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DOD role in flu pandemic
June 18, 2009 at 1:23 am #74054
18 page report from Congressional Research Service
The Role of the Department of Defense During A Flu Pandemic
Authors: Lawrence Kapp; Don J Jansen
June 4, 2009
A flu pandemic is a worldwide epidemic of an influenza virus. As such, the United States’
response to a flu pandemic would have both international and domestic components. Additionally,
the domestic response effort would include contributions from every governmental level (local,
state, tribal, and federal), non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. This report will
focus largely on the role of the Department of Defense (DOD) in supporting the nation’s domestic
response effort, although it will also touch on DOD’s international role.
The Department of State would lead the federal government’s international response efforts,
while the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services
would lead the federal government’s domestic response. The Department of Defense would likely
be called upon to support both the international and domestic efforts. An analysis of the tasks
assigned by the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan indicates that
DOD’s role during a flu pandemic would center on the following objectives: assisting in disease
surveillance; assisting partner nations, particularly through military-to-military assistance;
protecting and treating US forces and dependents; and providing support to civil authorities in the
With respect to providing support to civil authorities in the United States, the types of defense
support which would likely be in greatest demand during a flu pandemic include: providing
disease surveillance and laboratory diagnostics; transporting response teams, vaccines, medical
equipment, supplies, diagnostic devices, pharmaceuticals and blood products; treating patients;
evacuating the ill and injured; processing and tracking patients; providing base and installation
support to federal, state, local, and tribal agencies; controlling movement into and out of areas, or
across borders, with affected populations; supporting law enforcement; supporting quarantine
enforcement; restoring damaged public utilities; and providing mortuary services. Note, however,
that DOD’s ability to support these requests would be limited by its national defense and force
protection responsibilities. The two principal ways in which defense support could be provided to
civil authorities are by way of an “immediate response,” or in response to a formal “request for
assistance” (RFA). Additionally, in extreme circumstances the federal government may expedite
or suspend the RFA process and initiate a “proactive federal response.”
National Guard personnel would almost certainly be involved in domestic response efforts as
members of their state militia under the control of their governor. Current DOD plans do not
anticipate federal mobilization of the National Guard or Reserves to respond to a flu pandemic.
However, these plans could be modified if circumstances warranted it (for example, if the
severity of the pandemic significantly exceeded DOD’s planning assumptions). In the event such
a federal mobilization is contemplated, an important consideration would be the impact it would
have on any response efforts that were already occurring at the state and local levels. For
example, the activation of Reserve and National Guard medical personnel may pull them out of
local hospitals where they are already engaged in the response effort, thereby undermining state
and local response efforts.
June 18, 2009 at 2:38 pm #74058
I agree with you. The DoD already has a full time job – this would only add to their work load.
I wish local governments would not count on any DoD support. First because there are so many more towns than there are bases. Second – Those who volunteer often volunteer for more than one thing. If they are in the National Guard they may also be volunteer at Red Cross, Hospital or fire dept.
June 21, 2009 at 6:40 pm #74056
Hi. I want to give you a real response.
The National guard is a great group but they are not a cornicopia of supplies. Often they have full time jobs so calling them out can take people away from other jobs.
Can the DoD help – absolutely. They are a great test bed for trying plans on a large scale in a controlled manor. They are clearing house of information. Like others, the guys and gals in uniform do not like to stay indoors when others need them. Base commanders have lee way to let people take trucks out to clear highways and pull people out of ditches. It has happened in the past.
The DoD has alot of specilieze equipment. My fear is that it will not be enough. The DoD is a subset of the population. The DoD will not shut down even when schools and business do. They can provide alot of information and communication. However they can not provide all the food and water people need.
Here if people want to be comfertable they need to stockpile their own veagan food or meals that conforms to their religious beliefs. As it stands now MREs and block of government cheese are whats available.
I would really like to see people help themseleves and others.
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