(Washington, D.C.)–U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Chuck Hagel said he ordered the implementation of a policy requiring “all” troops to “undergo a 21-day controlled monitoring regimen” upon returning from the Ebola mission in West Africa.
“Throughout these deployments DoD will remain vigilant to protect its troops, our families and their communities,” Hagel told reporters about the Ebola mission during an Oct. 30 Pentagon press briefing. “That’s why, in response to a recommendation from the Joint Chiefs, I directed that all military personnel returning from Ebola-responsive efforts in West Africa undergo a 21-day controlled monitoring regimen.”
“I made this decision in light of the unique role and responsibilities of our military, the scale of their deployments, and DoD’s responsibility for the health of these service-members and their families,” he continued. “We will continue to review this policy as conditions on the ground evolve.”
Initially, Obama’s White House pushed back against states that implemented mandatory quarantines for health workers returning from West Africa.
However, on the same day that Hagel announced the new policy, the White House backed off, saying it supports states’ rights to enforce Ebola quarantines as they see fit.
“I have oneresponsibility and that is the security of this country. And that meansthe security of our men and women and their families. That’s notunmindful or disconnected from the good of this country, of course not,” said Hagel. “It can’t be. But I thought it was a smart, wise, prudent, disciplined,science-oriented decision based mainly on what the chairman justarticulated, but also the reality of what else is going on.”
Hagel spoke alongside Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, DoD’s highest-ranking military officer.
On Oct. 28, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters that the Defense chief was considering a 21-day “quarantine-like” directive.
Kirby conceded that the policy goes beyond what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Obama’s White House has recommended.
An estimated 1,100 DoD personnel have already deployed to fight the lethal Ebola in West Africa, noted the secretary. Defense officials have repeatedly said soldiers will not be directly treating Ebola patients.
Nevertheless, some trained sailors will be handling mobile labs containing bodily fluids of Ebola patients, which is a venue through which the virus can spread.
As many as 4,000 soldiers may be deployed to West Africa.
The American government has provided one plane with the capacity to carry one person at a time and make four trips per week for soldiers who may contract the lethal virus that has killed thousands.
Deployments will last six months, according to the Gen. Dempsey.