April 8, 2020
Press Briefing by Chief of the National Guard Bureau General Joseph Lengyel and Louisiana Adjutant General Brigadier General Keith Waddell
Air Force General Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau; Army Brigadier General Keith Waddell, Adjutant General Of Louisiana
GENERAL JOSEPH L. LENGYEL: OK, very good, very good. Well, I'll just go with some of my opening remarks. And I've got with me Brig. Gen. Keith Waddell, the adjutant general of Louisiana, who will also join me on the call today and he'll have some remarks following mine. And then we'll be happy to take your questions.
So kind of give you a rundown of where we are. First, let me say thanks to all of you for -- for covering this important story, the information we're getting to the American people about what's going on out there and how we're dealing with it is -- is very helpful, I think, to help everybody understand the gravity of -- of this entire pandemic.
So as of this morning, the National Guard represents about 75% of the total military personnel serving on the front lines of this fight against COVID-19, with nearly 28,400 men and women from every state, territory and the district engaged.
Nearly three out of every four you see in uniform are supporting testing sites, enhancing medical capacity or delivering critically needed medical supplies and food, are likely to be Guardsmen and -women. We expect that number to increase over the coming days and weeks to come.
It's also important to acknowledge that our Guard soldiers and airmen who continue to work as doctors and nurses and first responders in their communities, they too are serving on the front lines of this response, only they are still in their civilian capacity and in their civilian uniforms. I'm proud of the service of all of the Guard members who are providing service in both their military and civilian capacities.
In New York, the National Guard members were instrumental in helping to build the nation's largest hospital space at the Javits Center. New Yorkers are also supporting nine testing sites where they serve as many as 5,000 citizens a day and have delivered more than 300,000 meals to all five boroughs in New York City.
In Louisiana, Guard members have delivered 600,000 N95 masks, three million gloves and nearly 100,000 Tyvek suits to testing sites. They are also managing multiple food banks, and -- and have distributed over 400,000 pounds of food.
In Ohio, Guard soldiers and airmen are supporting 12 food banks across the state, while serving 88 counties. In just 11 days they have packaged and distributed more than 3.7 million pounds of food, and have delivered 54,000 meals.
The Florida Guard members have assisted in testing more than 26,600 people for COVID-19.
So let me be clear: this response is not just about delivering food and supplies or supporting testing sites; it's about protecting the American people, our children, our parents and grandparents against this virus. Our nation is looking to the National Guard to -- to help, and we will not let them down.
So today I've asked Brig. Gen. Keith Waddell, the adjutant general of Louisiana National Guard, to join us to share the great work that they're doing down in Louisiana. So with that I'll pass it over to Gen. Waddell for his opening statement, and after that we're happy to take your questions.
So, Keith, over to you.
BRIGADIER GENERAL KEITH WADDELL: Thanks, Gen. Lengyel.
I also appreciate the opportunity to share the Louisiana National Guard's story with each of you today. Lots of great work happening down here in Louisiana, and I am so very proud of the men and women I have the privilege to serve alongside. These Guardsmen are beacons of hope during these difficult times, and are making a huge difference in communities throughout Louisiana.
Disasters are not new to us, but like each disaster, this one is unique. We have traded missions like search and rescue and distributing MREs and water for swabbing at the drive-through medical testing sites and distributing personal protective equipment, PPE, and ventilators. While the products we deliver change, the mechanisms and procedures we use to track and deliver these products have not, and thankfully, we have a lot of experience in this arena.
As of this morning we have over 1,300 soldiers, airmen and now, sailors on duty. Our primary missions include medical support, logistics operations, engineer support, general support and mission command.
I would like to take a few minutes to highlight some of the operations ongoing for the Louisiana National Guard.
Logistics operations is our center of gravity. The 139th Regional Support Group and my headquarters have worked collaboratively with FEMA, the Louisiana Department of Health and the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, what we call GOHSEP, to ensure final destination, timely delivery and effective management of all items. We clearly understand urgency, purpose and effective collaboration with our federal, state and local partners are essential elements to success. Our team's goal have been to receive and try to push out all PPE and ventilators within 24 hours of receipt. To date, we've delivered PPE to all 64 parishes and to over 120 medical facilities throughout Louisiana.
While conducting 24/7 operations, the 139th Regional Support Group has completed over 600 distribution missions. In the area of medical support, soldiers from the 256 Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the 159th Fighter Wing have been providing medical support to the drive-through testing sites in Orleans and Jefferson Parish.
These soldiers and airmen have swabbed over 11,000 symptomatic citizens from these two parishes, and we have more medics supporting other medical testing sites throughout Louisiana.
The 225th Engineer Brigade has worked with the state Fire Marshal's Office, the Louisiana Department of Health, and the Corps of Engineers, conducting engineer assessments of facilities throughout Louisiana. These assessments were done to identify possible locations that would be used to increase medical surge capacity for the state. This collaborative effort by all stakeholders resulted in over 70 assessments, some of which were chosen for construction or remodeling.
