With a global stop-movement order in place for U.S. military personnel amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Pentagon is taking steps to make sure troops don't use leave time they can't take.
A new order from Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matthew Donovan will double the amount of leave active-duty service members are allowed to accrue, raising the maximum number of leave days from 60 to 120.
"The department's actions to stem the spread of COVID-19 has significantly limited the ability of service members to take leave during this national emergency, and we know that leave is vital to the health and welfare of our force," a DoD official said in a released statement about the new policy.
The expanded accrual maximum is retroactive to March 11 and will remain in place until Sept. 30 of this year, according to the order. Unused leave can be retained until the end of fiscal year 2023, it states.
"Leave is vital to the continued health and welfare of our Service members and civilian workforce and is key to the Secretary of Defense's first priority in responding to COVID-19 -- protecting our Service members, DoD civilians, and their families," Donovan wrote. He added that commanders will continue to work to provide troops with opportunities to take leave, even while travel restrictions remain in place.
DoD civilian leave policies, which are governed by the Office of Personnel Management, already contain margin for accrual expansion in circumstances that require it, it notes.
The military announced sweeping travel restrictions March 13, halting permanent change of station moves and severely limiting other movements, international and domestic.
The travel ban was initially set to expire May 11, but this month Defense Secretary Mark Espert said it would be extended as COVID-19 case numbers continue to rise. The length of the extended ban has not yet been made public, but Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said during an April 7 town hall event that it could continue into July.
-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.