U.S. Army officials are divided over whether they should pause normal activities to halt the spread of coronavirus within their ranks.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Gen. James McConville, the Army’s top-ranking officer, took part in a video teleconference Monday, a day after the Pentagon announced the first troop death from COVID-19, and senior leaders debated whether to continue with military exercises and mass troop formations, reported Task & Purpose.
The Army’s intelligence estimates show efforts to stop the highly contagious pandemic have failed, and some top commanders have called for a halt to all nonessential training to limit further exposure.
“Mitigation measures taken by the U.S. Army to blunt the spread of COVID-19 have proven insufficient,” the Department of the Army told all of its commands in a classified message obtained by the newspaper. “COVID-19 continues to spread geographically as the number of infected persons continues to rise.”
A senior Defense Department official shared a financial document with Task & Purpose showing the Army needed an estimated $992 million to fight the coronavirus, up from a $955 million price tag estimated two weeks ago and reported by The Daily Beast.
The Army ordered every base commander around the world to improve their health protection, and rapid response forces were ordered into the highest level of protection.
The virus has already spread to hundreds of service members, as well as their families and others associated with the military, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper has cautioned against holding mass troop formations — although he reminded commanders they had a responsibility to maintain troops’ physical fitness.