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tv   Defense Secretary Esper Joint Chiefs Gen. Milley Hold Pentagon Briefing  CSPAN  May 6, 2020 2:04am-2:49am EDT

2:04 am >> next, defense secretary mark esper and joint chiefs of staff chair general mark milley on how the pentagon is dealing with the coronavirus. they were asked about the origins of the virus, military testing capability, and china's response to the pandemic. respon. >> good afternoon, everyone. the seats are starting to fill up. good. i want to begin by expressing my gratitude to the more than 62,000 service members on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus, including over 3500 medical personnel staffing
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civilian facilities and embedded operations nationwide. tomorrow marks the start of national nurses week. we salute all nurses, military and civilian, who have served and are currently serving. thanks to their efforts, we are encouraged to see the situation improving in several of the most impacted areas. in new york city, the javits center's remaining patients were discharged on friday, indicating stress on hospitals is subsiding. i had a conversation with mayor de blasio last friday. he called to express his thanks for what dod provided his city in a time of need and how warmly they were received by his civilian doctors and nurses. i said to pass along to the force, those who may be watching may get a readout from this briefing. over the weekend, the comfort returned to norfolk, virginia, where it will be prepared to deploy as needed.
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in pennsylvania, the temple alternate care facility discharged remaining patients, while facilities in louisiana and texas are returning to naval air station jacksonville to prepare to redeploy if necessary. the army corps of engineers continues to execute fema mission assignments with federal, state, and local partners. the court has awarded 36 contracts for temporary facilities to add more than 14,900 beds for states with critical shortages and 27 alternative care facilities are now complete. more than 46,000 national guardsmen are supporting covid-19 response efforts at the direction of governors to include testing as well as logistical support to warehousing and distribution of food and medical supplies. i had a chance yesterday to talk to a couple governors. the chairman and i had a good conversation with the state tax.
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it has been our third or fourth where we were able to answer questions and make sure we are prepared for what may lie ahead. , wehe situation evolves will continue to remain agile, flexible, and responsive to stay ahead of the needs of authorities across the country. from the beginning, i have made protecting our troops, civilians, and their families a top priority. we issued our first health protection guidance on 30 january and have released updated guidance at least eight times. on 20 april, we extended travel restrictions to all dod personnel and families until 30 june. this week i will conduct the first 15 day review to determine if adjustments are warranted. we have expanded some exemptions to the stop movement order, including allowing some permanent changes of station to proceed. we are announcing new safety
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measures through the u.s. transportation command to protect troops and families during the packing and moving process. moving professionals will be required to adhere to the cdc's health protection protocols, which include wearing face coverings, cleaning services, and social distancing. the dod is requiring moving companies to provide certification to service members that there personnel have been screened for illness. u.s. trance, officials will brief tomorrow on this initiative. as we continue to expand testing, i improved -- i approved a system that prioritizes our forces to ensure they can continue training and execute missions. finally, we are increasing the pentagon's investments in short and long-term medical solutions. as we work toward a vaccine, we are interested in immediate solutions that can protect service members. as we take care of our troops and support the president's
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response, we remain focused on national security missions around the world. many countries have turned inward to recover. our strategic competitors are attempting to exploit this crisis to their benefit. while the chinese communist party ramps up its disinformation campaign to shift blame and burnish its image, we see aggressive behavior by the pla in the south china sea, from threatening a philippine navy ship to sinking a vietnamese fishing boat, and intimidating other nations from engaging in offshore oil development. last week two navy ships conducted operations in the south china sea to extend a message to beijing that we will protect freedom of navigation and commerce for all nations. i want to assure the american people and our allies that the united states military remains ready to deter every threat, protect the homeland, and safeguard interests abroad.
