Friday, April 10, 2020

Military Medicine on Front Lines of COVID-19 Response

April 10, 2020 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

Military medicine is at the front lines of the national COVID-19 response, bringing unique and agile expertise and rapidly deployable resources to the fight, the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs said.

Thomas McCaffery told Pentagon reporters today that the Defense Department and its Military Health System have mobilized active and reserve components of doctors, nurses and medical technicians to two ships and numerous expeditionary field hospitals around the country to support local health care systems.

McCaffery and other leaders of the Military Health System took reporters' questions about the military medical sector being in the middle of the COVID-19 battle.

For example, some 30,000 National Guard service members are offering frontline care to community-based testing, distributing personal protective equipment, medical supplies, food and water, all part of the concerted national response to serve and support hard-hit communities, McCaffery said.

For the first time in its more than 40-year history, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences – the military's own medical school — has graduated nurses and doctors early so they are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response, he noted.

The Military Health System also is heavily involved in better understanding the virus, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.

"We are putting all the best brains in our military medical research facilities, working in partnership with other federal agencies on future treatments and vaccines," McCaffery said. "Our research experts are focusing in on diagnostic testing, … [using] robust laboratory networks to perform testing, and pursuing additional types of diagnostic capabilities to include serologic testing to assess the patients' blood for the presence of COVID-19 antibodies."

DOD also has invested $75 million to research three vaccine candidates, McCaffery said, adding that the department is collaborating closely with other federal research efforts.

"These medical research teams continue to be at the forefront in support of the whole-of-government response to this pandemic," he added.

DOD is working hard to ensure its beneficiaries have continued access to the care they need by ramping up virtual health capabilities, establishing drive-up testing sites and putting the right protection measures in place to minimize exposure risk to patients and health care workers, McCaffery emphasized.

The department has expanded its nurse advice telephone line to include over-the-phone screening tools to meet the surge witnessed just weeks ago, he said, noting that it now handles up to 9,000 calls a day from people who need medical consultation.

To reach the advice line, visit the MHS Nurse Advice Line website for web chat and video chat or dial 1-800-TRICARE (874-2273) and choose option 1.

DOD's medical treatment facilities are putting in place pharmacy drive-throughs and curbside delivery, in some cases up to 1,200 vehicles and patients a day, McCaffery said, "demonstrating our ability to protect our people while also staying mission-ready."

"At the same time," he continued, "we haven't let up supporting combat readiness for service members, even while we've surged laboratory and research facilities to support national and international events."

As it contends with a historic challenge for the nation, McCaffery said, the Military Health System is bringing all it has to bear in the fight from highly trained medical providers and a world-class health care system to cutting-edge research and development expertise in a wide-ranging arsenal.

On military combat capabilities, the system is trained to be agile and adaptable, he said. "That's why we're here," he added. "And that's what we do across the Military Health System. That's what you see in action today."

The men and women serving in the military medical field are delivering today on the front lines of hospitals and clinics, in the labs and behind scenes, advancing the priorities of the department to protect the American people, maintain national readiness and support the nation's needs, he said.

First 'Tele-Graduation' Marks Last Iteration of CIO Leader Course

April 10, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

As the coronavirus pandemic disrupts everything from church services to basic training, the latest cohort of students in the Chief Information Officer Leadership Development Program at the National Defense University still held its graduation ceremony — online.

It's both a first and a last for the course, as the program is being discontinued after a 30-year run.

"The NDU is a second-to-none institution when it comes to those of us who are interested in the national security of our great nation," Dana Deasy, the Defense Department's chief information officer, said in his remarks to the graduates today. "Each and every one of you should be proud that you have completed the CIO Leadership Development Program at NDU."

This year, 15 students, including civilians from across the federal government as well as military personnel from two partner nations graduated from the course. The graduation ceremony and the last weeks of their course were conducted online as a result of social-distancing requirements related to stemming the spread of COVID-19.

Deasy said it's fitting that information technology prevented COVID-19 from being able to disrupt the advancement of students through the remainder of the CIO leadership course or to their graduation. The same is being seen elsewhere in the nation, he added, as technology has enabled a resilience that would not have been possible just 40 years ago.

"I cannot help but wonder what a pandemic of this scale would look like if the year was 1980," Deasy said. "Nearly everything would have been grounded to a halt if everyone were at home. [Yet] tens of millions of jobs across all major industry sectors are still being performed today because we have the tech-enabled connectivity to continue to work and create value."

That same kind of technology advancement has also increased capability in support of the nation's defense, Deasy said.

"Information technology has also risen to the occasion to enable the nation to perform critical missions in many areas, including national security," he said. "Despite COVID-19, the department remains ready and able to execute critical missions. Every day I see how access to information and our technological capabilities is an enduring source of U.S. military strength and critical to survival on the future battlefield."

The students graduating today will be at the forefront of leading continued advancement in information technology in the coming years, Deasy said.

"Everyone here today is serving their country in some capacity," he added, "and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your past and future service, where you will continue to provide your dedication to the mission."

