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The Defense Department is making plans to combat the coronavirus, DoD leaders said at a recent news conference.

For the past six weeks, defense leaders have been meeting to plan for any possible scenario with the virus that first surfaced in China. "We've issued a variety of (memoranda) and directives advising the force on how to deal with coronavirus," Mark T. Esper, defense secretary, said.

The DoD civilian and military leadership, including all the service secretaries and combatant command commanders, have worked together to ensure the department is ready for short- and long-term scenarios, domestic and international situations. Esper stressed commanders at all levels have the authority and guidance they need to operate.

"(U.S. Northern Command) remains the global integrator for all DoD efforts and entities," Esper said. "My No. 1 priority remains to protect our forces and their families; second is to safeguard our mission capabilities and third is to support the interagency, whole-of-government's approach. We will continue to take all necessary precautions to ensure our people are safe and able to continue their very important mission."

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said military research laboratories are working feverishly to try to come up with a vaccine.

DoD is communicating regularly with operational commanders to assess how the virus might impact exercises and ongoing operations around the world, the general said. An exercise in South Korea has been postponed, but Exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand is continuing.

Commanders are taking all necessary precautions, because the virus is unique to every situation and every location, Esper said. "We're relying on them to make good judgments," he said. As new issues come up, DoD planners will work with all to combat the virus' spread.

Editor's Note: This story originally ran in the March 4, 2020 Belvoir Eagle.

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