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critical are game changing technologies developed and pioneered by american scientists and researchers, one of those being the global positioning system. on wednesday, senior dod leaders will testify before the senate regarding the fcc decision to allow a cellular network that could disrupt the gps signals relied upon by our military and millions of americans. the fcc's actions disregard the objections of industry and inter-agencies, grounded in hard data and science. this will cause harmful interference to the gps network, jeopardizing our security, prosperity, and way of life. we urge the fcc to overturn its decision. senior department leaders will provide more information tomorrow on capitol hill. with that, i turn it over to chairman milley. gen. milley: i will just take a
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minute or two. i want to thank all the men and women of the joint force, the total for his active guard reserve, navy, marines, coast guardsmen. well over 60,000 are on the streets of america, many thousands more supporting them dealing with covid. 54y are deployed in all states and territories, many in harm's way. they are committed to this fight until it is over. the secretary talk to mayor de blasio. i had an opportunity to talk to him as well. mayor de blasio said there are no words to describe the gratitude of the people of new york city for the support of the united states military, where we deployed a hospital ships, field hospitals, and still have doctors and nurses deployed. in addition, we have doctors and nurses deployed in other cities around the country and in 22 other civilian hospitals, taking
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off some of the pressure on health care professionals. , wehe situation changes have tailored our response to meet the needs of the various communities, as directed by fema. we are the supporting agency. at the same time, we stand always ready to meet any threat on land, sea, air, space, or cyberspace anywhere in the world. i want to close out by echoing what secretary esper said. tomorrow is the start of nurses week. this pandemic has made it clear that nurses have always been and always will be on the front lines of keeping american people safe. i want to thank each and every one of them, to include my wife, for the sacrifices they endure every day. month withstart this military appreciation spouse month. this friday is military spouse appreciation day.
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to the over one million military spouses out there supporting their soldier, sailor, airman, marine, or coast guardsmen, the secretary and i want to say thank you to all you do. ago, in just as few days we are about to commemorate victory in europe day, half of world war ii as it ended, with several hundred thousand u.s. military deaths, 16 million in uniform. without question the most devastating conflict in human history. we have been seven and a half decades without a great power war and we need to recommit ourselves to ensure that never happens again. room, ave a pretty full lot of people in mind, so try to keep questions tight.
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>> thank you. yesterdayesper, during your conversation with michael hanlon at brookings, you mentioned that although you don't know yet the origins of the coronavirus, that you thought it might have been picked up during the counter drug operation they were participating in. can you elaborate on what you meant by that? and if general milley would add his thoughts, given the fact that the kidd and roosevelt are so far the only two ships that have picked it up while operating abroad, whether you think the navy has figured out how to do this without picking it up. are they out of the woods now? sec. esper: on the first part, i will say this much. a theory is they could have picked it up on a counter drug
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mission where they pulled over a vessel possibly carrying drugs and boarded the vessel and may have come in contact with someone carrying the virus. that's all there is to that story. the ship is back in port, sailors are being taken care of, and all proper protocols are being taken care of. >> the protocols -- the navy has instituted a series of protocols that are quite strict. they include isolation and quarantine prior to embarking on the ship for 14 days minimum. in at least one case, 21 days. in addition, they do testing and screening and so on. perfect is never something we would say is going to happen in every single case, but i am confident the navy has instituted rigorous protocols to protect the sailors as they embark. phil.will go to fil >> thanks.
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spoke youlast time we said there was nothing conclusive indicating whether the coronavirus emerged from this lab in wuhan. have you seen evidence since you last spoke to indicate it may have emerged from this lab? esper, there has been in venezuela what they are calling a failed coup attempt. is there any view from the department that a military or paramilitary force could or should be used in venezuela for regime change? sec. esper: i will just say the united states government had nothing to do with what has happened in venezuela. otherwise we are in full support of the state department and united states government policies with regard to venezuela.