Our Civil Support Team's expertise has been leveraged as well. The CST has gone out to each of the medical testing sites to train our medics on effective utilization of PPE prior to the site's opening. And once open, provide quality control and assurance at these sites.
Additionally, the CST has provided training on donning and duffing PPE cross-contamination training for several state agencies throughout Louisiana for the past couple of weeks. This was accomplished with large groups using virtual technology.
I also want to take a moment to highlight the tremendous collaborative effort in New Orleans. New Orleans is the site of a historic dual-status command where a National Guard one-star general is the commander of a force comprised of National Guard and active duty forces.
Working together, we have converted the Morial Convention Center into a medical surge facility, set up an incident command center, and significantly increased the medical capabilities of New Orleans.
A final thought. It is easy to get immersed and consumed by this response. I urge everyone to find something else to do throughout the day when time permits, whether it's exercise, reading, gaming, watching a movie or working in the garden, do something else to clear your mind and body. We all need to stay fresh for the duration of this incident.
I want to personally thank Gen. Lengyel for this opportunity to tell our story. I also want to thank all of you for helping to keep people informed. Our motto in the Louisiana National Guard is "Protect what matters." And I would urge all of you to stay safe, stay healthy and stay #inthistogether. Thanks for your time today, and I hope each of you have a great day.
And with that, does anyone have any questions?
STAFF: Gentlemen, we have several journalists here in the Pentagon briefing room, so we'll start here with Jennifer.
Q: Thank you both for doing this. It's Jennifer Griffin from Fox News.
Gen. Lengyel, can you talk a little bit about why there are still such small numbers of people being treated both at the Javits Center and on the Comfort? Is there a bureaucratic holdup to getting patients sent to those locations? They seem underutilized in a place that is -- that is overwhelmed.
And, Gen. Waddell, can you talk about how many testing sites are there? You were talking about the drive-through testing sites in Louisiana. And what are your frustrations, what do you need, what are you seeing on the ground since Louisiana, after New York, is one of the top hotspots in the country?
GEN. LENGYEL: Hey, Jennifer, Gen. Lengyel here. Thanks for the question.
You know, I know that the Javits Center is up and running, it's staffed with people and they're prepared to take patients across the spectrum from COVID-positives to, you know, the full array of people that need treatment.
So -- as to why there's such a small number of folks in there, I really can't tell you how they're getting vectored into the Javits Center, but I know that they have capacity and they are prepared to service people, whoever shows up and needs medical care. Over.
GEN. WADDELL: And for Louisiana, we are working seven testing sites, and I'm really not frustrated with anything. I think the federal, state and local authorities that we're working alongside are all doing a phenomenal job, and we're pleased that we have an opportunity to support them. Over.
STAFF: Let's go here to Tom.
Q: For Lengyel, it's Tom Bowman with NPR.
You mentioned that 28,400 Guardsmen are deployed, but you also mentioned that, you know, a lot of the Guard medical personnel are still in their civilian jobs. Can you give us a percentage of how many of the 28,000 are actually medical personnel?
And the other thing is, do you expect to call up more medical personnel as this thing continues? And also maybe shifting Guardsmen to other states that may be in greater need.
GEN. LENGYEL: So, you know, of the 28,400, certainly some states have brought their National Guard medical capacity on duty to help them respond. You know, I think -- if you keep in mind the kind of medical capacity that we have in the National Guard, it's generally -- it's generally not the kind of capacity that you need to run hospital kind of operations.
The medical capacity that we have in the National Guard was built to sustain, sort of, predominantly combat operations in the battlefield, to get people from point of injury to sustain them until they actually get to a medical facility that is able to treat them for the longer term. Although we do have -- you know, we do have a good number of doctors and nurses and you know, physicians assistants and medical technicians that are engaged throughout the entire enterprise.
I'll tell you, I was in Florida last weekend, and I saw that Florida was utilizing many of their medical technicians in the testing facilities in Miami. And they had doctors engaged there, they were helping to sort through people that may or may not need the COVID test and making those kinds of determinations.
So, you know, I think that across the U.S., you know, we've known from the beginning that taking the capacity and mobilizing it, if you will, out of the Reserve component, and putting it into the military mechanism and moving it, you know, there was a price to pay for that because they are providing medical care to their communities in their civilian capacities as doctors and nurses and the like.
And we have to keep in mind that there is still other medical issues going on, people still have cancer, people still need treatment and -- to empty out the medical capacity, notwithstanding just what we're doing for COVID, provides also, you know, an impact to the society.
So I don't have a percentage for you. I can tell you that, you know, we talk about the total medical capacity of Army and Air National Guard together is probably about, you know, it's nearly 18 or 19,000 individuals, but that's broken down by a fairly small part of them are doctors and a small part are nurses, and then a large percentage are medical technicians and the like.
So as the states grow and build these alternative care sites in their states -- and we've been involved in many ways and are involved in many ways right now working with the Corps of Engineers to develop these sites.
