General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a stern warning to anyone who is thinking about exploiting the coronavirus pandemic: “That would be a terrible and tragic mistake if they thought that.”
Milley and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper made the warnings on Thursday during a Department of Defense virtual town hall.
Milley was asked about the U.S. Military’s readiness to fight during the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China, and about America’s ability to win right now.
“I mean, I think our military, as I stated before and I wouldn’t want any mixed messages going out there to any adversaries that think they can take advantage of an opportunity, if you will, at a time of crisis,” Milley said. “That would be a terrible and tragic mistake if they thought that.”
“The U.S. military is very, very capable to conduct whatever operations are necessary to defend the American people,” Milley continued. “And we are ready today, we’ll be ready tomorrow. And we will adapt ourselves to be able to operate within a COVID-19 environment. We’re already doing that.”
“So I’m very confident in the U.S. military’s ability to respond if necessary,” Milley concluded. “Hopefully, it won’t be necessary, but we can and will, if necessary.”
Esper echoed Milley’s remarks, noting that the numerous actions taken across the military to handle the coronavirus have proved to be effective.
“At this point in time we have fewer than 2,000 of our service members infected by the virus, and most of them are mild to moderate,” Esper said. “We have a far, far, far smaller number of hospitalizations. But when you look at that number, it’s less than 2,000, it’s much lower in terms of a rate of infection than you see in our civilian counterparts.”
“I attribute that to the measures we took very early on going all the way back to, I think, 3 February, when we issued our first guidance to the field with regard to health protection,” Esper continued. “And we gave our commanders, our four-star commanders, our service secretaries, our service chiefs, I gave them the authority to implement that broad guidance as they saw best fit, depending on the types of units they have, the locations, the people, the readiness levels and all that, and they’ve done a very good job for the most part in terms of protecting our force and ensuring that mission readiness is there, and at the same time, helping protect our fellow Americans.”
Milley also had strong words for America’s enemies at the start of the month when the Trump administration announced that it was ramping up the war on drug cartels.
“There’s thousands of sailors, coast guardsmen, soldiers, airman, Marines, involved in this operation,” Milley said. “We came across some intelligence some time ago that the drug cartels as a result of covid-19 were going to try to take advantage of the situation and try to infiltrate additional drugs into our country.”
“We are at war with terrorists and we are at war with the drug cartels as well,” Milley continued. “This is the United States Military. You will not penetrate this country. You will not get past jump street. You’re not going to come in here and kill additional Americans. And we will marshal whatever assets are required to prevent your entry into this country to kill Americans.”