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duro is a corrupt leader who has oppressed the people of venezuela. we will continue to make the case that he should step aside and allow an elected government to take the country in the direction it should go, the democratic path it was on many years ago. justice breyer: on the -- gen. milley: on the wuhan origin case, i am not going to suggest -- two discuss any detailed intelligence. two issues. or was it natural man-made or manipulated by man-made procedures? i am still where i was last time. nothing is conclusive. the weight of evidence is that it is natural and not man-made. the second issue is, was it accidentally released? did it release
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-- was it intentional? we do not have a weight of evidence but it was probably not intentional. of a lab inout wuhan, come from the wet market in wuhan or somewhere else? the answer to that is that we don't know. agencies do not know. it would help a great deal if the chinese government would open up and allow investigators and inspectors go there. and so the world can learn the source of this so we can apply that to prevent outbreaks in the future. >> over the phone, louis martinez. reporter: thank you very much for doing this briefing. when the pentagon goes back to normal or seminormal, what does it seem like -- what do you
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anticipate it will be like for those working from home? do you plan to incorporate like spacingcing out desks? sec. esper: it is good to see the press room thinned out like this. we may have to keep that. we will be na new kind of normal that we will be -- we will be in a new kind of normal for a time. we will do whatever possible to protect our people. you are here, you are our people. i imagine, for the foreseeable future, we will continue to exercise shows of distancing -- , wecise social distancing will continue to where face coverings. theapeutics and vaccines, sooner we get to that, the sooner we will have confidence
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loosen our practices. will continue to follow guidelines from cdc, etc.. we had a two hour meeting to thing about how we do that in lifting ourof travel holds. we will do everything responsibly. priority number one is taking care of our people. we are not going to jeopardize that. >> we will go to the phone for one more. >> i wanted to ask you about the letter that i believe it was 10 democratic senators sent you on april 27, including some members of the senate armed services committee. they laid out a case for what was a slow and disjointed response by the defense department to the coronavirus. they cited things like the
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delegation to lower levels for interpretation for what restrictions would play out in various bases around the world. the teddyrom roosevelt and also the decision withhold certain facilities. the response to that letter and whether you have been in touch with those senators or plan to be in touch with them? sec. esper: we will be responding. i am disappointed that members of congress, particularly those who sit on the armed forces committee and receive updates from us what release a letter that includes false, inaccurate statements. particularly at a time that we have 62,000 americans on the
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streets of america who are risking their own health to protect the american people. to nearly three dozen governors who represent the members that signed that letter. each of those governors praised dod performance. every step the way, we have been ahead of the curve, met their needs, and done whatever we could do to protect the american people. things like we are not sharing data on installations with regard to infectious cases is simply wrong. we share that data all the time with state, local, and federal authorities. were are number of things can go to, we will respond in due course, but i am disappointed with that letter. there is another story that continues to be perpetrated, it is a false story that the new
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york times is putting out, that we had guidance -- i took guidance from the field that commanders were not allowed to take action unless approved in advance. that has been debunked. i testified it before congress, the secretary of the army testified it. we are hearing from an anonymous source that admittedly was not even in the room. falsehood like that that is disappointing. we aim to provide congress complete, accurate information that we are doing on a weekly basis. i have spoken to the chairman and ranking members of the committees multiple times. all of the information is out there for us to have a good discussion. hasecognize that congress an oversight role, but it should be an informed oversight role. we are doing that to make sure we live up to the priorities i
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stated repeatedly. protect our people. number two, make sure we ensure our national mission capabilities. number three, provide full support to state and local authorities. this continued accusation by some, a minority, that for some reason we have followed standard military practice that goes back decades, guidance for senior commanders, to somehow suggest that it got into people that do not know how to implement it, it is ridiculous. we issued out eight or nine sets of guidance back to january 30, just days since the first person was identified and weeks since the first person succumbed to the virus. that is how far back it goes. at this point in time, we have
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31 cases of active duty military. we have had fewer than 100 hospitalizations and regrettably, two deaths. i look at the facts. i look at how we have issued guidance in the past, the skill and capability of our commanders, executing appropriately. it is the same kind of guidance that dr. fauci has said we should be following as applying it to the states and localities. we have been applauded by other outside experts. for some folks to continue to build this narrative is troubling. dode who have been covering know that this is how we operate, this is how you are more successful, and this is one of the reasons i credit our numbers as being so low at this time. prepare i don't think the i don'tm -- reporter:
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think the criticism was what was done after march. but what did you tell the president an when did you tell him about the danger of a pandemic? there was a time of about 5-6 weeks before the white house started talking about the pandemic in similar terms to the military. sec. esper: the president was briefed by his task force, which was led initially by secretary alex azar, and then vice president pence. we have had now for several weeks, months, the deputy secretary of defense participating in those meetings. back to the early days, that is when it began. we participated as a supporting member. for dod, this goes back to the early days where the state department chartered flights. airfields toour
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receive those americans, then take care of them. those are the early days when we begin sending out guidance well before any of this took off. it really took off in this country in march. we have been after this much longer than folks want to give us credit for. reporter: do you see any evidence that the chinese are trying to steal the vaccines? any sort of cyber activity? gen. milley: no. specifically, no. does not mean it is not happening. have seenked me if i it, and i have not. reporter: a quick question on afghanistan. you said yesterday there has been no reduction of violence. they said they talked to the taliban and expected an 80% reduction in violence.
