
A good morning. Thank you. I’d like to ask each of you a question related to the Theodore Roosevelt situation. General Heiton, do you believe there’s reason to think that this TR experience of a COVID virus outbreak while at sea is likely to be repeated another deployed ships? Or to put it another way, is this … You think this is a one off or is it a harbinger of trouble to come? And if I may ask a question also to Secretary Norquist, Pentagon’s line thus far in the COVID period of the past month or two has been that it has had no significant operational impact, but clearly it now has by sidelining the TR, which has more than 400 of its crew members now effected. Are you and Secretary Esper rethinking your prognosis on the likely operational impact on the military as a whole in coming weeks? Thank you.
General Hyten: (11:10)
So thanks Bob. So from my perspective, I think it’s, it’s not a good idea to think that the Teddy Roosevelt is a one of a kind issue. We have too many ships at sea, we have too many deployed capabilities, there’s 5,000 sailors on a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, to think that it will never happen again is not a good way to plan. What we have to do is we have to figure out how to plan for operations in these kinds of COVID environments. And so when you look at the numbers off the Theodore Roosevelt, we’ve tested almost the whole crew now. We still have about 1,000 tests left to report out, but 3,170 of the crew tested negative, 416 have tested positive. 187 of those were symptomatic. 229 were-
General Hyten: (12:03)
187 of those were symptomatic. 229 were asymptomatic. We still have 1,164 pending results, and we’ve now had one hospitalized and one in the ICU. This is an interesting set of data. It’s interesting for the country, but it’s interesting for us. We have to figure out how this impacts our population, which tends to be a very young, healthy population. How do we operate that? How do we quarantine a ship before it goes out? How do we consolidate the ship so we can operate? How do we do that on a nuclear powered carrier, on a nuclear powered submarine? How do we do that with our bomber force, our combat arms force? How do we do that with our fighters, our ICBMs. We have to work that across the board. This’ll be a new way of doing business that we have to focus in on, and we’re adjusting to that new world as we speak today.
David Norquist: (12:49)
I think the first thing to understand is that the ship went into port as an abundance of caution. If that ship had been heading into combat, it’s fully capable of performing its mission. If there was a need for it to deploy right away, it would be able to do so. But what we’re going to continue to need to do to maintain that level of readiness is, as the vice chairman talked about, we have put in place a screening and other procedures to be able to protect submarines and others, and we’re going to continue to evolve those as our information and knowledge of the disease and the way it spreads is understood. But so far, even in the case as dramatic as this one, if there was a conflict, that ship was capable of going into the fight.
Speaker 5: (13:30)
May I ask a quick followup?
David Norquist: (13:31)
Speaker 6: (13:36)
Secretary Norquist, on your comments, sir, my question was intended to be a little more broadly whether you’re looking at, now that you see what’s happened aboard the Theodore Roosevelt and given the precautions you’ve already been taking, I’m wondering whether you now see this as in any way compelling you to change the way you look at the way ahead in the coming weeks for the force as a whole in terms of its operational status.
David Norquist: (14:04)
We’re going to need to change and adapt, because even over the coming months, the virus isn’t going to get away. We’re going to have to be able to operate in a COVID environment, which means how do you train, how do you prepare, how do you deploy? As we look at that, there are going to be steps we take, and the services are working through them on … We reduced in council some exercises. We start to resume those. How do you do it in a way that you can conduct it safely and effectively? There will need to be changes. We have adapted in the past. We will continue to adapt in this environment, but we will always make sure that we can provide the forces the nation needs in order to provide for its security.
Speaker 6: (14:42)
Rob Reynolds: (14:42)
Thank you. Question for each of you, if I may. General, there’s been a lot of reporting today and yesterday that intelligence about the coronavirus pandemic in China first arrived and was first obtained in November and put into various reports, and may have been briefed in the presidential daily brief on January 3rd. Can you say when the first intelligence stream started arriving about this threat. And if I may, to Deputy Secretary Norquist, sir, you mentioned the Javits Center and the Comfort. Both are largely empty at this point, and military personnel have now been surged into the hospitals themselves. Is that a change in tactic because of the difficulty of working with the local civilian hospitals to kind of go to the point of need directly as opposed to having them come to these facilities? Has that changed your thinking on how you’re going to approach this challenge elsewhere?
