DoD Mini-Series: Major General Paul Friedrichs — Covid-19 and the Department of Defense

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In Episode 120, the first episode of our Department of Defense mini-series, Joint Staff Surgeon Major General Paul Friedrichs, discusses how the Department of Defense has overcome challenges from the pandemic, incorporating lessons applicable to any large organization struggling to function in today’s environment. Early in the disease the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt was sidelined, recruit training and military exercises were interrupted as they searched for answers on how to safely operate. Currently, vaccination rates among active-duty military members are among the highest in the nation and operations continue relatively unimpeded. Domestically, tens of thousands of National Guard and active-duty troops have responded wherever needed to support communities throughout the United States in roles from intensive care delivery to administrative support. Worldwide DoD biosurveillance and research programs designed to protect U.S. forces against disease while deployed overseas play a major role in virus identification and vaccine development - including the mRNA platform which is the basis for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The establishment of the Defense Health Agency presents an opportunity for much-needed organizational streamlining of the extremely wide breadth of military health capabilities, however, it is important that less visible, yet vitally important, assets such as overseas infectious disease laboratories, are able to continue their vital work. Likewise, the impact of active duty medical personnel cuts must be carefully considered regarding the ability to detect, prevent and treat infectious disease threats. As Covid-19 evolves, U.S. military medical personnel will continue to work collaboratively with colleagues at home and throughout the world for answers. 

Air Force Major General Paul Friedrichs is the Joint Staff Surgeon, the medical advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and responsible for coordinating all issues related to health services including operational medicine, force health protection, and readiness among the combatant commands and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Read the report here:  
Thomas Cullison
Senior Associate (Non-resident), Global Health Policy Center