The Army is facing unprecedented challenges as we deal with what the chief of staff is calling our second-most important mission ─ protecting the force during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether telework, social distancing, quarantine, drive-through restaurants or the great toilet paper shortage of 2020, we are having to adjust the way we do our jobs and interact with family and friends. But if you think about it, it’s still risk management. Our senior leaders are managing risk every day, balancing protection of the force with mission accomplishment.
Here are the ways the risk management process applies to COVID-19:
IDENTIFY THE HAZARD. This step is pretty simple in this case. A highly contagious virus is sweeping across the planet, indiscriminately infecting everyone it reaches. It’s out there, and if it hasn’t come to your community, it will. Everyone is aware of the hazard; we’re bombarded with news of it every day. The hazard to the force is the virus running through the ranks, military and civilian, and leaving our Army less capable of defending the nation.
ASSESS THE HAZARD TO DETERMINE RISKS. This step gets a little trickier. Risk is expressed as probability versus severity. Many experts feel the probability of an individual being exposed to the virus in the coming months, even with social distancing, is high. Some estimates say 60 percent of the global population will eventually be exposed. The tricky part of this is many people who get the virus experience only mild cold or flu-like symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Unfortunately, thousands of people around the world and hundreds of citizens in the United States have already died from the same virus that has very little impact on others. Army senior leaders consider the risk to the force to be very high, and so must we.
DEVELOP CONTROLS. Senior leaders have already identified controls revolving around two major actions: separation or social distancing of individuals and constant cleaning to avoid spread of the virus. Minimum manning with maximum telework is a control. Hand sanitizer bottles placed throughout work areas is a control. Limiting access to installations and buildings is a control. Closing gyms and bowling alleys is a control. Having food courts and restaurants serve takeout or drive-through only is a control. Canceling or curtailing exercises is a control. Keeping the force informed of the risk is a control, as is encouraging Soldiers and civilian employees to stay home.
IMPLEMENT CONTROLS. We are seeing new controls implemented every day as the Force Protection Condition levels change and become more restrictive. Stop movement is very real. Not only does it keep Soldiers from being carriers into previously unaffected areas, it keeps them out of airports and other high-risk venues. Many units are at minimum manning to slow virus spread in the force, and most MWR facilities are closed. These are all implemented controls.
SUPERVISE AND EVALUATE. This step is where we are now. What’s working? Why is it working? What isn’t? Why not? Are people sneaking in to work? Yes, some people do that. The virus is still spreading, but have we slowed it down? What else can we do? All these questions are being asked every day, sometimes multiple times a day, as leaders try to protect you, the Soldiers and civilians who are our Army. There will be new controls put in place today, tomorrow and the day after until we get ahead of the virus.
Our senior leaders are managing risk for the force as a whole. Now the fight is in our foxholes. It’s our responsibility to manage risk for ourselves and our families. How are you carrying your risk management rucksack in this fight against COVID-19?
Look for more “It’s Still Risk Management” messages soon.