David Norquist: (15:35)
So let me do this. I’ll go ahead and answer the first, and then I’ll let the chairman address both of them. We have evolved our response to the crisis as the situation’s developed. Originally, the goal was maximize the number of bets, so the answer was we deployed the Javits. It was going to be a non-COVID facility. Over time, what we started to see was because of everyone staying at home, car accidents were down, other injuries were down, the demand for a trauma center was lower, so we re-configured the Javits, spread the beds out, made them available. Our goal in each of these steps and what we’ve successfully done is stay ahead of the demand signal, be able to be there so that when the New York hospitals get full, they can move capacity at us. They’re doing some of that.
David Norquist: (16:16)
Well, what we’re seeing is that inside New York City, many of the hospitals are still able to manage the workload. What they’re suffering from is doctors getting sick or nurses or capacity. The request has been, “Hey, rather than trying to always move the patients to you, when we have gaps, can you move the doctors to us?” This is under NORTHCOM. They’re the ones who lead this for us, so they have adjusted each step of the way, and we are pushing more and more of our medical people into the hospitals to backup and provide support for those who’ve been working there for two incredible hard and long hours, providing them either relief or when they go down sick that somebody can stand in their place. It’s an adaption, and we will continue to change as the situation changes. Well, let me turn it to the vice chairman to both your first and any followups on that topic.
General Hyten: (16:57)
So I’ll follow up on that real quick. I think that just shows the strength of the military cables we deploy in. We’ve gone from trauma to COVID recovery to go from hospital to COVID, trauma, to deploying doctors forward too. We have spun on a dime as the demand signal changes. As the secretary said, the whole goal of what we’re trying to do is just to stay ahead of it. Always have that relief valve. If something goes bad, we are there and ready to support that. I think that shows the strength of the military cable that’s up there.
General Hyten: (17:28)
Now, concerning the intelligence reports, first time I saw this when I read it in the news, but I can tell you we went back and did a deep dive into everything that we could find. Normally, we don’t talk about intelligence reports. I think you saw the formal statement this morning, but I’ll expand a little bit and I’ll tell you, we went back and looked at everything in November, December. The first indications we have were the reports out of China in late December. They were in the public forum, and the first intel reports I saw were in January and we’ve looked at those in detail. That’s all I know right now.
Speaker 6: (18:05)
We’ll go to the phones again. [inaudible 00:18:06] with the Reuters.
Speaker 7: (18:09)
Sure. Thank you. Two quick questions. Firstly, Mr. Secretary, you said the TR could still go into battle if needed. How is that possible if 10% of the crew is tested positive and sidelined? I just don’t understand how it can still be operational. Second question is do you expect the stop movement order, which was for 60 days, do you expect that to be extended and how long would that be?
David Norquist: (18:37)
There’s two parts that. One is you have people who are testing positive. A significant percentage for the military or asymptomatic, don’t have symptoms. Others have mild flu-like symptoms, the sort of things that our fleet is normally used to dealing with. Our ships have ICU capabilities on carriers and others, so if it had to go, it could. Now, we want to be attentive. We want to provide the extra level of security and safety that we can do. That’s why we’re taking the steps we have, but the military has had to deploy and recognize and fight in regions where viruses and disease are widespread, so we have capability of doing that. We will do it if we need to, but in this case, we want to make the extra level of safety.
David Norquist: (19:19)
With regard to stop movement, that’s something we continue to look at. What are the criteria under which we would be able to begin resume movement, and this includes both deployments as well as PCs movements, so we’re going to continue to look at whether the disease is continuing to spread or whether it’s started to decline, what locations are affected, the ability to get transportation and other things up and running, and we’ll make that adjustment as we see the data and the information showing that it’s safe to resume those operations.
Speaker 6: (19:48)
Megan Myers: (19:58)
Megan Myers, Military Times. Most of the states and big cities have put together projections for when they think that their infection rates are going to hit their peak. Has the Defense Department put together anything for the personnel here, keeping in mind that everybody’s very spread out?
