Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Covid-19 and Military Readiness

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The corona virus pandemic has wreaked havoc in the US; it exposed the nation’s vulnerability to protect its citizens and turned both civilians and military lives upside down. Indeed, as the greatest nation in the world showed its ineffectiveness to fight this pandemic, should the population be worried about the military’s readiness to fight or defend in case of an attack? As of 20 March 2020, according to a USA today article:
·         Training has been canceled or cut back. The Air Force scrapped Red Flag in Alaska, a training exercise for top-gun combat pilots, Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, told reporters Wednesday. The Army is altering operations at bases that prepare troops for combat to accommodate National Guard units needed in their states for relief operations. War games in Europe, Africa and at sea have been cut back or scrapped.
·         At least 67 troops in the U.S. and abroad as of Friday have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. In Europe, 2,600 troops and civilian employees are quarantined as a precaution.
·         The Army is shuttering its recruiting centers across the country, moving to online efforts only. It has also reduced the number of recruits in training centers by 50%, said Gen. James McConville, the Army chief of staff. Six recruits have shown possible symptoms, he said.
·         Foreign and domestic travel for troops and their family members has been banned or severely restricted until mid-May.
Just like US leaders insisted on being ready to tackle the then epidemic at the beginning of the year, military leaders are insisting that despite the impact the virus has had, the US military stands ready to protect the territory and fight and win against any threat around the world. As Secretary Esper put it, “I want to assure the American people that the United States military remains ready and capable of meeting all of our national security requirements.

The Defense Department defines readiness as “the ability of military forces to fight and meet the demands of assigned missions.” However, the sole purpose of the US military is not to just fight; its might, readiness, and force serve as a powerful foreign policy tool to influence how adversarial countries think and behave. For instance, having a powerful military that is ready to fight prevents nuclear attacks from enemies and discourage allies from pursuing their own nuclear programs as the US will come to rescue when called upon.

Moreover, the virus impacts the military’s ability to upkeep its complex equipment such as ships, tanks and aircraft. Modern military not only need this equipment, but they also need them in proper conditions. Before the pandemic started there were reports that military equipment was in poor conditions due to inexperienced maintenance technicians at some facilities that created delays, and with the reduce in workers, the situation will continue to get worse. Finally, the US military is in a dire situation as the pandemic is affecting not just domestic operations, but also global. It will be very interesting to see how military leaders adjust their strategies to protect the US and its allies.

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