COVID-19: Timing Is Everything

If it is war, then we have lost the advantage in the fight we are in.

by Eric Holdeman / March 24, 2020

Warfare has many dimensions to it. Most people think about the number of soldiers, ships, aircraft, etc., as being the determining factor in who wins and loses in a war. There are plenty of examples to support that conclusion. In WWII we had inferior tanks compared to the Germans, but — we had a lot of them! Our losses were huge, but they ran out of crews and equipment. 

If it is war that we are in today against the coronavirus, then it feels to me like we are on the eve of Pearl Harbor. We saw war coming and we lost the beginning of the war because we didn't take advantage of the time available to become better prepared. I think it is timing that is the critical issue — the application of force, material and resources at the right place and at the right time. Everyone talks about "flattening the curve" but today on the readiness front, we are behind the curve in preparedness.

The role of military intelligence and the intelligence services of the United States is to tell operational people and decision makers what to prepare for, what the enemy is doing or intends to do. Those reports about the coronavirus from our own intelligence services were ignored by the senior leadership of the Trump Administration, See U.S. intelligence reports from January and February warned about a likely pandemic.

I'd say, at a minimum, we are six weeks behind in our preparations for COVID-19 and still not mobilized to take advantage of all the resources available to us. The failure early on, to enact the Defense Production Act is but one example of a missed opportunity to make use of available time. Then, once it was put into place, the failure to use the powers contained in the act to direct industry to begin the manufacture of goods and equipment that are currently desperately needed by our medical communities everywhere, is a prime example

Which brings me to the reason battles and wars are lost. It is timing! You may have the superior forces, but the decision-making needed to put your forces at the right place, in the right configuration, at the right time is what wins wars. 

When I was in charge of the I Corps Tactical Command Center during war games, the G3 (top operations officer for the Corps) would say as he was leaving the command center, "Don't commit the reserve." He was the only one, in concert with the commander, to make that decision. The reserve force is what you have available to you to change the course of the battle. Committing it too early or too late can doom your operation to failure.

I can tell you conclusively, we have waited to long to "commit the reserve." Our ability to substantively influence the coming medical battle has been lost. The virus is going to wash over our medical community like a conquering horde and we'll be picking up the pieces afterward.

As is the case in all lost wars, let the finger-pointing begin!


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