U.S. Military Assistance to International Health Emergency Response: Examining Frameworks for an Ebola‑like Disaster in the Asia-Pacific

U.S. Military Assistance to International Health Emergency Response: Examining Frameworks for an Ebola‑like Disaster in the Asia-Pacific

Client: U.S. Government and International Health and Emergency Management Communities

In January 2015, Banyan Analytics, an ANSER Institute, developed and executed a tabletop exercise examining U.S. military assistance to an Ebola-like international health emergency in the Asia-Pacific. The two-day exercise and high-level discussion involved domestic and international participants and provided an opportunity to discuss approaches for effective, coordinated international response to a health emergency. The exercise aimed to

  • improve participants’ understanding of the use of U.S. military assets during an international health emergency
  • identify solutions that increase effectiveness of U.S. military support during international health emergencies
  • develop participants’ understanding of and ability to apply the basic principles of risk communication

Realizing the lack of familiarity with public health and emerging infectious disease concepts within response organizations, Banyan Analytics, an ANSER Institute, used an innovative approach that merged learning modules with exercise play. In this way, participants received just-in-time information on key topics throughout the exercise in order to prepare them for the targeted scenario-based discussion that followed each lesson.

Key challenges identified during the discussion-based exercise included: ensuring the capacity to coordinate and communicate among various partners involved in international response; initiating and maintaining public health preparedness investments; conducting timely needs assessments and determining the appropriate type and scope of response for a health emergency; maintaining regional stability during a health crisis; and conducting effective risk communication to different target audiences during a health emergency.

The exercise further identified the need to engage regional forums, such as ASEAN, NGOs, and private-sector partners in coordination of international disaster response; to educate countries on the process for requesting and using U.S. assets, including military assets, in international disaster response; to develop regional response agreements and an international coordination framework to allow for more rapid delivery of resources; to further expand outreach programs in the Asia-Pacific to establish relationships and build partner capacity; and to develop a framework for joint risk communication with partner nations in the Asia-Pacific.

The Final Report captures the key topics of discussion, findings, actions items and areas for further research. The exercise was well received by participants; John McCombs, J57/1 CWMD/CBRN Defense Division, US PACOM Strategic Plans & Policy Directorate commented, “I’ve been to dozens of similar events and this was definitely among the best I’ve ever seen…you all definitely earned the ‘Gold Star Award’.”

ANSER Projects, Joint Operations