TRANSCRIPT | VIRTUAL TOWN HALL WITH SD, CJCS, AND SEAC
24 MARCH 2020
DEFENSE SECRETARY MARK T. ESPER CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF GENERAL MARK A. MILLEY (USA) SENIOR ENLISTED ADVISOR TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHIEF MASTER SERGEANT RAMON "CZ" COLON-LOPEZ
DEFENSE SECRETARY MARK T. ESPER: Hello, everyone, and welcome to today's virtual town hall. I'm Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, and I'm joined today by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley and by the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Colon-Lopez.
Today, we want to talk to you about all the DOD is doing to protect our people, our troops, our families from the coronavirus, and what we're also doing to support the interagency whole-of-government efforts to protect the American people.
First, I want to thank all of you for your patience and your commitment to our nation in this time of great challenge. It is a time of great challenge, as we face this global pandemic that is upon us. But I want to reassure you that the administration, the military are taking all necessary measures to protect our force, to protect our people, to protect our dependents (ph), to protect our contractors and our civilians. I have made protecting our people our top priority.
The second priority that I have outlined for the past couple months has been ensuring our safeguarding -- ensuring the safeguarding of our national mission capabilities. In other words, making sure we can do our mission when called upon to do it. And I'm confident that we can.
Third priority is supporting the whole-of-government effort again, to protect the American people. DOD is all-in on this. We have deployed thousands of National Guardsmen from all 50 states plus four territories. The Army is deploying field hospitals to a couple of our major cities. The Navy will be soon deploying our medical hospital ships to both Los Angeles and to New York City.
At the same time, our world-class researchers at places like Fort Detrick, Maryland are all in with regard to helping with the multi-sector effort to come up with vaccines and therapeutics to help protect the American people from the coronavirus. We're also helping in many other ways as well, whether it's opening up our strategic stockpiles of masks and ventilators and other pieces of equipment to help the American people.
Again, DOD is fully supporting the whole-of-government effort and I'm very proud of what all of the folks here at the Pentagon and across the force are doing to help the American people. Again, this is a great challenge that is before us but I am confident we will get through this and we will be better off at the end of the day.
There are several things that we will discuss this morning with regard to how you can do your part, and do better in terms of helping protect yourselves and your colleagues and your shipmates and -- and other members of your unit, to protect from the coronavirus.
We've talked a good deal about social distancing, about wiping down surfaces and doorknobs and computer keyboards, all those things you could do. We also encourage you to follow -- urge you to follow the CDC guidance with regard to safe distancing, safe practices. And the president's 15-day guidance with regard to standing down, avoiding large gatherings.
At the end of the day, though, given all the different scenarios and factors that each one of you and us face, I trust upon our commanders and our senior enlisted personnel to do the right thing particular to your unit, to your situation, to your mission. We'll talk about this in more detail. But again, it's up to the commanders and senior NCOs to make the right calls relevant to their situation to ensure that we protect our people while at the same time maintaining mission readiness.
I'm going to turn it over now to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley. But I want to reinforce, again, this is a difficult time for our nation, it's a great challenge. But like with all other things in the past, I'm confident, fully confident that we'll come through this and that we'll be stronger on the back end. So thank you all very much.
CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF GENERAL MARK A. MILLEY: Thanks (ph), Secretary, for those words.
And we look forward to the questions, Alyssa (ph), from the family members and the troops that are out there. But let me just say a couple things up front.
First of all, this is not the first challenge the United States has ever faced. This is not the first war we've ever been in. The president of the United States clearly said we're at war, this time with an invisible enemy, a war called (ph) a virus.