And, you know, you talk about the three things that you need for these sites. You need the actual structure that is created so that you have the capacity. And then you need the supplies to make sure that it has all it needs to function. And then you need the staff.
And in some cases, members of the National Guard from individual states are actually supplying that staff to these alternate care facilities. Some cases its Title 10 and active component or mobilized reservists that are doing that -- a lot of that.
And I think over time, you know, the ability to move things from one state to another, whether it's -- whatever the other two Ss, right. supplies and staff, some of that is already happening.
And we're moving ventilators, you know, from states. You saw that Oregon is providing ventilators to New York. I know yesterday California shifted some -- some ventilators to New York and New Jersey as well.
And as New York -- you know, we're still looking at New York as, what does this peak mean? Is it a sustained peak or is there going to be a -- some sort of a drawdown on the other side that makes supplies or staff available to go someplace else?
I think that's one of the most stressing things on the hospital system has been the duration of this event and the ability to see the impacts it's having on the staff as staff members itself become sick or become quarantine and can't be part of it, so that the staff themselves are getting tired.
So, you know, as this event moves around the country, while we aren't sure exactly what's going to happen, we anticipate that people will be able to share supplies and perhaps some staff as well.
So that's how we're looking at this in the future.
STAFF: Meghan, then Brian, then we'll go to the phones after that.
Q: This question is for Gen. Lengyel.
There are about 250, right now, Guardsmen who've been diagnosed with COVID-19. Do you know how many of those are among the activated troops and the response?
GEN. LENGYEL: So my numbers this morning were actually 349 National Guard members -- I'm showing Army and Air -- that are COVID-positive. And the actual numbers who are -- who are actually as a result of the response I'll have to get that for you and take that for a follow-on.
I know there have been some -- I have talked, again, to some of the members in the Florida Guard who, you know, have became ill as they -- and whether or not they were infected as a result of doing testing or whether they were infected before they began the testing are things that -- that, obviously, we don't know for sure. But I'll -- I'll try and get those numbers out to you here in the -- in the next day or two.
Q: Thank you. This is a question for Gen. Lengyel, please.
You've mentioned -- you said that at the top that you expect the number to increase of -- of Guardsmen participating.
How much do you -- I mean it's been ramping up fairly quickly -- how much more could be done, you know, realistically? How much -- how big do you think it could get?
And I have one follow-up.
GEN. LENGYEL: So I mentioned, I think, in the middle of March, my first -- my first presser I did with you folks, I -- someone said, "How many will there be?" and I said, "I think there will be tens of thousands." You know, in that particular day I think we had just over 2,000 or 3,000, back in March 15th or 16th, and we were just, kind of, beginning the ramp-up.
I will tell you that right now, with all of the states who have declared major disaster declarations -- and I think that number continues to grow; I'm looking at 31 states now included on the presidential memorandum, and I think there was another one that came in today that said it will add some more -- 50 states have major disaster declarations, we're authorized now to bring on up to 44,000 total members of the National Guard covered under the 502(f) pay scenario, the Title 32 pay funding that we talked about in previous weeks, which gives them federal pay but state control. And now, because those memorandums allow them to be covered for up to 31 days, they will have full insurance and full medical benefits.
How -- you know, keep in mind that states are being very deliberate about how they bring on their National Guard members. They all -- as they worked with FEMA to decide how many they would ask FEMA to approve for them to bring on, you know, they basically made some assumptions, and because of the issue itself, they're not bringing Guardsmen to work until they have specific tasks and missions and things for them to do.
And in some cases, states have been looking at timelines and assumptions on numbers of National Guard members they would need to do things, for instance, like testing at the drive-through testing sites or the community-based testing sites. And sometimes they had to sort of pause and wait for them to get the actual tests and the equipment to bring them online, or that their -- they, in one case, there was some hold up because they didn't have the PPE, the protective equipment that they needed, to run those sites.
So, they've been bringing them on only at time of need, so when they're there, they can be put immediately to work and to use, and they don't unnecessarily gather in groups that could, you know, perhaps perpetuate the virus itself. So -- and they are doing social distancing and all of the protective measures that we can when you're involved in this.
But you know, what the final number's going to be, I would -- I really can't. We'll wait and see. All I can tell you is it's going to continue to go up.
I think this week we'll be well over 30,000 in the next couple of days. We've been accelerating at sort of more than a thousand a day. I -- last time we met, I think it was going up at just about a thousand a day. It's been a little over that lately. And so we could easily get this up another 10 or more than that in the near -- next week or two.
Q: Thank you.
And then the mayor of New York has called for additional military personnel to be sent to help treat some of the cases in New York. Have any Guard, kind of, gone from one -- I know in hurricanes they'll often -- you know, neighboring states will kind of support. Has that occurred at all here, where you've had kind of cross-state Guard forces supporting some of the harder hit areas?
GEN. LENGYEL: So, yes, we call that the emergency mutual assistance compacts that they do state to state, where they share their -- their resources state to state. And to my knowledge in this pandemic response, there has not been -- I don't think that there has been any really direct requests from one state to another. The predominance of medical capacity that has been flowing into New York over and above what's resident in New York, in the New York National Guard there, has been from the Title 10 and the active component services, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and the like.
