Covid-19 Response Update: May 8-May 15
Combating Covid-19 Series
This is CSIS’s weekly roundup of major updates on the military and the novel coronavirus since Friday, May 8. It explores what the military has done to combat Covid-19 and how the military has in turn been affected by the virus.
The Department of Defense’s (DoD) national role in fighting the pandemic is on the decline as civilian medical facilities can generally handle the load. Active duty and reserve deployments are decreasing. National Guard activations have largely plateaued and are beginning to decline. Army Corps of Engineers is finishing its planned temporary facilities and units working with alternative care facilities are beginning to return to their home stations.
Global deployments by Navy and Coast Guard units continue; deployments by Marine and Army units are planned but still pending.
The defense industry is returning to normal operations but with a few facilities still closed, and there is widespread absenteeism.
Context: The World and Nation
As of this Friday morning, the United States has had 1,420,299 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The worldwide total stands at 4,483,864.
Military Cases of Covid-19
May 15: As of Friday, there have been 12,351 confirmed cases of coronavirus within DoD. Of the current cases, 5,526 were military service members, 994 dependents, 1,341 civilians, and 513 contractors. 275 of these cases required hospitalization, and there have been 27 deaths. 3,950 have recovered. How DoD cases have been trending over time is broken down below, by total cases; active cases in the DoD; and across the military services.
Impact of Covid-19 on Ongoing Military Operations
USS Roosevelt. The carrier is still tied up at pier in Guam but taking steps to return to sea. However, infections continue to pop up and delay sailing.
- May 10: Navy CNO tweets that six carriers are at sea, despite Roosevelt’s difficulties.
- May 11: The Inspector General at DoD begins an evaluation of Navy efforts to prevent and mitigate Covid-19 on ships and submarines.
- May 13: U.S. Army Europe resumes part of original Defender Europe exercise with U.S.-Polish military drills.Exercise Allied Spirit, which was originally part of the Defender series, will take place next month at Drawsko-Pomorskie Training area in Poland. The drills will center on a ‘wet-gap crossing’ and airborne insertion. Of the 6,000 soldiers to be involved, roughly 4,000 will come from U.S. Army units, including the 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters (Forward); the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team; and the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. All of these units have already been based in Europe since before the novel coronavirus began spreading. The Army’s ability to successfully execute the drill in June will be an important test of its ability to continue exercises during the pandemic.
Active Duty and Reserve Covid-19 Operations
The hospital ship USS Comfort has returned to homeport in Norfolk. USS Mercy is still at Los Angeles but has discharged all patients. Some medical personnel are working ashore to help civilian facilities.
- May 12: U.S. Army North Commander Lieutenant General Laura Richardson announced that some Army forces will redeploy from Covid-19 support. Army personnel will redeploy from locales that have declining need, including the Javits Center in NYC, and alternate care facilities in Boston, Detroit, Philadelphia, and other cities. The personnel are returning to home stations in Anderson, SC, Salt Lake City, UT, Ft. Hood, TX, and Ft. Campbell, KY.
National Guard Covid-19 Operations
- May 15: 46,000 Army and Air National Guard activated to assist with Covid-19 response efforts. This is a 1.5 percent (700) change from the week before, a slight decrease that shows that National Guard activations are leveling off and beginning to decline. This represents a small part of the 443,000 servicemembers in the Army and Air Force National Guard.
- A broader list of recent state National Guard efforts can be found here.
Personnel, Bases, and Infrastructure
Basic training. All services have now resumed accepting new trainees with quarantine up front, social distancing, testing, and personal protective equipment. Precautions slow the flow of training, however. General David Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff, says that this reduced pace is “not sustainable.”
Supplies and Logistics
Army Corps of Engineers
The Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) comes under the direction of the Secretary of the Army but is not part of DoD’s military activities or the DoD military budget.
FEMA Mission Assignments: 27 open (down from a high of 51). 37 of these missions are now closed.
Alternate Care Facilities (ACFs): 37 contracts awarded, of which 32 are complete.
- May 8: US defense firms continue substantial hiring despite historically high, nationwide unemployment levels due to Covid-19. For defense related contracts, Boeing has advertised 600 positions, General Dynamics more than 3,500 positions, and Raytheon Technologies 2,000 positions. Northrop Grumman has stated it is looking to recruit up to 10,000 positions.
- May 13: Boeing reports that Covid-19 has not had an impact on its Apache helicopter production line, although it continues to monitor global supply chains.
- May 15: The vast majority of defense contractors continue to operate through Covid-19 in large numbers and most that did close have already reopened.
- May 12: House proposes $3 trillion aid package, but the Senate balks, recommending a “pause” while previous aid packages spend out. Unlike the CARES legislation in April, which had $10.5 billion for DoD, this package does not contain any funds for DoD. It does contain enhancements for veterans’ health care and protections for servicemembers caught with bills from DoD’s “stop movement” order.
What to Look for Next Week
We are still watching for whether the Navy can return the USS Roosevelt to sea after its long stay in Guam. We are also watching for the Army and Marine Corps to restart deployment of units.
This weekly update is made possible by the International Security Program at CSIS. The authors particularly thank Jason Gresh for his contributions to the update.
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)