Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced on Wednesday evening new travel restrictions for 60 days for troops, civilians, and families traveling to and from Level 3 countries, due to the coronavirus epidemic.
Effective March 13, the changes mean defense personnel traveling to, from, or through these countries must halt movement for 60 days. This includes travel due to Permanent Change of Station (PCS), temporary duty, and government-funded leave. For military personnel, this includes personal leave and other non-official travel.
“Level 3” countries include Austria, Belgium, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Vatican City.
Personnel must also carefully plan travel to ensure scheduled flights do not transit through or originate in Level 3 designated locations.
The Pentagon noted that Level 3 countries are set by the CDC and may change, and it would follow those changes. In addition, military service leaders and commanders may issue waivers to the policy as they determine is necessary to ensure mission readiness and address specific cases.
Esper said in a statement:
The Department of Defense’s top priority remains the protection and welfare of our people. While directing this prudent action, I continue to delegate all necessary authority to commanders to make further decisions based on their assessments to protect their people and ensure mission readiness. While we deal with this fluid and evolving situation, I remain confident in our ability to protect our service members, civilians and families.
Esper has also restricted travel to Level 2 locations for families of service members and civilian personnel for the next 60 days.
“For the next 60 days, DoD will implement enhanced health care protocols for traveler safety and transition to the use of military or contracted aircraft for required travel to Level 2 or 3 locations,” according to the Pentagon.
Esper has also frozen Pentagon civilian personnel hiring actions for positions in locations designated as Level 2 and Level 3 location, and has frozen travel for employees who have already been hired, but who have not yet embarked.
In the memo, Esper calls on components to examine all travel and only approve mission-essential trips.
The Pentagon also updated guidance that requires a screening and 14-day self-monitoring at home upon return for all DOD personnel who have traveled from, to, or through Level 2 or 3 countries.
The new policy changes will be reviewed prior to the end of the 60-day period to determine whether it will be modified or extended.
More guidance can be found here.