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Coronavirus poses low risk to troops and military logistics, Pentagon says

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Key Points
  • The nation's top military officer downplayed concerns that the coronavirus poses a significant risk to forward-deployed U.S. service members and the Pentagon's global supply chain.
  • "That's not surprising because we have a young demographic, healthy demographic, lots of immunizations, so on and so forth," U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.
  • Milley said the flu-like virus, named COVID-19, has yet to impact military logistics or the Pentagon's expansive supply chain. 
Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines listen to an announcement while aboard amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.
Sgt. Scott Dunn | US Marine Corps

WASHINGTON — The nation's top military officer downplayed concerns Monday that the coronavirus poses a significant risk to U.S. service members and the Pentagon's global supply chain.

"Right now the overall broad impact to the uniformed U.S. military is very, very minimal. It's not to say that it's zero, but it's very minimal, very few cases diagnosed, etc.," U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday during a Pentagon news briefing. 

"That's not surprising because we have a young demographic, healthy demographic, lots of immunizations, so on and so forth," he said, adding that the department has postponed joint military exercises on the Korean peninsula.

Last month, the U.S. military said a soldier based in South Korea was the first service member to test positive for the new coronavirus.

"Here in the United States, we are making all due preparations to protect our bases, camps, and stations and also to act in support of Health and Human Services," he added. "We've got lots of capabilities, medical capabilities, housing and so on and so forth that, if required and directed by the secretary of Defense, we will do our part." 

Milley said that the flu-like virus, named COVID-19, has yet to impact military logistics or the Pentagon's expansive supply chain.

The virus — which has already killed at least 3,040 people and infected roughly 89,100 people around the world — is emanating from the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the largest of all geographic combatant commands. 

What's more, Milley said that the military's research laboratories are also working on developing a vaccination for the coronavirus.

His statement echoed remarks from experts who previously spoke to CNBC.

"The military has actually been very effective at the identification of new viruses because we have people everywhere and we have our military laboratories everywhere," Dr. Kayvon Modjarrad, director of the emerging infectious diseases branch at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, said in an earlier interview. 

"While typically the CDC is the lead on these things, the military has reference laboratories pretty much on every continent and specifically, we have labs in all of Southeast Asia, so we act as a force multiplier in providing additional surveillance to the CDC's efforts," he added.

Correction: U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, downplayed concerns Monday that the coronavirus poses a significant risk to U.S. service members and the Pentagon's global supply chain. An earlier version misstated the day.

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