President Donald Trump has authorized Defense Secretary Mark Esper to order units and individual members in the National Guard and Reserves, as well as “certain Individual Ready Reserve members,” to active duty to augment forces in the coronavirus response, according to the chief Pentagon spokesperson.
“Today the President signed an Executive Order authorizing Secretary Esper to order units and individual members in the National Guard and Reserves and certain Individual Ready Reserve members, to active duty to augment forces for the effective response to the coronavirus outbreak,” said Jonathan Hoffman in a statement released late Friday evening.
The statement said that decisions about which individuals may be activated are still being reviewed.
“Generally, these members will be persons in Headquarters units and persons with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities,” the statement said.
The statement said the Defense Secretary and Department of Health and Human Services would consult with state officials before “any potential utilization” of National Guard Reserve Component units under the executive order.
The statement said there is currently no projected number of expected activations, but the Pentagon can do so “as needed.”
“As this is a dynamic situation, we do not currently have a projected number of expected activations, but the Department is now fully authorized to make activations as needed. We will provide updates as they become available,” Hoffman said.
“The Department has been committed to using all our capabilities to confront the coronavirus outbreak, and the President’s action today ensures that we can bring select members of the Reserves and National Guard to the fight where needed most,” he said.
Thousands of National Guard troops have been activated so far by state governors across the nation. They have been helping with coronavirus testing, delivering meals to homebound residents, helping build hospital spaces, and transporting equipment, and providing other logistical support.
They have so far not played law enforcement roles, and under federal activation are barred from doing so.
In recent days, the Army has reached out to retirees, particularly those with medical expertise, to help coronavirus response efforts. The Navy has also reached out to reservists with medical expertise who are not currently serving medical civilian capacities.