Pentagon to randomly test military units to locate 'stealth carriers', nuclear personnel top priority
The Defense Department has categorized its troops into four tiered groups to prioritize those who must take the test
The rapid spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the US and its effect on the armed forces has left the US’ defense establishment deeply worried. The defense department has taken drastic measures to ensure that the forces are not left depleted further.
From considering the controversial "stop-loss" policy to running Pentagon operations with a skeleton crew and putting warships that have not been infected at sea indefinitely, the defense leadership is trying various means to shield forces from the pandemic that has hit more than 1.3 million people in the US so far.
Nearly 80,000 lives have been lost in the country and the topmost priority is to test the personnel who look after the country's nuclear arsenal.
According to a report in Zero Hedge, there are currently about 5,000 known cases of coronavirus and among them, 100 have been hospitalized at various times. Two persons have died at least, including one aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt which now stands quarantined at Guam.
The premier warship now has over 1,100 coronavirus cases (out of nearly 5,000) on board while 53 recovered. The Zero Hedge report said Pentagon leaders are now concerned that there are many more asymptomatic carriers in the military than known previously.
It has decided to conduct an aggressive testing regimen of random units across military branches to understand the true numbers.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a Pentagon press briefing last Tuesday, May 5, that the military still has no clear picture on how many infections are actually there in a workforce of two million.
"There's no need to test the entire force. That would not be a good use of tests," he said. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said: "The numbers that we're looking at now, 56,000 — call it 60,000 a [week] is what we’re going to build to."
The top two officials also said the military has estimated that it has a 50-percent shortfall on testing kit in terms of testing goals it aims to meet as part of the random screening plan.
Testing nuclear-arsenal personnel top priority
The defense department has categorized its troops into four tiers to prioritize who must be tested. According to Stars and Stripes: "The Defense Department has placed its troops into four tiered groups to prioritize those who must be tested. Esper said the Pentagon now needs to test 56,000 service members each week to achieve its goals, and those numbers are likely to rise in the future."
The Pentagon's first goal is to test all troops that are responsible for operations related to the country's nuclear arsenal both on land and at sea.
"The Pentagon's first priority is to test its troops deemed tier 1 — those responsible for the nation’s nuclear enterprise, including service members on submarines and bomber aircraft capable of deploying nuclear weapons and those responsible for U.S.-based ballistic missile silos," the report said, adding General Milley's revelation that those troops have been tested.
The second tier of troops in the priority list includes those who are deployed to support combat operations across the globe. For example, a reserve unit which has been recently sent to Afghanistan where the US has been caught in a prolonged war in a terror since 2001.
The USS Roosevelt fiasco has made the authorities all the more eager to ramp up the testing even in sectors of the military that may not have reported any case.
A Reuters report said in mid-April that roughly 60 percent of over 600 sailors on board Roosevelt did not show any symptoms of Covid-19. This heightened the anxiety that the disease has been transmitting stealthily in the military ranks.
The American military establishment is also concerned over China’s boasting in recent times that its own navy has remained free from the virus' influence. Washington is unlikely to release findings from the new testing immediately, the Zero Hedge report added.