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Military memo from 2017 warned of pandemic’s impact on combat readiness and risk of war

An internal Pentagon document from 2017 warned about the potentially catastrophic impact of a pandemic like the coronavirus, one that could “result in debilitating illness in military forces at levels significant enough to degrade combat readiness.”

The internal Defense Department document, first reported by The Nation magazine on Wednesday, says a pandemic like the one currently spreading across the United States may impact U.S. Northern Command’s “operating environment for up to 24 months,” according to the document made available online.

The 103-page document published by U.S. NORTHCOM, titled “Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease Response” and dated January 2017, reveals the extent to which the military has been planning and bracing for a widespread pandemic.

It paints a dire picture of the impact a pandemic can have on military readiness and national security.

“Key security concerns that could arise from the political, social and economic instabilities include opportunistic aggression, opportunities for violent extremists to acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD) … instability resulting from humanitarian disaster and decreased distribution of essential commodities,” the document said.

“The prevalence of significant disease coupled with instability may result in reduced security capabilities, providing an opportunity for international military conflict, increased terrorist activity, internal unrest, political and/or economic collapse, humanitarian crisis and social change,” according to the document.

The document warns that U.S. Northern Command, “due to the effects of the disease on personal and resources, may not have the capacity to effectively support [the U.S. government and partner nations] with the support required.”

The plan notes the importance of coordinating “large-scale logistics operations to maintain the flow of critical supplies to military base installations.”

U.S. NORTHCOM may ultimately acquire and distribute vaccines to military personal via NORTHCOM logistics networks, the document noted.

More than 700 active-duty service members have been stricken with the coronavirus, including 40 who have been hospitalized.

The outbreak has sidelined Navy warships, halted overseas combat deployments and instigated the mobilization of more than 17,000 reserve component personnel at home.

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