SecDef Announces Plans to Extend Force-Wide Travel Restrictions

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U.S. service members and families arrive on Osan Air Base.
U.S. service members and families arrive on Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, March 13, 2016. (U.S. Army/Pfc. Jillian Hix, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)

The secretary of defense announced Tuesday that the stop-movement order in place for all U.S. military personnel and their families, intended to control the spread of coronavirus, will be extended beyond the current May 11 expiration date.

"We are currently working to extend a Department [of Defense] stop-movement order restricting domestic and international travel for all DoD personnel," Defense Secretary Mark Esper told defense reporters at the Pentagon today.

The original travel restrictions, enacted March 13, halted essentially all permanent change of station (PCS) moves except for cases of extreme hardship. Those restrictions will stay in place past the planned May 11 expiration date, said Esper, who said the Pentagon would release more details in the next couple of days.

"We want to give our folks sufficient time to make adjustments, and to socialize it with them, that we will be extending beyond that May 11 date," Esper said. "We want to make sure we have a more comprehensive way in which we address exemptions -- we will still allow for exceptions for hardship, things like that."

Last week, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein suggested during a Facebook town hall event that the halt in military moves could be extended into July or later.

Related: Pentagon Bans Domestic Travel for Troops, Families As Coronavirus Spreads

Esper said he is trying to manage the expectations of the 2.2 million service members and their spouses and children.

"There is a lot more people affected by this, people that have suspended their lives who are anticipating a PCS move," Esper said. "We are trying to take all these factors into account."

Going forward, Esper said he plans to review the length of the stop-movement orders every 15 days "to see if we can curtail it sooner or if we need to extend it further."

"While I understand the impact that this has on our troops and our families, this is a necessary measure to keep our people safe and our military ready to act," Esper said.

"We will continue to remain flexible, agile as we work to defeat this invisible enemy. It will take time, but we will get through this, and we will get through this together."

Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Read More: Here's What the Coronavirus Travel Ban Means for Military Families

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