Defense Secretary Mark Esper will extend Defense Department-wide travel restrictions through June 30, the Pentagon announced Saturday – an order that will continue to stop the movement of most military forces and their families to new assignments around the world in an effort to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
In a telephone briefing with reporters, Matthew Donovan, under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the order will go into effect Monday. The Pentagon announced last month that members of the armed services, Defense Department civilian employees and their family members who are living on or serving at military properties could no longer travel domestically. It was due to expire in May.
“Continuing these travel restrictions is necessary because of the global nature of the Department of Defense enterprise. We have service members stationed in all 50 states and in numerous foreign nations across the globe. While many areas in the United States may be on a positive trajectory, some areas and many nations are not,” Donovan told reporters.
Esper, Donovan said, “will maintain a continuous conditions based assessment of the Covid-19 pandemic and will formally review this policy every 15 days to determine if conditions allow travel to resume earlier than June 30.”
In a briefing at the Pentagon earlier this week, Esper said the decision to allow more movement of troops and their families to new postings around the globe will be “driven by science, by what the scientists and doctors are telling us about how this virus moves because protecting our people, protecting our communities will be task number one.”
“I want to make sure I can do that with a high degree of confidence that I will not further spread the virus and contaminate units and contaminate communities while all at the same time I anticipate we will continue to support the American people by being out in America’s towns and cities,” he added.
Esper, at a news conference at the Pentagon on Tuesday alongside Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley, said, “We want to make sure we stay on top of it.”
“The key thing is again, protect our people and make sure that we are ready to act,” he said.
Earlier this month, all individuals operating on Defense Department property worldwide were instructed to “wear cloth face coverings” when they can’t practice proper social distancing in an effort to combat the spread of Covid-19. And concerns about the pandemic’s spread drove the US Marine Corps to temporarily suspend basic training for 50% of its new enlisted recruits.
CNN previously reported the US Army suspended “non-mission essential functions,” including some non-critical training of units in the field and physical fitness training involving large numbers of troops, according to an internal Army directive that was obtained by CNN.
CNN’s Barbara Starr, Devan Cole and Ryan Browne contributed to this story.