In the spring of 1918, a new flu virus began to spread as the United States fought in World War I; this H1N1 flu strain killed approximately 50 million people worldwide, including 675,000 Americans.
While our ability to detect, treat and vaccinate against flu-related viruses has improved dramatically in the last 100 years, these sobering statistics from the early 20th century make clear the significant risk posed to our populations by COVID-19.
Defense personnel spend their lives identifying and looking for effective, efficient ways to mitigate risk, and we're now engaged in an unprecedented "whole-of-nation" campaign to mitigate the very critical risk this new virus poses. This necessary campaign has already wreaked havoc on our daily lives and has the potential to significantly damage national security readiness and capabilities.
Not surprisingly, National Defense Industrial Association membership is fully engaged in the technical, supply chain-related, financial, clinical, research and development, simulation and training and policy challenges presented by COVID-19. And the NDIA staff is working with the office of the secretary of defense, Capitol Hill and membership on ways to bring efforts to a wartime level.
Our actions begin with social distancing. Limiting in-person engagement is necessary and the best weapon we have to reduce exposure, illness and death throughout the nation and others.
Now is the time to fully leverage the innovation and technological advances of the past 25 years to sustain operations across all areas of the defense sector, from planners in the Pentagon to coders designing and updating software.
However, we know we cannot fully eliminate in-person engagement. Per the designation of the defense industrial base as "critical infrastructure" by the Department of Homeland Security, some areas of the manufacturing base will continue to operate, accepting higher levels of risk to deliver warfighters, first responders and health care professionals the tools necessary to defend the U.S. from threats across the spectrum. We know, though, we must severely minimize contact to effectively fight COVID-19.
For years, NDIA meetings, conferences and events have been the leader in bringing industry together with government and academia to discuss the most pressing issues the country faces. As the country fights COVID-19, we canceled or postponed numerous events, including the 2020 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference to...