To my answer, this is a different sort of emergency where states are concerned about the widespread nature of this as it goes, but I do think, and my staff here at the National Guard Bureau has, kind of, looked at just a holistic scenario and as this progresses and as states pass their peak areas and begin to decline, I -- I do think that it's possible that states could share not just equipment, but also people.
STAFF: Let's go to the phones. Paul Sonne, Washington Post.
Q: Gen. Lengyel, thanks for doing this.
I was wondering if you could give me -- give a few more details about what the Guard is doing specifically in New York City and how those operations have changed as we have seen hospitalizations and the deaths now there peak, and what you're kind of expecting there, going forward.
GEN. LENGYEL: Yeah, so -- so New York City, obviously, was the first major hot zone and the first. They ramped up similarly in numbers with Florida in terms of the time and pace at which they brought National Guard members on.
So, you know, New York has -- has done a lot of things in conjunction -- I mentioned earlier in my remarks -- with the Corps of Engineers in terms of setting up the additional medical capacity. We really haven't been involved in the Comfort. The Comfort as a separate hospital ship entity has pretty much been a Title X, but there's -- there's really no National Guard involvement, you know, to my knowledge with the -- the Comfort and that ship capacity. But in many ways, we've been involved with the Javits facility and -- and how that has been up there.
We have been involved in, you know, the -- the everyday transportation systems. You know, New York City, they had call centers for people to come in and -- and do information call center activities so people could find out where test sites were. The New York National Guard, as I mentioned, has -- has been directly involved in the test sites in New York state. They've been involved in, and continue to be involved in, unfortunately, in -- in mortuary affairs where we're -- we have the city of New York, the adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, reported that in general -- I mean, on a normal, non-COVID sort of a day, you know, maybe 25 people need to be removed from homes that -- that -- where they have passed away, and -- and those numbers are up significantly, and 150 people a day are needing to be taken via Mortuary Affairs, and we're concerned -- we have -- we have some National Guard units that are trained to do this so that people can be -- you know, human remains treated with dignity and respect. And we're not just doing that as Guard; that's also a mission taken on and assisted by -- with the -- the active component, as well.
So, you know, there's -- there's really logistics, communication and transportation -- all of the things that we do. The -- New York is also involved in food banks and the distribution of -- of food throughout New York City as required by the city. So, you know, I think that in many ways, anything the city of New York needs us to do not just specifically medically-related to the event, but we're doing some of that as well as -- as this event has taken on, the New York National Guard has -- has done it.
And looking at New York's numbers today, they're – they're at about just over 2,500 National Guard members on duty, and that will -- that's going up to over 3,000 by -- by the end -- by the end of the week.
STAFF: Let's go to Tara Copp from McClatchy.
Q: Hi. Thank you for doing this.
Gen. Lengyel, a couple of weeks ago when we were really early into this I'd asked about hurricane season planning. And now that there's so many National Guard deployed and you're expecting even more, have you guys had another thought at how hurricane season will be handled, especially now that there's some predictions that there -- this could be a heavy hurricane season?
GEN. LENGYEL: So we all -- we always plan on a heavy hurricane season, and you know, we -- we, in fact, are looking at implications of what it might be like to have to do a hurricane response in a COVID environment. You know, we're obviously hopeful that -- that by hurricane season, which starts in June, you know, obviously, we're hopeful that this -- this begins to lull at some point there.
But the staff is looking at, hey, what would be different, and how would we have to react, you know, from a hurricane (inaudible)? And there's a -- there's a lot of things that are involved in that. Not only do we have to do the -- the normal things that -- that we do in every hurricane; you know, the -- I think the economic impact of some of the states and their ability to respond -- normally, you know, normally hurricanes respond in -- in a -- is pretty much predominately funded by -- by the states unless it's a bad one, then it's a, you know, Stafford Act and -- and it gets augmented there. But this kind of response we're doing now and -- as the federally-funded National Guard, state-controlled, usually isn't available to states for domestic kind of hurricane response activities.
So yeah, as -- as always, we're thinking about how to do that. We're getting much better as a staff using I.T. and -- and video teleconferences and communications. So prior to, you know, this year, predominantly we would have to get together and -- and -- and, you know, have our planning conferences. Our -- our staff, through actively thinking and doing, planning for hurricane season as we -- as we speak.
STAFF: Let's go to Jeff Schogol, Task & Purpose.
Q: Thank you.
Gen. Lengyel, you mentioned that now National Guardsmen can receive full insurance using TRICARE and a basic housing allowance. Can you talk about why they weren't put on 31-day increments to begin with, in which they would have qualified for these benefits?
GEN. LENGYEL: Yeah, you know, I -- I -- so I -- I think that, you know, originally this came out and it -- you know, FEMA generally gives shorter-duration mission assignments, as in normally, hey, two weeks is -- is a -- is a normal mission assignment. I think we in the National Guard Bureau and in the Department of Defense saw that this would, you know, be an enduring sort of a, event that -- that clearly is going to go past, you know, the -- you know, the -- in -- in -- into May and -- and maybe beyond.