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yet the troop drawdown is continuing at pace. is this a sign that the situation in afghanistan is going the wrong way? >> i said from the early days that this would be a long, winding, and bumpy road. it has not moved as fast as we have liked, certainly. we are at the point now where we know that they have been swapping prisoners. we know that the afghan government has several hundred prisoners. the key thing at this point in time is that the political leadership of afghanistan needs to come together and find out a formula with which they can work together. getd on that, they can their negotiating team to sit down and perform negotiations. we are making progress. i know the state department is heavily engaged on the ground.
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our commitment is to live up to our commitment, to continue to abide by what we agreed to, so we continue to support our afghan partners when they are attacked. at the same time, we know that we can do all the missions we need to do. but we will not be blamed for not living up to our end of the agreement. our focus is getting the political leadership in afghanistan, the civilian leadership together to form that negotiating team. taliban, we talk to the , we urge them through proxies and elsewhere to do the same. let's get on with the negotiations. that is the key to success. the only way this conflict is settled is through a political agreement. toorter are they living up their agreements?
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the taliban? sec. esper: i don't think they are. both sides need to come together. the best thing the taliban could do right now is live up to an agreement in reduction of violence where we were just prior to signing the documents. reporter: can you expand a little more on what you see china as doing with the pandemic and what you and the department is doing to push back. i have said before, the chinese have not been transparent from the beginning. if they had been more transparent upfront in terms of giving us access not just to the people on the ground but the virus they had, we would probably be in a far different place. but, they still need to allow us in to talk to the chinese researchers and scientists, and to have access.
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they are trying to capitalize on this by promoting their own image, that somehow china is the good guy here. no matter what they did or failed to do, now they are saying, we will provide you masks, funding. provide masks, in some cases it is broken equipment. -- the strings attached are enormous in some cases. they are saying, you can take these masks but pleased out publicly how great it is -- please out publicly how great it is. they are also doing a lot of strong-arming behind-the-scenes. you are covering it in the press between beijing and australia. i will be talking i think to my australian counterpart this afternoon.
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it is straight from the chinese playbook, just a little bit more obvious this time, how they are using a combination of compel's, conversion, to strengthen the chinese communist party. reporter: can you talk a little bit about testing and where we're general, you talked about the requirement by the end of may, early june of 60,000 per day. also, if you could talk about the supply chain. both governors and military leaders talk about their art enough supplies. is that supplies across the board or particular supplies. smithepresentative adam wants the government to do more with the defense production act. sec. esper: we are doing a lot on the defense production act. we now have the authority to go after medical supplies.
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ordered millions of masks and other items. we a lot of money down. are out contracts there. we are moving forward on that front and drain to look down the look downd trying to the road at what else we can do. we have prioritized our forces. people who show up symptomatic , tier 0. 4.n we have tiers 1, 2, 3, tiersw from the first few that we need, in a given week, at least 56,000 per week. we have been saying that, 50,000. i will tell you again today, those numbers will change as we continue to refine our
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techniques, practices, and as we learn more. it is going to be higher because tierave to flesh out that ei 4. that will be the broader population where we randomly test groups of people to understand how many a symptomatically carriers may be out there. it is a concept we are developing and eventually it will add to the numbers we need to test in a given week. beyond that, we know we have a number of supplies on hand to do so many tests in a given week. we are ordering for the purposes. 14 our own testing needs, second for interagency partners. third, we have to reinforce our stockpile. there is not a need to test the entire force. that would not be a good use of tests.
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4en you look at those tier groups, people who are not deploying, people like us, unless you are symptomatic, you probably don't need a test. that is where the sentinel testing, where we say, this any ofwe have not seen them megumi yokota -- not seen any of them. catch the balance through this sentinel testing as we call it right now. was -- >>the 60,000 the 60,000 was an early estimate based on dod civilians, families, retirees, so a much larger effort. the numbers we are looking at right now, call it 60,000 a month, that would be a requirement we will build to.