David Norquist: (20:12)
By here, do you mean the Pentagon itself or-
Megan Myers: (20:15)
The Pentagon and military personnel all over the world.
David Norquist: (20:17)
So we track both those projections, and we have internal models that we have developed that parallel with them to try and look at both the spread of the disease inside of our force. As the vice chairman, we look at the hospitalization rate for ours, so we have a significantly lower hospitalization rate prepositive than you would find in others. But that’s, of course, the nature of disease. It predominantly affects people or are most damaging to those in 60s, 70s and 80s, but even young people affected, just not on the same scale. We monitor what’s happening here. We’ve adopted a while ago procedures to keep people six feet apart, separate offices, make sure that if individual organizations are effected, that it doesn’t take down offices near them. But we will monitor that, and many of our local communities, their data looks very much like the city or state that they’re located in.
Megan Myers: (21:07)
So overall, do you think, New York city, this is supposed to be their worst week. Some other cities it should be later this month. Do you have a projection for when the worst week or couple of weeks might be.
David Norquist: (21:16)
So the worst week, because of New York City, is likely to be this weekend and next week because their numbers are so much larger. What we will see over time is whether the other cities that come up next peak as high as a percentage of the population as New York City did, or because they’re coming after many of the social mitigation measures were put in place, they may peak but at a much lower level. We will watch that. We worked as very carefully with the CDC and others, and we share data and research on this to make sure we’re tracking, where do we go next? So for example, when Washington state had the first breakout, early on we deployed army field hospitals. Got there ahead, they didn’t need. Those are now being released, so those will be free to go to the next likely hotspot. We’re watching New Orleans, we’re watching Detroit, we’re watching some of those other areas.
Speaker 7: (22:08)
Sure, but for Defense Department personnel, New York City’s not a force concentration area, so for places where there are service members, how do you think that’s going to play out?
General Hyten: (22:18)
If I could, just share a couple of things to add in on that issue. We track the entire department every day and we get the numbers every day. The slope on our line looks very different than the slope that you see from the national perspective. Our slope is a very low sloping line, and it’s fairly consistent and has been since the beginning of time. That’s because our people are spread out all over the place. What you see is small pockets that pop up in communities where they have issues, so you see Theodore Roosevelt creates that pocket, and now we have to focus on that pocket. We have a couple of other small pockets, not the size of the Teddy Roosevelt, but small that we have to focus in on and make sure that we close those things off and understand what those things are.
General Hyten: (23:03)
But in aggregate, the slope is low and it’s slow, and we want to make sure we keep it that way, so we have to watch it. We watch it by state, by location, by aggregate. We watch our military members, our reservists our dependents, our guardsman, the whole nine yards, every way you can look at it so that if we see anything that pops up, we can focus on that and make sure it doesn’t expand across the force.
Speaker 6: (23:31)
Missy Ryan, the Washington Post.
Missy Ryan: (23:35)
Hi, thanks for doing this. I have a question for General Hyten. You said that the military would come out of this stronger than it had been, but at the same time, there obviously is a huge disruption to training and exercises, and to some, effect accession and all of that. How is the military tracking or assessing what is likely to be the …
Missy Ryan: (24:03)
… For assessing what is likely to be the impact on readiness or the capability, as the weeks turn into months here. How are you guys trying to understand what that is?
Missy Ryan: (24:15)
And then the second part of my question would be, are you worried that the response to the coronavirus in the United States being a sort of decentralized state-by-state response with the potential for states to pull back on their distancing measures, are you worried that the nature of that response has the potential to prolong this crisis? And in doing so, impact DOD’s ability to focus on its core mission? Thank you.
General Hyten: (24:50)
So I’ll start with the answer on readiness first. We watch the readiness of the force every day. And the readiness of the force in aggregate has not dropped as we’ve gone through this. That’s something that we have to watch very, very closely. We want to make sure that … Now we have, again, these small pockets where we have issues. We have the Theodore Roosevelt, would have been coming off their port call in Guam and back out to sea now under the normal schedule, so there is a degradation there in the Pacific. So we have to watch that very closely. But in aggregate our readiness numbers, because the numbers that we still have across the force are small, our readiness is still full up.