So I think, you know, I -- I think that FEMA was restricted to writing the presidential -- writing the mission assignments, to what was authorized in the presidential memorandum, and I don't want to speculate on why they -- they chose 30 days. But -- but the difference between 30 and 31 is significant for the men and women who are actually, I use the term "mobilized". You know, many of these women in the National Guard, they are volunteers, but they still, their governors have called them to duty. And so they -- they really -- the governors can make them go work testing sites and make them go work in the Javits Center and the like.
So you know, having them with the full benefits of the other Reservists, the -- the federally-mobilized Reservists who are helping on the Comfort and helping in the field medical hospitals, they're mobilized under a different authority for longer than 30 days, and they all have full benefits for insurance and -- and leave and BAH and the like. So getting it over 31 was a positive thing, and it makes the mobilized National Guard members who are on duty in the states receive the same benefits as the federally-mobilized members who are also assisting in the response.
But as to why they exactly wrote it at 30 days, we don't -- I -- I don't really know the answer to that question. We -- we -- we recommended a longer period of time at the beginning.
STAFF: So let's very quickly get in a couple more here.
Lara Seligman, Politico?
Q: Hi, sir. Thanks for doing this.
I'm wondering if you could tell me if there's been any impact from the decision to reprogram the funding from the National Guard to build the border wall on the -- on the efforts so far, with regards to COVID.
GEN. LENGYEL: Yeah.
No, I can tell you that there's -- there's been no direct impact on COVID, our ability to respond, based on reprogramming funds to the southwest border.
You know, you could draw some line to it, that, you know, some of our funds that we buy equipment with, and that equipment could be PPE or it could be response sort of things, usually comes particularly on the Army Guard side, out of our NGREA [National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation] funds.
But to think that the money that they just took, just now, just moved, would have had PPE available for this response, I think would be unfair. That wouldn't -- that wouldn't be true. We would not have had increased response capability had we not reprogrammed the money.
STAFF: Let's go to Sylvie from AFP.
Q: Hello, General. Thank you.
Well, it -- it's exactly the question I wanted to ask you. Because last time we spoke, you said you had enough PPE. And today, you said that in some cases, National Guard didn't have the PPE they needed. So I don't understand. Who is providing these protective equipment? Is it the Pentagon or the states?
GEN. LENGYEL: So, you know, it's sort of a combination of both. I mean, I would tell you that some states -- you know, when I was in Florida, the -- let me answer your first question here first, about you know, why would I have said we had enough.
So you know, I think, you know, three weeks ago or so, when we spoke, there were a lot less testing sites up, there were -- you know, they had only established testing sites in some number of states, and this -- this event had been growing, you know, for -- for weeks. So as it grew and new states decided that they wanted to bring on more testing capacity, there became sort of an increased demand on the original, you know, draw or the original supply of the PPE.
Well, originally, when I talked to you about, you know, two or three weeks ago, that everybody had it at their sites where they were working it, that was true. And nobody is doing any testing right now without the appropriate PPE in -- as they're ongoing. So it's -- but there have been cases where they said they have to delay the opening of their sites until they had the PPE. But, you know, those -- those situations are still sort of ongoing.
And then as to where it comes from, you know, I think that what I've learned is at the testing sites, some of the test kits in the sites are, you know, state-funded and state-supplied, and some are federally-funded and federally-supplied. So FEMA supplied some of the PPE, and in some cases, the state medical apparatus is supplying the PPE.
So, you know, at the point of the incident, you know, there's -- there's generally more than one source of where it's coming from, and they're having to share between state and federally provided equipment. So I hope that makes sense.
Q: Can I ask a follow-up?
STAFF: Let's go to Richard Sisk at MIlitary.com. Richard, are you there?
OK, let's go to Sydney Freedberg at Breaking Defense.
Q: General, thanks very much.
Two-pronged question for both of you. First of all, do -- of the 28,400, are those all folks on Title 32? Is it a mix of state orders, Title 32, maybe even some Title 10?
And second, as you mobilize people, you keep on mentioning you don't want to pull people who are needed in their community (inaudible) response. Do you actually have a way to check for that besides, you know, polling each individual? Is there some kind of Guard database that tracks, you know, these people are crucial for local law enforcement, these people are crucial for local medical care, so in, you know, X emergency, don't call these guys up; in Y emergency, don't call these guys up?
GEN. LENGYEL: Yeah.
So the first question is the 28,400 is -- is sort of a mix of -- of statuses. Today, we have almost 11,000 of those are on the 502(f) status, but that number is growing rapidly. You know, there was some sand in the gears on -- on making sure that we had the cost figures right so that FEMA had the exact numbers to -- so that we could pay the people in the states and actually make sure that they had the money to pay the people in the states, so we're working through some of those.