Dr. Cassandra C. Lewis, the acting chancellor of the College of Information and Cyberspace, which hosts the CIO Leadership Development Program at NDU, said the program has had great effect on the Defense Department and the federal workforce.

A circular logo shows a spearhead over the top of a purple shield. Atop the shield is an oil lamp and a wreath. Words around the shield say “College of Information and Cyberspace -- National Defense University.”

"For three decades, the CIO LDP has been our nation's flagship program for rising senior leaders and managers working to achieve national and international security goals through the use of information and information technology," Lewis said. "This prestigious program has served countless standout leaders, both within the federal government as well as our partners and allies."

More than 1,500 students have graduated from the 14-week program since it began in 1990. The program is targeted at senior-level managers and leaders responsible for promoting and attaining national and international security goals through the strategic use of information and information technology. The program provides participants with the chief information officer certificate, a diploma, and course work applicable toward a master of science degree in government information leadership.

"Over 14 short weeks, [students] have completed six courses, they met with ... leaders inside the Beltway, [and] participated in a pretty rigorous and engaging domestic field study experience all to gain first-hand knowledge about how public and private senior leaders are advancing CIO competencies and leading in this complex environment," Lewis said.

This graduation was the last scheduled iteration of the CIO LDP, and the College of Information and Cyberspace is also slated for elimination within the next two years as part of a transformation effort at the NDU.

The College of Information and Cyberspace, or CIC, was established in 1964 as the Department of Defense Computer Institute, or DODCI. In 1988 the school transitioned to the Information Resources Management College, also called the "iCollege." In 2016, it became CIC. Early on, Navy Adm. Grace Hopper was an instructor at the school.

"One thing that has remained consistent throughout all of those evolutions [is the] steadfast, fierce determination of our faculty and staff, and their commitment to bring innovation into the classroom [and] to advance through their thought leadership, information, cybersecurity, emerging technology and cyberspace," Lewis said. "They've also been steadfast in their commitment to prepare senior military and government leaders to lead and meet the challenges that we know they are bound to face in this ever-evolving world."

Georgia Man Arrested for Attempting to Defraud the Department of Veterans Affairs in a Multimillion-Dollar COVID-19 Scam

Christopher Parris, a 39-year-old Atlanta, Georgia resident, was arrested today and charged in federal court in the District of Columbia with fraud for attempting to sell millions of nonexistent respirator masks to the Department of Veterans Affairs in exchange for large upfront payments, the Justice Department announced.

The criminal complaint charges Parris with wire fraud.  It alleges that he made and caused to be made a series of fraudulent misrepresentations in an attempt to secure orders from the Department of Veterans Affairs for 125 million face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that would have totaled over $750 million.  For example, the complaint alleges that Parris promised that he could obtain millions of genuine 3M masks from domestic factories when he knew that fulfilling the orders would not be possible.  Parris also allegedly made similar false representations to other entities in an effort to enter into other fraudulent agreements to sell PPE to state governments.

“We will vigorously pursue fraudsters who exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to make money,” said Attorney General William Barr.  “As this case demonstrates, even beyond the typical costs associated with unlawful behavior, COVID-19 scams divert government time and resources and risk preventing front-line responders and consumers from obtaining the equipment they need to combat this pandemic.  The Department of Justice will not tolerate this conduct, especially when it involves this kind of egregious attempt to target and defraud our nation’s treasures – our veterans.”

After arrest, Parris appeared before Chief United States Magistrate Judge Alan J. Baverman in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where he was ordered detained.  Parris will be extradited to the District of Columbia.

“During this time of crisis, fraud or attempted fraud impacting services for veterans, who have selflessly served this country, is unconscionable,” said U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea for the District of Columbia.  “My office will devote whatever resources are necessary to stop scams aimed at exploiting Americans during this unprecedented pandemic.”

“We are committed to protecting the integrity of taxpayer funds and ensuring the delivery of medical supplies necessary to provide quality healthcare to our nation’s veterans, and any attempt to exploit the current global COVID-19 pandemic for personal gain will be dealt with swiftly,” said Inspector General Michael J. Missal for the Department of Veterans Affairs.  “Today’s charges are the direct result of the expeditious and tireless efforts of special agents of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, working in tandem with our lawenforcement partners at the Department of Justice and Homeland Security Investigations.”

“Homeland Security Investigations special agents have sworn an oath to protect the American public, particularly during this health crisis, from opportunistic individuals who seek to deliberately harm and deceive others for their own profit," said Special Agent in Charge Jere T. Miles, Homeland Security Investigations – New Orleans.  “Today, our special agents have shown their commitment to that promise.”

A criminal complaint is an accusation by a federal law enforcement agent, and defendants are entitled to the presumption of innocence unless proven guilty.  Upon conviction for the wire fraud charge, the maximum statutory penalty is 20 years’ imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

The Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of the Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations investigated the case.  Trial Attorney Patrick Runkle of the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Peter Lallas and Zia Faruqui of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.  Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alison Prout and Theodore S. Hertzberg of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia provided substantial assistance.

Information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at  For more information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, visit its website at 

The public is urged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at