The Nation: Pentagon knew years ago that a coronavirus was approaching


The military plan, to which the American media had access, predicted with amazing precision the shortage of medical supplies.

Despite repeated claims by United States President Donald Trump that the COVID-19 pandemic was «unforeseen» and «came out of nowhere,» the Pentagon was aware not only of the threat of a new flu, but even anticipated the consequent shortage of ventilators, face masks, and hospital beds, according to a 2017 Pentagon plan obtained by The Nation.

«The most likely and significant threat is a new respiratory illness, particularly a new influenza illness,» states the military plan. Covid-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus (which means new to humans). The document makes specific reference to the coronavirus on several occasions, in a paragraph it says: «Coronavirus infections [are] common throughout the world.»

The plan represents an update to a previous Department of Defence pandemic influenza response plan, noting that it «incorporates information from several recent outbreaks, including … 2012 Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.»

Entitled «USNORTHCOM Branch Plan 3560: Pandemic Influenza and Response to Infectious Diseases,» the draft plan is marked for official use only and dated January 6, 2017. The plan was provided to The Nation by a Pentagon official who requested anonymity to avoid professional retaliation.

Denis Kaufman, who served as chief of the Infectious Diseases and Countermeasures Division at the Defence Intelligence Agency from 2014 to 2017, emphasized that US intelligence has been aware of the dangers of coronaviruses for years. (Kaufman retired from his decades-long military career in December 2017.)

“The Intelligence Community has warned of the threat of highly pathogenic influenza viruses for at least two decades. They have been warning about coronaviruses for at least five years, “Kaufman explained in an interview.

«There have been recent pronouncements that the coronavirus pandemic represents an intelligence failure … This leaves out and lessens the responsibility for the people who ignored the intelligence warnings.»

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In addition to anticipating the coronavirus pandemic, the military plan predicted with astonishing precision the shortage of medical supplies which looks set to cause countless deaths in the near future.

The plan states: “Competition and resource constraints will include… non-pharmaceutical [medical countermeasures] MCMs (for example: ventilators, medical devices, personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves), medical equipment, and logistical support. This will have a significant impact on the availability of the global workforce. ”

The 103-page response plan provides an overview of what a pandemic could cause, possible complications, and how the military might respond. The plan describes the conditions under which an infectious disease can develop into a pandemic, several of which were present with Covid-19: crowded workplaces, proximity to international airports, unhealthy living conditions. It also contains references to attached annexed documents that go into more detail. (The Nation does not have these annexes).

Last week, Trump lashed out at General Motors and Ford on Twitter, demanding that they make respiratory ventilators, a life-and-death device for many people with acute symptoms of COVID-19.

The plan’s warning about facial masks and respiratory ventilators was foreboding: the US Strategic National Reserve of Medical equipment, which includes respirators, gloves, face masks, and gowns, is nearly exhausted.

The military plan also correctly anticipates «insufficient hospital beds.» In fact, hospitals are currently in critical shortage in Italy and are rapidly filling up throughout New York.

«Even the most industrialized countries will have insufficient hospital beds, they will not have specialized equipment such as mechanical ventilators and pharmaceuticals available in sufficient quantities to adequately treat their populations during a clinically serious pandemic,» the report continues.

Another prediction in the report anticipates global competition for COVID-19 vaccines and their scarcity. Trump has reportedly already offered German scientists large sums of money for the exclusive rights to a vaccine, and efforts are underway to develop drugs in several countries.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

You can read the full draft of the Pentagon’s pandemic plan here.

Source: Ken Klippenstein / The Nation