General Hyten: (25:29)
The challenge that we face as we go into the future because we’ve had to cut down the pipeline into basic training in order to make sure that the folks that go into basic training go into basic training in a safe, secure way. So each of the services, working in a different way, have constricted the pipeline of folks coming in. What that does is that we expect thousands of people to come into the military every week. Every week it happens. Thousands of new people come in the military week. That’s now cut back. For a short period of time, that’s not a big issue. If that continues along, then all of a sudden, our numbers come down. And that will eventually impact readiness if it goes on month after month after month.
General Hyten: (26:13)
But as we sit here right now, readiness is full up, ready to go. We have to watch that and make sure we have a lot of tools to make sure that we preserve our readiness. And we’ll use them if we have to. But right now we’re actually in pretty good shape, given the nature of the crisis that we’re in. Mr. Secretary, did you have any…
David Norquist: (26:32)
No, I think that the comment you made about the different responses… So we’ve seen great support across the country from the governors. Everyone is taking this seriously and responding accordingly. FEMA administrator, Pete Gainer, has been leading that coordination effort under FEMA, has been doing a fantastic job. And we fall in under there, so there is a coordination effort. We are part of it. We are in support of FEMA and HHS, and I think they have very good relationships with the states. And you’ve seen that with states receiving supplies, returning supplies. Everyone’s got the data to see how the disease is moving. And when we learn about it, people are adjusting. So I am confident in our ability to work closely together to make sure we respond to this properly.
General Hyten: (27:16)
And then the second part of your question where you talked about the 50 states going different directions. I think you heard Dr. Birx talk about it last night in our press conference. It’s actually pretty cool to see everybody just kind of go all in on social distancing, all in on masks, all in on all the things that we have to do. And you can see the country responding. Now we have to continue to watch that. We have to make sure we understand where our force is, how our force is, our force is part of local communities across this country. We have to watch that as it goes on, but it’s pretty cool to see the country respond with pretty unanimous view of how we have to deal with this crisis as we go on right now. But we’ll continue to watch that every day as we go forward.
[inaudible 00:28:00] NBC.
Missy Ryan: (28:04)
Hi, thanks. Just one more on the TR. The sailor was found unresponsive in his or her isolation room or barracks room. Are you confident that they’re getting, the people who are there and have tested positive and are in isolation, are getting enough medical attention? Are they being checked on enough? Can you walk us through sort of how that’s working? Are they in a barracks on base? And how often are they checked on, those people who have tested positive, symptomatic or asymptomatic?
David Norquist: (28:36)
So the Navy has a process in place. What I’ll do is I’ll let the vice chairman walk you through the details of how they do that.
General Hyten: (28:43)
So from a broad perspective, the sailors that are off the ship, there’s 2,700 sailors that are off the ship now. If you think about 2,700 people going on to an economic structure the size of Guam, that’s a pretty significant impact. So those sailors are all over the island. They’re in houses. They’re in hotel rooms. They’re in different places. And there are teams of medical professionals that check on those sailors twice a day. And that’s the procedure that the Navy put in place to make sure we walk through that. That’s the procedure that was followed. And sadly, this morning we had our first hospitalization of the one sailor. I guess deep down I was hoping that we would never get to the point, I was hoping that the numbers would be zero at the end of this, but that’s just not going to be the case with coronavirus. There’s always going to be the one or two that come in, even in our demographic, and that happened for the first time this morning. So we’re hoping that that sailor recovers. We’re praying for him and his family and his shipmates. But the Navy put together a good plan, especially given the challenges of putting 2,700 sailors into Guam.
Missy Ryan: (30:04)
So even the ones who are symptomatic, who tested positive and are symptomatic, they’re checked on twice a day? And you feel like that’s good enough to ensure that their health is maintained.
