Australia, U.S. launch Military Health Security Summit

Australia, U.S. launch Military Health Security Summit


To raise awareness of the role of militaries in global health security, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) launched a new summit in mid-June 2019.

The two militaries designed the Military Health Security Summit to engage and build relationships with regional leaders, gain a common understanding of how militaries contribute to shared goals, and advance military-civilian cooperation in global health security toward common legislative frameworks on biosafety and biosecurity, said ADF Air Vice Marshal Dr. Tracy Smart, pictured, second from right, at the summit.

“ADF and USINDOPACOM are committed to working together with our civilian colleagues and with our valued partners here in the region to develop and strengthen a robust and resilient capability to prevent, detect and respond to health security threats, humanitarian crises and natural disasters,” Smart said in her closing remarks.

Global health security, the capacity to prepare for, detect and respond to infectious disease threats and reduce or prevent their spread across borders, is an increasingly important national security issue for militaries and other government entities around the world.

ADF and USINDOPACOM co-hosted the inaugural Military Health Security Summit from June 16 to 17, 2019, at the University of Sydney in Australia on the sidelines of the Global Health Security 2019 Conference, which took place June 18-20, 2019.

“We appreciate Australia’s strong leadership in global health security in the region, particularly the high-level support demonstrated by the Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) Joint Statement this summer, and the recent partnership between the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Indo-Pacific Center for Health Security,” U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Louis Tripolisaid during his speech at the conference.

Regional coordination and collaboration are key to achieving sustainable, multisectoral global health security capacity, Tripoli said. “Take, for example, biosurveillance. We all know that diseases do not respect international boundaries, and that travel, trade and tourism can quickly spread a deadly infection around the region. We all need strong biosurveillance capacity and the ability to share the results of that capacity with each other, so we can all be better prepared and more secure.”

Compliance with international treaties and frameworks, such as the 2005 International Health Regulations and the Biological Weapons Convention, and coordination under frameworks, such as the Global Health Security Agenda, are also key for health security, Tripoli said.

Although collaboration between the defense and security sectors and the traditional health sectors has historically been challenging, recent devastating infectious disease events, including the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, have demonstrated that all sectors must cooperate to support civilian-led global health security efforts.

“Greater success can be achieved by leveraging each other’s unique strengths, across sectors and within the region, to promote health security for all in a sustainable fashion. By working together early, before a crisis occurs, we can ensure that we have the relationships and procedures in place to mount a whole-of-government response quickly and effectively when it is needed,” Tripoli said.

Summit delegates through their participation contributed to advancing military-civilian cooperation in global health security and fostering meaningful partnerships. “We must continue to forge into action by taking advantage of the relationships and coalitions we have built here and by learning from this collective,” Smart said. “To align our efforts under global frameworks, we must first engage in existing mechanisms and understand how these align with our existing military and security missions and priorities in support of our common global health security goals.”