Yesterday the President announced that he had ordered the deployment of both of the US Navy’s Mercy class hospital ships. The USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) would deploy up the west coast to be used for patients from the northern Pacific coast and the other, the USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) would make steam for New York.
They’re in “tip top shape,” Trump said Wednesday, and will likely be launched “in the next week or so.”
The USNS Comfort is not going anywhere any time soon.
Breaking: The Comfort hospital ship won’t be able to go to NYC for weeks, @ChiefPentSpox says. Ship is in maintenance in Norfolk, Va., and Pentagon is now expediting maintenance
— Roxana Tiron (@rtiron) March 18, 2020
Neither is the USNS Mercy!
The other ship, the USNS Mercy, is also being spruced-up and lacks a medical crew. It was not immediately known where the Mercy would be deployed.
In fact it is unclear if an actual order has been given to deploy them!!!!! (emphasis mine!!!!!)
And in a statement, the Navy indicated they are ready to “provide possible DSCA* support if called upon.”
“Both ships are currently working to complete scheduled maintenance cycles and identify necessary medical staffing to deploy as soon as possible,” the statement said.
There are three national security problems here. The first is the same one that the President has been creating since before he was every elected: HE CANNOT STOP LYING! Even when there’s no reason to lie. All he had to do yesterday was say: “After consulting with the governors of NY and Washington, I’ve asked the Secretary of Defense, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and the Chief of Naval Operations to begin the immediate preparations to deploy The Mercy and The Comfort as soon as possible and they will sail for New York and the Pacific Northwest as soon as we can get them underway.”
And this leads to the second national security problem, which is his most senior appointees, the more junior appointees that work for them, and/or the career officials are unable or unwilling to give him the timely, accurate information about what is and is not possible. This is a result of the fact that the President, as well as several of his most senior appointees such as former Assistant to the President for National Security (APNSA) Ambassador Bolton, have gone out of their way to destroy the process that is intended to get this information to the President and the senior leaders throughout the executive branch. A significant part of the self inflicted problems that the President and his administration keep creating for themselves and the rest of us in their botched response to the novel Coronavirus and COVID-19 is because they’ve been actively breaking these processes that took decades to build. Processes that were created to ensure that these kinds of self inflicted errors would not happen!
The third national security problem is the natural result of the first two: NO ONE who isn’t a Fox News, right wing talk radio, and/or conservative social and digital media junkie believes a thing any of these people are telling us. They don’t believe the President, the Vice President, the Surgeon General, Secretary Azar, or Dr. Redfield. Given the North Korean newscast type public statements she’s made over the past couple of days, people are beginning to wonder whether they can believe anything Dr. Birx says. For now, fortunately, Dr. Fauci’s reputation for quiet competence and effective communication of timely, accurate information is place. When no one believes you, you can’t lead effectively in either a big “L” or small “l” capacity. When every statement has to either be hyperbolically ridiculous self congratulation or begin with hyperbolically preposterous obsequious congratulation of the President’s efforts followed by information that contradicts what was said just a few minutes ago, no one is willing to take anything at face value or provide any of these officials with the benefit of the doubt.
Even under the best circumstances the USNS Mercy and USNS Comfort take several weeks to get underway, because it takes several weeks to call up the US Navy Reserve personnel who staff them before they can leave and to provision the ships. Even if the Execute Order (EXORD) and Operational Order (OPORD) were issued yesterday, the first several functional lines would be the call up and the delineated time frame to get under way would be two weeks out. Given that The Mercy and The Comfort are in a maintenance cycle at their home ports, they’re not going anywhere any time soon.
* DSCA stands for Defense Support of Civil Authorities. It is fully explained in Joint Publication 3-28: Defense Support of Civil Authorities. It is defined as:
Defense support of civil authorities (DSCA) is support provided by federal military forces; Department of Defense (DOD) civilians; DOD contract personnel; and DOD component assets, to include National Guard (NG) forces (when the Secretary of Defense [SecDef], in coordination with the governors of the affected states, elects and requests to use and fund those forces in Title 32, United States Code [USC], status), in response to a request for assistance (RFA) from civil authorities for domestic emergencies, cyberspace incident response, law enforcement support, and other domestic activities or from qualifying entities for special events. DSCA includes support to prepare, prevent, protect, respond, and recover from domestic incidents. DSCA is provided in response to requests from civil authorities and upon approval from appropriate authorities. DSCA is conducted only in the US homeland.
Homeland security (HS), homeland defense (HD), and DSCA are distinct operations.