The top military leaders have warned adversaries not to test U.S. military strength and resolve during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Norquest was one of several military leaders, including the top general, to separately offer assurances yesterday on the readiness of the forces to fight.
Those assurances come after the plight of a virus-hit aircraft carrier in the Pacific was pushed into the spotlight by controversial events that culminated in the resignation of the Acting Navy Secretary.
There has been no indication of a shift in activity by other militaries—although China has not let up on its usual harassment in the Pacific.
Norquist said that the United States had "rebuilt" its military over the last four years. "We have more people, more advanced equipment, more munitions, and are better trained."
A similar message was given by other military leaders, including the Defense Secretary and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.
Milley warned adversaries would be making a "terrible, tragic mistake if they thought that … [they] can take advantage of any opportunities ... at a time of crisis."
"The U.S. military is very, very capable to conduct whatever operations are necessary to defend the American people," Milley said. "We will adapt ourselves to operating in a COVID-19 environment. We are already doing that."
"Many of our adversaries … are trying to exploit this crisis," Esper said. "So it's important that we maintain readiness by full faith and confidence in our commanders."
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said readiness was not affected overall.
"We watch the readiness of the force every day. And the readiness of the force, in aggregate, has not dropped as we've gone through this," Hyten told the online audience.
The Plight of the CarrierThe carrier is currently sidelined from its mission as it systematically evacuated and disinfected in port in Guam after an outbreak of the CCP virus on board as it steamed across the Pacific.
Aircraft carriers are key pieces in the geopolitical and military game with China.
If other carriers are hit by further outbreaks, however, most agree that it could affect the usual clout the United States has in the region.
Although the carrier isn’t in a state of immediate readiness, that would be the case for any ship in port, according to Dakota Wood, senior research fellow in defense programs at the Heritage Foundation.
If more U.S. carriers or other ships are struck by COVID-19, U.S. influence could be reduced, Wood said. However, in the event of imminent conflict, ships and sailors would be redirected from other missions and ships already in the region to include those in port, he noted.
“They might be understrength for a period of time and while this would not be preferable, clearly, it would not differ from a ship having to fight with some of its crew wounded.”
“The U.S. military would do things in a wartime situation it would not do in peacetime,” he said.