In some states, we're kind of going slow, putting their folks on the orders, because they knew everybody was working pretty hard to get this over a 30-day length of time so that they could properly cut the orders and get people their insurance benefits and their basic allowance for housing benefits, and they wouldn't have to then break orders and re-cut them. So you're going to see that number in 502(f) increase rapidly.
There is some that are still state active duty included in those numbers, and I'll mention that, you know, like the state of Wisconsin, for instance, did their primary election. The governor brought on some members to help run that -- that election yesterday, and those numbers were actually in state active duty, they weren't federally funded.
And then there are still some -- you know, those numbers don't include any Title 10, really members, that are in the staffs, doing it. Those are all state active duty numbers or 502(f) numbers.
STAFF: Let's go to Jennifer at Air Force Magazine --
GEN. LENGYEL: Your other question --
STAFF: Pardon me.
GEN. LENGYEL: -- your other question was, I think I'll -- you know, it is sort of a family business, and some doctors have, you know, more specialized skills than others, many doctors. It is a phone call of, "Can you come, and will this impact?" In many cases, same thing with nurses. But I'll let Gen. Waddell take a shot at that for how he did that in Louisiana.
GEN. WADDELL: OK, so the answer to the first question, I guess on the number -- the number of 1,300-plus that I gave, that was a combination of state active duty, our Title 32 and some of the Title 10 that we have on -- currently on duty.
On the second part of the question, in the Louisiana National Guard, we do have lists. And I'll use one -- an example of a couple of them. A first responder pool, a medical community pool, and then we work closely with the individual, as well as the other state agencies.
And as long as we're communicating with one another to understand what requirements that they have in their civilian capacity, certainly we honor that because what we don't want to do is, you know, rob Peter to pay Paul in terms of taking a doctor or a nurse off the front line and bring them on duty with us just to repurpose them.
So, you know, and students fall into that list too, college students. I know right now we have several of them that are on duty, but we do have a lot of those lists that we refer back to when we have different incidents here in Louisiana.
STAFF: So let's go to Jennifer at Air Force Magazine.
Q: Hello, sirs. Thank you so much for taking the time.
I also have a two-prong question. The first is, as we are approaching the peak of the outbreak and the cases expected to max out that we've seen, what is the expected timeline along which you will have enough PPE if it is running short, and have any Guard members been instructed to reuse PPE like we've seen in the tri-state area hospitals?
And the second prong on the question is, since DOD has been releasing the numbers of COVID cases on military dependents, I was wondering if NGB is tracking that figure within its own ranks. Because we've heard about the number of personnel infected, but I'm curious about whether any family members have been exposed.
GEN. LENGYEL: So the PPE question is, you know, I think -- I think we're still tracking it very, very closely. I don't think -- I think that people are being smart with their PPE and if they're able to reuse a mask, they're probably husbanding them and reusing them as they -- as they can.
You know, I -- as far as timelines on when that all goes away, you know, I do know that there's just massive amounts of PPE that we're trying to produce, and buy, and supply. And we know when this is over, we're going to have to build, you know, shacks -- buildings to put the PPE in and we'll make sure that we have the appropriate numbers.
So as far as dependents go, you know, when I look at our total numbers, I'm showing that not included in those 349, those are just National Guard members, but I'm showing that we had four civilians, and three contractors, and 13 dependents, were also showing -- the numbers I have of showing positive. But those numbers sound a little bit low to me. So I would suspect that those are just ones who have been tested and that's what I'm showing right now.
Q: And do you know what that -- date that data is as of?
GEN. LENGYEL: I'm sorry that I don't. I'm looking at my chart here from my staff on where they provided. I don't know the exact -- exact full source of where that -- where that data came from.
Q: Thank you.
STAFF: And let's get a last question here, Rose, from Stars and Stripes.
Q: Hey there. Thank you. Last but not least. My question is around these -- the orders for Title 32 and federal funding and benefits for troops. Can you know -- will we be able to see more of these troops get on the Title 32 status, or are we still going to see more and more state active-duty as well.
And then also, Gen. Waddell, you might be able to talk about how getting the 31-day orders is helping as far as assigning troops and making sure that they're taken care of and -- and with your planning for them?
GEN. LENGYEL: So I'll go first and say I do expect to see more on – on, you know, the federal funding side and 502(f). It's not exactly easy for us to manage in terms of we're having to carefully manage this. Generally, when you go into a war -- and we're sort of treating this like a campaign -- you know, you have a buildup and then you have the actual operation, then you have a drawdown at some point.
You don't go into a campaign and say, "OK, here's your 3,000 people. And you have 31 days, start today and end in 30 days." You do things that are based on a conditions-based environment, right? So you bring people on as you need them. You bring them on to prepare and -- and to set the -- the theater so that when things ramp up you have what you need in order to operate.
And then you operate, and then there's a similar drawdown piece to this thing, right? And so we're concerned about, hey, when people come off orders and off duty, there's going to be some quarantine period that probably should be covered by these orders, as well, on the back end of this before they can really go back to work or back to -- in some cases, probably not all cases, but some people will have been known exposed and -- and -- and around people with COVID that they won't be wanting to go right back into civilian jobs or economic activities.
