- The Washington Times - Monday, March 16, 2020

Concerns that the fast-spreading coronavirus might incapacitate the most senior civilian leadership in the U.S. military has prompted the Pentagon to separate Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper and Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist.

Mr. Esper and Mr. Norquist will not be in the same location at any one time, similar to the continuity of command security measures for the president and the vice president.

“They and their staff will only interact via teleconference,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said Monday. “We are attempting to, for want a better word, ‘put a bubble’ around the two of them.”

Military officials are limiting access to Mr. Esper by screening any visitors who come to the secretary of defense’s suite of offices in the Pentagon.

The Pentagon says they also want to prevent panic buying brought on by fears over the coronavirus. To prevent the mass purchases and hoarding of items that have occurred at off-base supermarkets, defense officials are authorizing military commissary stores to impose limits on purchasing high demand products, like toilet paper.

“The [Department of Defense] is working to make sure service members and their families living on base understand these changes and have access to the goods that they need,” Mr. Hoffman said. “This will be done in coordination with base leadership.”

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