General Hyten: (30:20)
One of the challenges is trying to watch the world from the Pentagon. The Pentagon is one of the worst places in the world to try to figure out exactly what’s going on. So that’s why the Navy is in charge of this. The Navy’s running it. The sailors are not by themselves either. They have a buddy systems that are watching for each other. It’s not just waiting for the medical folks to come out every 12 hours. They’ve got buddies that around all the time. This particular one happened from night to morning, but there were buddies around. And the buddies found him. So it’s not just a singular issue with waiting for a twice a day medical team. We just make sure that the medics actually look at them twice a day.
Laura [inaudible 00:00:31:05], Politico.
Missy Ryan: (31:09)
Thanks for doing this. I was wondering if you could give us an update on the situation on the Nimitz aircraft carrier. Is there an outbreak right now, and how many crew members have displayed symptoms?
General Hyten: (31:23)
So the Nimitz is getting ready to go to sea. When you think about 5, 000 sailors getting ready to go to sea, you don’t just get a hotel and put them in one hotel. That’s a significant challenge. So they’ve been kind of, I’ll say isolated, on the ship, getting ready to go. And there’s been a very small number of breakouts on the Nimitz. And we’re watching that very closely before the Nimitz go out. But it’s not a huge breakout. It’s not a big spike at this point. There’s been physical separation of sailors on that ship. So we don’t have any more details than that. But it’s something that we’ll watch very closely. Again, that’ll be a Navy issue and a Pacific issue to make sure we understand what that is before the ship goes to sea.
Missy Ryan: (32:16)
And if I could just follow up really quickly, can you say how you plan to mitigate the potential gap in force projection around the world with now several carriers and other ships having COVID outbreaks to various extents.
David Norquist: (32:34)
So the mitigation methods vary by platform. Depending on the ones, the ones with the smaller crews, there’s isolation before they deploy so that you know before you put them underway. For the larger ones, you have to take a different approach. The ones that are more like Army units are deployed overseas, they have ways of isolating within their organizations. So it really varies. I mean, the number when you have two people in a missile tube or a number who are going to get on a plane together, you have a different approach than if you have large numbers of people who are going to be on a single platform like a ship. Let me deter to vice chairman if there’s any details he wants to add to that.
General Hyten: (33:13)
So we’re going to have to look at it case by case and develop adjusting protocols as we go forward in the future. I think as testing ramps up in this country, and we get more point of care testing, I think that’s going to be a key piece of the puzzle to ensure that our deployable capabilities are ready. But the one thing I’ll tell you is that one carrier as mighty as that carrier is, and amazing is that carrier is, it’s a small fraction of the combat power that the United States brings to a puzzle. We have a joint force, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines that we can bring to bear on any problem. So if we have a challenge with a carrier, we have a long range strike, we have bomber capabilities, we have a number of different capabilities that can back that carrier up. We use the entire joint force to make sure that we’re ready at all times.
David Norquist: (34:05)
But this also gets to just to follow up the importance of the data and the data analytics. As we learn more about how long the virus develops before it shows positive, how early can somebody pass on symptoms, the age groups that we are predominantly dealing with in the military, what’s the likelihood of somebody needing hospitalization? Because there is a capacity on every ship to deal with people who are sick. We have that as a normal feature. So as we start to learn and understand more data from the disease from more cases, we can better model what the mitigation measures are and how to reliably implement them to make sure we’re getting the effect of this we’re looking for.
General Hyten: (34:44)
So we’re erring on the side of caution right now because of the situation in the world. If the situation in the world was different, we’d be more aggressive with our people. But right now since we’re still learning about the disease, we’re taking a step back and being very cautious to make sure we take care of our people. Because the one thing you know is if we’re not healthy, we can’t defend the nation. If we’re not healthy, we can’t support New York. So number one right now is understand the disease and take care of our people. That’s why it’s the Secretary’s number one priority.
[inaudible 00:35:15] He’s not there. Okay. Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today.
Tom Vanden Brook: (35:31)
USA Today. I’d like to ask who approved Secretary Modly’s trip to Guam. Did it require a waiver for use of multiple crews and planes? And was that an appropriate use of government resources? Thank you.
