WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper informed U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, that the Pentagon will provide federal health officials with 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 specialized ventilators to help combat the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

After speaking with Secretary Esper today, Senator Reed issued the following statement:

“The American public is on war-time footing in terms of battling the spread of this disease and the Pentagon has to be part of the effort to help protect the health and safety of the American people.  I am pleased the Defense Department is making these military-grade masks and specialized ventilators available and has committed to training civilians to properly use them.

“The Pentagon indicated they are preparing hospital ships for deployment and will work with state and local leaders to construct field hospitals to help prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

“These are important steps and I urge the military to continue supporting civilian efforts by FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services with extra manpower, expertise, and technology.  The Trump Administration should also immediately seek reprogramming approval to shift funding from the ineffective border wall and use it to help combat coronavirus and save lives.

“Our Armed Forces are not first responders or law enforcement, but they have a critical role to play, especially the National Guard, and I urge the Trump Administration and the Pentagon to coordinate relief efforts and ensure we have all resources needed to fight this pandemic.”