The Pentagon outlines its own path to COVID-19, risking Trump’s anger
The Pentagon is actively planning to live with the coronavirus in 2021, putting President Trump in jeopardy as he expresses confidence that the disease will be reduced.
Defense officials extended the freeze on troop movements, kept ships in port, and set the framework for the military during an extended break due to the COVID-19 epidemic. A leaked Pentagon reminder on Tuesday revealed that Chief Defense officials are working to get the military to deal with the virus beyond this year.
Extended preparation will prevent the White House from sending a message that the virus will recede in the coming months and vaccination will be available by the end of the year.
“There’s no connection,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a congressional defense consultant previously represented at the Conservative U.S. Enterprise Institute. “At the same time, if someone can safely cover themselves, ‘We are the department of all emergency planning,’ they can do that because they would have to do it, over-plan and prepare.”
The situation is a symbol of the difficult situation in which the Pentagon was often during Trump’s presidency. Defense officials often had to make sure they appeared from the outside according to the president’s wishes, while quietly navigating the reality that could evoke the president’s anger. This is a phenomenon that nonetheless played a role in determining the implementation of the Trump Directive on the withdrawal of troops from Syria, the implementation of the President’s sudden order to ban members of the transgender service from offering options to respond to the Iranian provocation.
With the coronavirus, the Pentagon has been planning its own journey for months.
In late January, when only six people in the United States were diagnosed with the disease and Trump claimed the virus was under control, the Pentagon issued its first guidelines on coronavirus to service members and staff.
In late February, when the president claimed the coronavirus was “disappearing,” the Pentagon had already renounced several military practices, restricted overseas movement, and ordered all companies to visit Pacific countries.
In April, when Trump sought to reopen the country’s economy at Easter, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper extended his military travel ban until June 30th.
And while the Pentagon chief said earlier this month that the administration aims to provide millions of doses of coronavirus vaccination by the end of the year, a draft leaked DOD guide warned of a “real opportunity” that there will be no effective vaccination. available until at least the summer of 2021.
That draft, which was revealed last week, is probably still unpublished because of language that was at odds with White House messaging, a former Pentagon official told The Hill.
“You will see the military prepare for the worst-case scenario,” the official said. “Esper’s job is to break free – let commanders think even when it is appropriate to prepare for the worst-case scenario, but not stay politically in sync with the White House.”
However, drawing the line between White House messaging and DOD action, Esper opened up to critics who accused him of acting slowly and punishing decisions during the epidemic, putting service providers at risk.
In late April, Elizabeth Warren sent a passion (mass) letter to Esper — signed by nine Democratic Senate colleagues — expressing “serious concern” about how the Pentagon is handling the crisis.
The eight-page letter cited several examples, including the USS Theodore Roosevelt outbreak on an aircraft carrier and the Esper, which postponed the decision on enforcing social distances and other guidance to local commanders.
“The civilian leadership of the department did not act quickly enough and often claimed its preparation at the expense of the health of service members and their families,” the senator wrote. “This failure adversely affected morale and, despite the department’s best intentions, undermined preparedness.”
Esper and other officials repeatedly defended their response and highlighted their priority for the health and safety of their staff.
During the release of the “Today” show on Friday, Esper said of the leaked record that the class is “looking to a different future.”
“A second wave is also possible. I don’t think the coronavirus will go away any time soon, at least until there is no vaccination or cure,” Esper said.
According to Eaglen, the document is still published, albeit with editing.
“I see the possibility that these words about the vaccine are likely to be omitted from official guidelines,” he said.
“Esper took a lot of flack for letting individual commanders decide for themselves the best coronavirus responses. I think this is an attempt to put out more uniform guidance for planning and avoid that the next time around,” she said.