So you know, that's how we're trying to manage this so that we can bring it on. It's much more -- it's not quite as flexible as we'd like it or need it to be.
Over to Gen. Waddell to -- to talk about Louisiana.
GEN. WADDELL: Thank you, sir.
Ma'am, we don't have any one that's on 31-day orders currently. Certainly, we're advocating and optimistic, based upon the chief's comments that -- that it's coming. But please know that we always want what's best for our soldiers and airmen here in Louisiana and across our nation, and you know, whatever we need to do on our part, we will. I know we do have a request in, and we put that request in for 31 days long ago. But again, I -- I -- I'm -- I'm optimistic that that's going to happen for the benefit of our soldiers and their families. Over.
Q: This is Terace Garnier with Newsy. I have a follow-up.
STAFF: Go ahead. (inaudible) --
Q: (inaudible), as well.
STAFF: Go ahead. Go ahead, Newsy.
Q: And could I please get in one question? Richard Sisk, Military.com.
STAFF: There you are, Richard. Yeah, go ahead, Newsy --
STAFF: -- and then we'll -- we'll follow up with Richard.
Q: Great, thank you. It's a follow-up about the military health care coverage. Does this include National Guards troops being seen by V.A.'s medical facilities? And if so, there are many facilities that are now seeing non-veterans that have COVID-19, so for instance, in Michigan and Louisiana, and I've spoken to many veterans who were concerned that this will impact them receiving medical care. So what impact do you think this will have on the veteran community if V.A. facilities continue to open their doors to non-vets, which include National Guard's members?
GEN. LENGYEL: Well, many -- many National Guard members are vets, and so I -- I think that, you know, the TRICARE medical system is a large, big enterprise that leverages everything from military hospital facilities to civilian health care networks that -- that do it.
So it's really impossible for me to tell you exactly. I haven't heard of any degraded projected impacts on -- on the -- on the veteran system here. I mean, in many places there are no military medical facilities, and all that's out there is -- is available is civilian health care providers who take TRICARE.
So once we get this transition onto 31 days, you know, for -- for the member and for their families, they'll enter into the TRICARE system. Many of who have been on this TRICARE system before, they have plugged in before as their members have been deployed.
You know, don't forget: while we have -- we have 28,000 that are on duty doing COVID operations, we have about the same amount, just under 30,000, that are mobilized Title X around the world, that are in the Middle East and in the Pacific and doing other things. So we've got more than 60,000 members of the National Guard that are engaged today that -- that are doing it. Many of them are already on TRICARE, and as we -- that is one of the -- you know, one of the challenges, frankly, for the Reservists and the National Guard is, it's transitioning between providers, between whatever it is your -- your -- your civilian-provided medical benefit is to the federal TRICARE-provided medical benefit is. So it's just one of the challenges we learn how to deal with.
And as we come on duty and as we become eligible for TRICARE, which is not a new thing for us, I've never heard of -- of us overwhelming the Department of Defense or the V.A. medical system or the TRICARE medical system. So I hope that helps.
STAFF: Richard, you were in there?
Q: Yes, thank you. Gen. Lengyel, you mentioned at a previous briefing that several governors had -- had inquired about the possibility of assistance from the Guard's Fast Support and Recovery Teams. Have any of them been activated? And -- and sir, you mentioned earlier that there is some -- some form of mortuary assistance being provided by the -- by the Guard now in -- in New York City and something about, you know, a death toll of 150 a day. Are -- are Guard members actually going into homes to take out deceased individuals? How is that -- how is that functioning, sir?
GEN. LENGYEL: So you know, the -- the Fatality Search and Recovery Teams, the FSRTs, we -- we -- we do have a -- a -- a good number of those based around the country, and I think New York's team has actually been -- been activated. It is involved in that.
You know, my -- my understanding -- and -- and keep in mind, I haven't been to New York City to see it, but my understanding is that we are involved in, with New York City Emergency Response Network, to -- to assist the -- the movement of -- of deceased individuals, but not all of them are COVID-related, obviously, but -- but some certainly are, and we are doing some of that. I think Wisconsin has brought some members on their team, as well, or they're -- they have thought about it -- some -- some other teams. So there is a capacity in the National Guard to deal with it and -- and we -- we have used them, and are using them now.
Q: Thank you, sir.
GEN. LENGYEL: Yeah.
STAFF: Thank you. There's one other person who wanted to get a quick question in.
Q: Yeah, so this is Rose. I had a follow-up.
Q: Yes. I'm sorry. Go ahead.
GEN. LENGYEL: Rose?
Q: I just wanted -- yeah, I just wanted to clarify, Gen. Lengyel. You said that the -- the 31-day orders aren't quite as flexible as you'd like them to be. Are you advocating to maybe extend those beyond that if possible?