David Norquist: (35:44)
So as Secretary of the Navy, Tom Modly would have the authority to travel as needed to see the mission. I think we want to be very careful about signaling to people that senior leaders shouldn’t be getting out in the field and seeing what’s going on. I think that it is very difficult if you are all the time in the Pentagon. So even with the challenges of the COVID virus, we are going to…
David Norquist: (36:03)
And the Pentagon, so even with the challenges of the COVID virus, we are going to continue to look at ways to make sure that our leadership stays engaged and informed. And during the course of the year, senior leaders need to get out to the field and to understand what’s going on and be able to work with the forces there. Vice Chairman, didn’t you want to add on that?
General Hyten: (36:16)
Well, I’ll just emphasize what I said earlier. If you want to know what’s going on in Guam, where I stand right now is about the worst place to try to figure that out. You actually need to understand, you need to talk to the folks in the Pacific, and eyes on is always the best way to figure out what’s going on. So you want to make sure you balance, again, mission with taking care of people, but you do need to get out of the Pentagon, that’s for sure.
David Norquist: (36:43)
Now, Tony, we called on you once before. You may have been on mute. Did you want to follow up? You have a question?
Speaker 10: (36:53)
[inaudible 00:36:53] Which Tony’d you call?
David Norquist: (36:57)
[inaudible 00:36:57] All right, I guess he wasn’t on the call. Thought I’d give him a chance. We have this with people on mute periodically on conference calls. Don’t think it-
Speaker 9: (37:06)
[Tara 00:37:06] [inaudible 00:01:06].
Speaker 11: (37:10)
Hi, thanks for doing this. I wanted to get an update on whether the department is going to issue service wide stop loss orders. As coronavirus has impacted recruiting and training, whether it will be necessary to maintain force levels. Thank you.
David Norquist: (37:27)
I think that would be a last resort. That is something that has significant consequences to the force. There’s a lot of other measures we do long before that.
General Hyten: (37:37)
Yeah we don’t do that. We absolutely don’t want to do that. It is an authority that we have, and if the situation someday in the future would demand that, we would consider it. But as the secretary said, that is a last resort that we do not want to have to engage.
Speaker 11: (37:57)
Is it something that has been an option on the table that you’ve thought about as maybe it’s a last case scenario, but it’s out there as a possibility?
David Norquist: (38:06)
Well the department has a number of authorities that we can invoke depending on the seriousness of it. The stop loss would be one of them, but as we said, it’s the last resort. We have a lot of other things we’d do first.
General Hyten: (38:16)
Well one of the cool things we’re doing now is that we’re just asking people to voluntarily extend, and it’s amazing how in a crisis people in large numbers voluntarily extend. All those people I was talking about in my opening remarks that volunteer to come on, that’s volunteerism, so the first thing we have to do is ask people, “Will you volunteer to extend?” And people are doing that. So if we get enough numbers out of there, we’ll never get to these last resort items, and that’s our desire to never get there.
Speaker 9: (38:48)
To the phones again. [Marcus Weisberger 00:00:38:50], Defense One.
Speaker 12: (38:56)
Hi, can you hear me?
David Norquist: (38:58)
Yes we can.
Speaker 12: (39:00)
Okay, great, thank you, and thank you for doing this. Secretary Norquist, there’s been a lot of consternation within each of the service’s budget offices over the past month about having to come into the building amid coronavirus. Number of people have told us that they’ve had to show up to actually access classified computer networks that they can’t access remotely, and this was all being driven by OSD’s desire to have accelerated budget timelines this year. I know last week you issued a memo actually instructing folks that their POM submissions would be not due on June 1 anymore, so that more people can work from home. So can you maybe walk us through your reasoning for changing the deadline? How many people do you see that this might actually remove from the building, and just what was the whole purpose of the accelerated timeline this year? Thank you.
David Norquist: (39:52)
So the question I suppose goes back before the coronavirus, which was in the past, we had had program reviews start in June. Over time we had moved them later and later in the year, which was resulting in the program review occurring on top of the budget review, and the secretary and senior leaders not having enough time. So this year we had adopted the schedule to try and go back to what was the more traditional early approach. The question that came up with the coronavirus was there was a request by some to simply delay, to keep the same amount of work, but just because people were only able to work at a lower efficiency because of the challenges, keep them working, but just have them working longer. I found that unacceptable. The secretary had been very clear that we are not going to keep the same processes and just delay, we’re going to streamline them.
