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Homeland Security

U.S. Department of Defense

March 03, 2020

Department of Defense Statement Regarding New York Times Article

Statement attributed to Jonathan Rath Hoffman, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs:

"In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Secretary of Defense has given our Global Combatant Commanders the clear and unequivocal authority to take any and all actions necessary to ensure the health and safety of U.S. service members, civilian DOD personnel, families and dependents. Since day one of the Department's more than month long response effort to combat Coronavirus, the Secretary has made clear that force protection is his number one priority followed by our ability to continue with our national defense missions. In the meeting referenced by the New York Times piece this morning inaccurately titled, "Defense Secretary Warns Commanders Not to Surprise Trump on Coronavirus," the Secretary directed commanders to take all force health protection measures, and to notify their chain of command when actions are taken so that DOD leadership can inform the interagency - including HHS, CDC, DHS, the State Department, and the White House - and the American people. During this video teleconference which I attended, he explicitly did not direct them to "clear" their force health decisions in advance - that is a dangerous and inaccurate mischaracterization. The Department of Defense is working in lockstep with our interagency partners and to ensure a swift, effective, and transparent approach to addressing this virus. This Times article is an anonymously-sourced, dishonest misrepresentation of the DOD's response effort to confront the Coronavirus, and we will forcefully correct the record with our service members and the American public."


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