Transcript | Sec. Esper on Fox News
20 March 2020
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Let's bring in Mark Esper. He is the Defense Secretary for the United States of America. He joins us right now from the Pentagon.
Sir, good morning to you.
AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Good morning.
SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK T. ESPER: Good morning to all of you.
DOOCY: Mr. Secretary, tell us about the state of this particular crisis right now and how Guardsmen are being activated.
ESPER: Well, look obviously we are in a -- a national crisis with regard to COVID-19. I'm confident at the end we will all be OK, we will get through this.
But DOD has been busily supporting the inter-agency whole-of-government effort that's been ongoing now for several weeks. We are contributing to this effort by adding manpower, medical equipment, supplies, our own researchers who are pursuing vaccines and therapeutics, the Army Corps of Engineers and, as you mentioned, the National Guard. And we now have over 4,000 Guardsmen in 31 states deployed helping governors and the -- and the people of those states.
BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Right.
DOOCY: Are they properly protected with enough gloves and masks and things like that?
ESPER: They are. We provided all the -- what we call personal protective equipment to do that. And at the same time we've offered up to HHS up to 5 million respirators. We've offered gowns and gloves and all those things. We've offered nearly 2,000 of our deployable ventilators. All the equipment that we can put forward from our strategic stockpile to help out in this crisis (inaudible).
DOOCY: Have they taken you up on it?
ESPER: They have. We've had a very good interagency team effort. The president has demonstrated excellent, bold leadership in this -- in this crisis and the whole team is pulling together, working closely with the governors of the states to make sure that we support the American people.
EARHARDT: Mr. Secretary, I have a friend that works at the V.A. and she says the telemedicine will be wonderful, because then they can chat via Skype and the patients won't have to come in because they're worried about infecting one another. And she says it's really tough getting through that red tape. It's going to take a long time to get approval because you're dealing with medical records
What -- what do you have to say to those V.A. workers and those -- our veterans that would love to have this?
ESPER: Yeah, telemedicine's a great way to go. We've been experimenting with it for some time now, particularly when you think about forward-deployed troops who don't have access to a surgeon or to other type of specialty care. And so, it's something we've been developing.
We are working closely with the V.A. on a number of different issues like that. I've known Secretary Wilkie well for many years. He's doing a great job. But that's just an example of a -- a technology that we need to continue to develop and accelerate so we can stay ahead of this crisis.
Mr. Secretary, I think it was last week that the Pentagon ordered no domestic travel for personnel, which, of course, delays all permanent change of stations and things like that. What else have you discovered since that order has gone out?
ESPER: Well, several weeks ago we implemented our pandemic response plans, giving authority to the commanders in the services at all levels to do what was necessary.
Across the board for DOD, we did stop all movement between the United States and aboard, and then a couple of days later within the United States trying to at the time contain the viru