GEN. LENGYEL: Well, I -- I think that, you know, it's -- it's unknown. Like I said earlier, this is a conditioned-based, you know, response that we're doing here, and you know, I -- I think that having the ability to flexibly, you know -- we're -- we're limited, as I understand it currently, from the date the president signs the memorandum to 31 days from that particular date. You know, it would be -- we're -- we're -- we're continuously working to make an adaptive system inside the department. Lots of people are working hard on the OSD staff and at FEMA and on my staff to work with, you know, the White House and those that are -- that are crafting the -- the kind of rules of the road as we deal with this.
Ideally, we would like to be able to place people on 31-day orders, but start them and end them when it makes sense according to the mission. We don't want to have to bring all 3,000 on on one day and end them 31 days later. It might make better sense to bring some of them on now, and in two weeks, bring some more on, and let them all run for the 31-day period.
But, you know, we're -- we're still working through this, and lots of people are trying to -- to do this. We haven't really done something like this before across the entire nation, where we have had to -- had to do this. And -- and so I mean, we -- we have called up large numbers of 502(f) people before. You know, we -- we did this for Hurricane Katrina. We had 50,000 people surrounding New Orleans and Mississippi during Hurricane Katrina, if you -- if we go back to the 2005-06 timeframe, and that lasted for a couple of years.
And it was all -- but it was all right there. We could do things that we talked about, about, you know, bring people from other states and capabilities from other states, and people would share them and bring them down to help the response in -- in New Orleans at the time.
This is a completely different scenario. This is a nationwide simultaneous dynamic situation that requires, you know, the deliberate manipulation of the force, and as I said, you don't want to bring people in if you don't need them.
But as conditions on the ground change and the mission changes, and you know, I heard this morning that there's lots of models out there, and they just give you a place to start and to plan from. They're all wrong. Nobody knows exactly what the right model is, but they give you a pretty good idea of where to go and what to look at.
And so we've been following them, and we're planning bringing people on duty in concert with where we see what the predictions are for, you know, the peak surge points for cases and -- and needs for the National Guard. And we'll keep doing that.
But my point was, 31 days, for 31 specific days is a very inflexible way to use this. We need to be able to spread it out at point of need, to bring people on and to bring people off and have the term of duty be 31 days or longer.
STAFF: There's one other person?
Q: Yes, hi, Gen. Lengyel, this is (inaudible) for The New York Times.
I was just wondering what you'd say to some of your soldiers who are coming off temporary federal orders only to go back to state orders; and how to deal with the uncertainty about whether they'll get any points towards retirement or get access to health care.
GEN. LENGYEL: So the first thing I would tell them is thank you, thank you for what you do, thank you for your service, that -- that what you do for America, whether it's help fight wars or whether it's help deal with a domestic crisis, you know, they're a special kind of American people that all of our military members, not just the Guardsmen that -- that come and they do the right thing.
And what I can tell them is that, you know, across from the governors in their states, the adjutant generals in their states, the people here in the Pentagon, are trying to make sure that they have the right resource with the right benefits to take care of them, and nobody's asking them to go and do anything where they're not appropriately protected or appropriately compensated.
We haven't had to cut anybody off this federal funding yet. You know, it's my hope that as this continues to go, we will be able to, you know, make the case and show leaders in the White House and leaders in FEMA that, hey, these missions are conditions-based.
And if people are forced to extend because this national crisis, this war on COVID, this -- you know, they're assisting us to get our nation up and running again and get the economy going again, bears the appropriate commitment in terms of resources to extend them the appropriate length of time on -- on the appropriate resource, 502(f) if that's the case.
So we haven't had to terminate anybody yet, and so my hope is that if the need continues to be there, then I'm convinced that you know, we'll do the right thing and we'll make sure that they're appropriately covered under the right status of orders.
Q: OK, I think you have some people coming off orders today who were pretty unsure about what the future holds. And they don't -- they see their mission as being pretty open-ended and interminable. And they're, you know, getting anxious because they don't see this mission ending, yet they see great uncertainty in their status.
GEN. LENGYEL: (inaudible) specific to New York, Jonathan? Is that -- is it just specific to New York? Because the --
Q: No, no it's not.
GEN. LENGYEL: Yeah. So I'm not sure. I mean, you know, the first presidential memorandum, I think, came out on the 27th of March and that was a 30-day authorization. So we haven't found a need yet, at least from -- from our level, to terminate anybody's orders because they don't have the authorization to do it.
I'm not sure what -- now, they could have -- it is possible that somebody in the state could have reallocated them to some mission set that wasn't related or -- or wasn't seen as a federal capacity here to -- to deal with the COVID crisis. And if that was -- if that was the case, I mean, somebody said, hey, this isn't covered under the mission sets allocated by the FEMA mission assignment, that then the governors would -- may want to continue to pay them on a state active duty status. But that hasn't been -- I'm not aware of that yet.
STAFF: If there are no other questions, we'll thank Gen. Lengyel and Gen. Waddell for being a part of the briefing today.
GEN. LENGYEL: Hey, thanks, everybody. We'll see you again soon.
Q: Thank you.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|