Op-Ed originally published by The Hill on Aug. 10 at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. Retired Maj. Gen. Peggy Wilmoth, U.S. Army Reserve, is chair of ROA’s National Health Services Committee.
When the nation calls, the military answers. So it is with COVID-19. In this case the military responded by sending two Navy hospital ships, medical supplies, equipment, field hospitals, and scores of medical personnel to assist numerous communities in the fight against this invisible enemy.
While our military has appropriately supported pandemic demands, the complexities of a pandemic such as COVID-19 highlight the need to review our military medical force structure and rebalance it to adequately meet needs in a rapidly and constantly changing health security environment.
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has exceeded 160,000, more than twice the total killed in action from the Vietnam War and far above the losses from Iraq and Afghanistan. By June this year, the unemployment rate was 11 percent, from a high of 14.7 percent in April, including cutbacks across the defense industries supporting the fighting force.
The Brookings Institution adds: “How will we keep our military combat-ready, and thus fully capable of deterrence globally, until a vaccine is available to our troops?”