All Military Moves Could Be Delayed into July, Says Air Force Chief of Staff

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A global stop-movement order delaying all military moves into mid-May might be extended into July, the Air Force's top officer said this week.

"My sense is that we're probably going to see an extension of the stop movement for some period of time," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Monday during a Facebook live townhall. "I believe the SecDef is looking to make a decision on that either this week or next."

The Pentagon issued sweeping travel restrictions March 14 blocking all troops and their families from starting permanent change of station moves through May 11 as officials sought to stem the tide of the COVD-19 pandemic.

"These restrictions are necessary to preserve force readiness, limit the continuing spread of the virus, and preserve the health and welfare of Service members, DoD civilian employees, their families, and the local communities in which we live," said a memo released with the order.

But Goldfein this week said he has reviewed coronavirus predictions that show instances of the virus only growing into May, with curves starting to taper by July.

As of April 3, officials said there have been 1,752 total cases of COVID-19 within the DoD: 978 military, 256 dependents, 306 civilians and 108 Defense Department contractors.

Goldfein said Matthew Donnavan, under secretary for personnel and readiness, has been tasked with sorting through the Pentagon's choices for how to deal with the on-hold moves after May 11.

"What [Secretary of Defense Marks Esper] tasked [Donnavan] to look at was: does he extend that period of time or does he turn that over to the services for determinations of what happens May 12?" Goldfein said.

The stop-movement order also blocks troops from taking leave or traveling beyond a general area surrounding their duty station. 

A top consideration for officials while considering when to lift the stop movement, he said, is getting families in place at their new duty station before the start of the 2020-2021 school year, which begins in mid-August to early-September, depending on location.

"If families are going to move, we are going to want to get families in place before it starts," he said.

Troops and families forced to delay their moves have access to additional funding for housing and food through temporary duty (TDY) orders and per diem payments, according to guidance released by the Pentagon March 18.

Goldfein also said Air Force personnel officials will soon issue guidance allowing retiring or separating airmen to extend their service time until after the pandemic subsides. Although the global stop-movement order exempts moves related to leaving the service, airman will be permitted to delay if they so choose.

"You're going to see [Air Force personnel] pushing out to the force through the command teams the opportunity for those who would like to extend and not retire on their current dates to pull that paperwork and two work a later retirement following the recovery from the COVID," he said.

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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