David Norquist: (40:45)
So the point that I made when I was working with the services is we can’t do the same thing and keep people here longer over a period of time. We have to get rid of the steps, and so in this case, as you talk about, people have to log in to get to a classified database. All of that is a data that’s normally submitted in June, redone, and then resubmitted in the fall. My point of view is we’re going to streamline this. We’re going to take out that data submission. We’re going to just focus on a review on the high issues. We already built the program last year. That will be the baseline, so what we’ve done is we’ve removed steps to lower the level of work that is required. So we can stay and do the review, but people don’t need to come in. They don’t need to access the database.
David Norquist: (41:29)
So what my concern was was a delay was going to keep those people working just with more time. I wanted to remove the steps, and that’s what we’ve implemented in order to allow more people to telework, more people to be able to focus on the higher issues and still have time to do the decision. So we will look at other processes inside the Pentagon and ask the question, how do we remove steps and streamline them? Because simply delaying in the hopes that June or July is going to be an easier month is probably not a good strategy.
Speaker 9: (42:02)
We have time for one last question. We’ll go to a [Sylvia 00:42:05] with AFP.
Speaker 13: (42:25)
Hello, do you hear me? Okay, do you hear me?
David Norquist: (42:26)
Speaker 13: (42:26)
General Hyten: (42:26)
David Norquist: (42:26)
Sylvia, can you hear us?
General Hyten: (42:27)
We can hear you Sylvia.
Speaker 13: (42:29)
Okay, I would like to know, I want a precision about the number of symptomatic on board in Guam from the TR. I wanted to know how many symptomatic and how many beds were available on the TR? I wanted to know if the capacity of the ship was enough to take care of all the sick people without going on the shore.
David Norquist: (43:05)
So let me do this. I’ll address some of the questions about the symptomatic and asymptomatic, and I’ll let the vice chairman address the bed capacity. The first caution I would give is we have seen, as the testing has moved through the ships, significant variation in the ratio of symptomatic to asymptomatic. So a few days ago there was two people who tested positive and showed symptoms, and then for every one person that tested positive and didn’t, that is actually trended closer to one for one. But you have to wait and see whether those asymptomatic people several days later end up developing symptoms, and so I’d be very cautious into reading into an asymptomatic case, what that means about the number of silent carriers. But we continue to track that very closely, and we will watch as that goes forward to make sure we have it right. Vice Chairman, do you want to talk about the beds?
General Hyten: (43:59)
So you’re asking an airman who’s been on a carrier I think three times in my entire life, but I can tell you the way the carrier’s configured is that you have a few state rooms for officers and everybody else shares quarters. There are certainly quarters for the 5,000 sailors that live on it, but the enlisted sailors, especially the young ones for the most part, would be in a room, oh, half this size, 30 by 30. And there may be a couple of dozen sailors in that room. That’s fine for a healthy group of people, but if you have a infectious disease, you don’t want to have them in there. That’s why the goal was to get them off the ship as fast as we can, so as soon as we heard there was a problem on that ship, we started working with the governor of Guam to get hotel rooms, places to put… and the governor was fantastic to figure out how to work that.
General Hyten: (44:55)
We were working that before the ship even got back to port. I know the folks in the Pacific were working that hard because you didn’t want to have them altogether. But there’s always berthing space on a ship. It’s just not good berthing space if you have an infectious disease, which is why we’ve worked so hard to get them off the ship. Now you can’t empty the ship because you do have a nuclear reactor on the ship. You do have an entire carrier air wing with all the weapons it brings on the ship, so there’s going to be roughly 1,000 sailors left on that ship to make sure we have security at any one time. But nonetheless with 1,000 there’s rooms to segregate the sailors that are left.
David Norquist: (45:34)
So let me just close by thanking you for being here and helping get the message out to people, and for those watching, let me issue a thank you to the first responders, those who, as the Vice Chairman noted, answered the call and have deployed to the hospitals. We appreciate the hard work you do, and we will continue to support you. So thank you everyone very much, appreciate it.
General Hyten: (45:52)