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US troops banned from travel across the US, families banned from government-funded travel in the US

US pentagon building aerial view at sunset (Dreamstime/TNS)
March 16, 2020

The U.S. Department of Defense issued orders Friday stopping military personnel, civilian DoD employees and their families from traveling outside their regular commuting areas from Monday, March 16 until May 11.

For DoD civilian personnel and DoD family members, this only applies to government-funded travel.

In addition to all general travel, the Pentagon orders also halt all Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders and temporary duty assignments that would otherwise require personnel to move. The new orders apply to all DoD installations, facilities and surrounding areas within the United States and its territories.

“The Department will continue to issue additional guidance with regard to the COVID-19 as conditions warrant.  Our goal is to remain ahead of the virus spread so our military force remains effective and ready,” the Pentagon said.

Personnel are further advised to stay within their regular commuting areas and service members are only authorized to take leave within their local areas in “accordance with Service policies.”

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The new orders also call for the DoD to freeze hiring for civilians outside of a hiring entity’s regular commuting area.

Some exceptions may be made for instances where there is a mission-essential need, humanitarian reason or extreme hardship requiring personnel to travel. All exceptions to the travel restrictions require the approval of a requester’s combatant commander, service secretary, the chief management officer, or the Director of the Joint Staff, but decision-making authority may be delegated.

The Pentagon travel restrictions appear to follow similar guidelines as those imposed recently by the U.S. Army Garrison Italy and by the 8th Army in South Korea. Both Army commands ordered personnel to stop travel. The decision at the U.S. Army base in Italy was set to run for 60 days. The orders for U.S. Army personnel in Korea were set to last until May 6 or further notice.

At the time, Col. Dan Vogel, the commander for the U.S. Army Garrison in Italy, noted families that have already packed and shipped their household items would be heavily impacted by the travel restriction. He announced a pause on all planned appointments for those waiting to have their belongings packed and shipped for their next PCS order.

The decision at the U.S. Army Garrison in Italy was also likely to impact personnel pursuing Professional Military Education (PME) required for rank advancement as many individuals needed to travel to the U.S. to pursue such training. It was not clear from the Pentagon announcement how the DoD planned to deal with pauses in such PME training.

This report has been updated to clarify the situation around government-funded travel restrictions.