The Department of Defense Contributions to Pandemic Response

The Department of Defense (DOD) should be systematically incorporated into any evolving U.S. government vision on international health security. A process of strategic planning that encompasses a spectrum of valuable DOD contributions to contain the global Covid-19 pandemic should begin right away. DOD has broad capabilities that have consistently proven their high value in addressing the current Covid-19 pandemic and other historical disease outbreaks, in support of the U.S. civilian-led response. The knowledge and experience gained in crisis response at home and overseas contribute to military readiness and improved coordination of all actors involved in preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease events.  
This report draws from months of deliberations organized by the CSIS Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security’s DOD Working Group. It lays out four concrete and pragmatic recommendations to strengthen DOD’s contributions overseas in advancing U.S. global health security interests: 


  • Identify a lead federal agency for U.S. international Covid-19 response and future health security crises. DOD should have permanent, sustained involvement in integrating and planning from the beginning.  
  • More closely coordinate and synchronize DOD capabilities dealing with biological threats within DOD and with external partners. 
  • Align funding authorities with desired outcomes. 
  • Maintain military, medical, and scientific expertise. 

Now is the moment to acknowledge these capabilities as vital national assets to be reinforced, funded, protected, and deployed, as needed, in advancing a U.S. global health security strategy.   

This report is a product of the CSIS Commission on Strengthening America’s Health Security, generously supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Thomas Cullison
Senior Associate (Non-resident), Global Health Policy Center