Journalists covering the Pentagon joined CMSI for a town hall panel Tuesday to focus on the military’s COVID-19 response and what it means for the future of the military.

One problem bases face is that Defense Secretary Esper left much of the initial response “to the commanders, and he shot it back down to the local level for decision-making purposes,” according to Fox News National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin. “Most of the bases are so entwined with the local civilian community – in a good way – but it makes it much harder to control…. when you’re entwined with the local civilian community, where social distancing is going out the window across the country.”

The panelists praised the performance of National Guard members who have been called up.

“They are the ones on the front lines doing what are non-typical jobs for them,” said ABC News Senior Pentagon Reporter Luis Martinez. “They’re the ones cleaning out testing inside of nursing homes. That is truly the front lines. They’re the ones setting up drive-up testing sites in various states. They are the ones handing out food to families that are homebound.”

There’s been some discussion about whether Guard members will see their missions end after 89 days, just before they would become eligible for additional benefits, but Military Times Pentagon Bureau Chief Meghann Myers said Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other Pentagon leaders seem committed to continuing essential mission without considering the personnel benefits.

“It’s a political quagmire that didn’t need to happen. Everyone agrees they should be compensated,” Myers said. “From a partisan standpoint or even from a budget standpoint, there’s just no reason to make it an issue.”

Much of DOD’s workforce has adapted to working remotely, which may become a longer-term option for many, but that presents security concerns, and there will always be a need for face-to-face interactions within DOD and with people in other countries, they said.

“At some point, what’s the accumulative effect of not having those in-person interactions where nuance in language barrier and all those other things are also involved?” Washington Post National Security Writer Dan Lamothe asked.

Lamothe said to expect more dialogue about how the economy, domestic spending needs and the national debt will impact the military’s budget.

“There seems to be a lot of this discussion that even pre-dates the crisis,” Lamonthe said. “You kind of wonder how large the military will stay.”

The panel was moderated by CNN anchor Brianna Keilar.