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nor capacity, 20, that has been done, a little bit better than that. force ishe entire probably not a complete requirement. >> go back to the phones. reporter: thank you. it is a question for the chairman. monthent a satellite last in space. is it your assessment that the satellite represents a threat to u.s. interests? i will be candid, i am not sure i understood the question. reporter: do you consider it as a threat? gen. milley: was the iranians satellite launched into space a threat to u.s. interests?
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put it this way. they launched a satellite vehicle. the satellite itself, not overly concerned about it. , thehe missile technology second and third order missile tech and the lessons learned, that is a concern. different missiles can do different things. it is a security concern. launching a long-range missile. reporter: can i follow-up? fromcrease of activity iran recently -- gen. milley: it depends on what you mean by increased activity.
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naval, ground. there is lots of activity. irannitor a ran -- monitor very closely. right now, we keep our forces on high states of alert. sec. esper: it is fair to say that iran continues its malign behavior throughout the region. at a time when the iranian people are struggling as a result of covid, their failure to act in a timely manner with proper policies, if they would just spend more time and money focusing on spending their people, the iranian country would be in much better shape. continuesn government to export terrorism. all we ask is that they be a normal country.
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reporter: mr. secretary, i have a budget question. flat budget question, what might get risk? you already said that nuclear would be a top priority. a what would be at risk in flat budget over the next few years. sec. esper: you're right, we are not going to risk the strategic deterrent. we are going to monetize that. frankly, my inclination is not to risk any of the modernization programs. it is to go back and pull out more of the legacy programs. we need to invest those dollars into the future. we have a lot of legacy programs
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out there now. that is where i would start. what that would mean is probably accepting some near-term risk given the trajectory that china is on and where we think russia may be going. we are going to be working through this course of action. we have had discussion about the budget. we do this every year. it is a little bit more acute because we recognize the fact that congress has generously put $3 trillion into the economy. it puts tremendous load on the national debt. we are aware of those things and planningat into consideration as well. >> one more from the phone. reporter: why do you think the fcc approved the decision given the unanimous course of
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government officials that this could endanger the gps system? sec. esper: i don't want to speculate. reporter: gentlemen, the ongoing investigation into the circumstances around the theater roosevelt seems to be contained. does there need to be a broader look in terms of the chain of command relationships? sec. esper: let's back up a little bit, just to use the recitation of some basic facts. secretary mcpherson spoke to this a week or so ago. the navy did a preliminary inquiry. it took five days, a dozen or so
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interviews. i think the inquiry was successful in terms of what it intended to do. as acting secretary mcpherson rightly stated, it raised a lot of unanswered questions. as determination was that is required.ation my guidance to him -- again, it is his decision, pretty simple, do the right thing and follow the facts. it scope of how he has bound . i will be diligent in terms of following the facts. publicly,and may be we need to be able to hold it up to ourselves, the american
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people, the public. it needs to be able to withstand the scrutiny soap know everything that happens. so that we learn from it, so that going into the future we are a much better organization writ large and may be into the future. last question here. reporter: for the chairman, do you have an update on how far through the tiers you have gotten, getting them tested, how long that might take? for the secretary, as states lift shelter-in-place orders, what is your advice, not necessarily policy guidance but advice, for garrison commanders trying to negotiate that? for the strategic forces, you can rest assured
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.hat they are all squared away tier 2 is a much larger population and we are still working through that . sec. esper: on the other question, what we are developing now, and it is 80% there, what that guidance will look like. one is what the states are doing with regard to meeting the administration's guidelines. a 14 day trend downward, etc.. we will have to elevate that sum so it is made at a state level. have an armywe can faced, navy base, or air force base in one state. you drop it to the lowest level capable. so a decision will be made at the state level. then there will be another set of criteria -- guidelines will
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probably be more apt -- that the at their has to apply installation. one part of texas might be different than another part of texas. i am king a random state. installation, the commander will have to make those decisions. those two pillars will form the basis of how we start looking at lifting the extension of travel restriction orders. we will apply that criteria as we look overseas. we had a long conversation this morning with service secretaries, service chiefs, and combatant commanders. we have good confidence that we are taking due diligence as we are looking at opening up this summer. >> thank you all very much. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2020] [captioning performed by the
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