Pentagon closes access to building, further tightens military travel

Pentagon closes access to building, further tightens military travel

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commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., briefs reporters on the status of operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility, include dangers from COVID-19, at the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., March 13, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon will ban outside visitors — including defense ministers from other nations — and restrict the movement of troops in the U.S. and elsewhere in its latest effort to blunt the impact of COVID-19 on the military force.

In two announcements late Friday, the Pentagon outlined the changes it said were immediate. They come after rising concerns that hundreds of service personnel could have already been exposed to COVID-19.

“To assist public health efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and protect DOD employees and visitors, additional force health protections will be implemented at the Pentagon and associated facilities in the National Capital Region, including the Mark Center, Defense Health Headquarters, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and DOD leased facilities,” a Pentagon statement at 10:39 p.m. EST said.

The steps are effective Sunday night. They include suspending official visits by international partners and visitors and barring any individual with recent international travel from entering the Pentagon facilities within 14 days of their return to the U.S.

Public Pentagon tours ceased on Thursday, March 12.

All unofficial visits are suspended, to include personal guests and friends of DOD personnel and contractors.  All large gatherings, such as retirement and promotion ceremonies, shall cease, the statement said.

Exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Chief Management Officer, Director of the Joint Staff, as delegated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Secretaries of the military services, the statement said.

In a separate late-night announcement, the Pentagon unveiled new travel restrictions for service members, DoD civilians, and their families assigned to DoD installations, facilities and surrounding areas within the United States and its territories.

“This restriction will halt all domestic travel, including Permanent Change of Station, and Temporary Duty. This restriction will also pause civilian hiring at DoD installations and components for persons who do not reside within the hiring entity’s local commuting area,” the Pentagon said.

This new guidance started March 16 and continues through May 11.

Earlier Friday, the Pentagon barred all troops, family members, and military civilian employees from traveling to Warning Level 3 countries, which include Italy, South Korea, Iran and China, for the next 60 days. As of Friday, there were 20 countries categorized at Warning Level 3.

It also put limits on Warning Level 2 countries, which include Hong Kong, Japan and Macau.

Military personnel have already been restricted to bases in hot-spot areas, such as northern Italy and South Korea, and ports-of-call for Navy ships were canceled. Military exercises have been canceled, shortened or downsized.

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