Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced today that he had approved a recommendation from a top general to quarantine all soldiers returning from Ebola-afflicted countries for 21 days in West Africa before allowing them to return to the U.S.
Acting on behalf of the heads of all the armed services divisions of the military, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday asked Hagel to instate the quarantine rules.
The Army, acting on its own authority, had already announced a mandatory quarantine for its soldiers. Hagel said today at a conference in Washington, D.C. that all service divisions will now have to abide by the quarantine.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today that he has approved a recommendation by military leaders that all U.S. troops returning from Ebola response missions in West Africa be kept in supervised isolation for 21 days
The Pentagon chief said Wednesday that it had approved the request after the families and communities of the roughly 1,000 service members working in Liberian and Senegal voiced concerns about the possibility of an Ebola outbreak.
'The fact is the military will have more Americans in Liberia than any other department,' Hagel said, today during an on-stage interview at the Washington Ideas Forum, an annual event hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic.
'Our people are younger, the cohorts are different, they are not volunteers,' he continued.
Hagel said that the need for a new policy 'was discussed in great detail by the communities, by the families of our military men and women, and they very much wanted a safety valve on this.'
The Defense Secretary also disclosed to the audience that he ordered the Joint Chiefs to provide him with a blueprint of how the quarantine will be implemented within the next 15 days and a progress report after 45 days have passed.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement that the 'review will offer a recommendation on whether or not such controlled monitoring should continue based on what we learn and observe from the initial waves of personnel returning from Operation United Assistance.'
Kirby noted that Hagel felt the quarantine was necessary given the large number of troops in West Africa who are aiding Ebola health workers and the 'unique logistical demands and impact this deployment has on the force.
'The secretary's highest priority is the safety and security of our men and women in uniform and their families,' Hagel's spokesman said.
The Department of Defense's announcement today was not unexpected. The White House confirmed yesterday that DOD was considering an service-wide quarantine.
President Barack Obama also acknowledged the probable policy shift on Tuesday.
After the Obama gave reporters a brief update on the administration's efforts to slow down the rate of Ebola infections in West Africa, he took a single question from the press. The reporter asked Obama if he was concerned there might be 'confusion' about why states are introducing different quarantine rules than the federal government.
'Well, the military is a different situation, obviously, because they are, first of all, not treating patients,' Obama said, whereas health workers being put into quarantine once they arrive in the U.S. do have direct contact with Ebola patients.
'Second of all, they are not there voluntarily, it’s part of their mission that's been assigned to them by their commanders and ultimately by me, the Commander-in-Chief,' he asserted.
'So we don't expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians. They are already, by definition, if they're in the military, under more circumscribed conditions.'
Members of the Department of Defense's Ebola Military Medical Support Team dress with protective gear during a training seminar at San Antonio Military Medical Center last week. States have introduced policies requiring the at-home monitoring of medical professionals who've recently traveled to Ebola-stricken countries.
The military will require their personnel to undergo mandatory quarantines in West Africa
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest gave a similar explanation to reporters at his daily briefing on Tuesday.
'I don’t think it’s a particular surprise to anybody who understands that it’s not uncommon for the policy that’s implemented for civilians to be different than the policy that’s implemented for our military service personnel,' he said. 'That’s not unusual.'
Earnest also pointed out that policies requiring the at-home monitoring of medical professionals returning from West Africa are different because 'we’re talking about a couple of dozen health care workers a week' coming back.'
'When we’re talking about military personnel, we’re talking about thousands of military service members who have been or will be deployed to West Africa to carry out the mission that the President ordered,' the White House spokesman said.
'And in order to monitor their health, it simply is easier to do that if their movements are restricted and they’re all co-located,' he stressed.
Earnest told reporters that it's important to keep in mind that that the quarantine is not that dissimilar from the other 'kinds of sacrifices that our military service members make on a daily basis.'
'There are a wide range of sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make for the sake of efficiency and for the sake of uniformity and for the success of our military,' he said, and this is just one of them.
The Obama aide also reasserted the administration's position that mandatory quarantines for civilians not showing symptoms of Ebola are undesirable and over the top.
'Implementing this military policy in a civilian context would only have the effect of hindering our Ebola response by dissuading civilian doctors and nurses from traveling to West Africa to stop the outbreak in its tracks,' he said. 'The only way that we can entirely eliminate the Ebola risk to the American people is to stop this outbreak in its tracks in West Africa.'
Hagel, left, told National Correspondent of the Atlantic James Fallows Hagel said that the need for a new quarantine policy 'was discussed in great detail by the communities, by the families of our military men and women, and they very much wanted a safety valve on this.' The conversation took place at the Washington Ideas Forum, hosted by The Aspen Institute and the Atlantic, in Washington, D.C.
At Wednesday's invite-only gathering in Washington, D.C. of top government leaders, business and members of the media Hagel also gave an assessment of the military's efforts to eliminate ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
As the Obama administration and military leaders have said time and time again, defeating ISIS 'will require a steady, long-term effort,' Hagel said.
Later he professed, 'I think we're in for a longer term challenge here,' maybe more than 'any of us' had hoped.
'But that's the world that we live in,' he added. 'We've got a monster out there. And we gotta be smart about it.'
Hagel warned that 'each one of these issues' involving U.S. security 'regardless of where they are affects us now and will continue to affect us in the future.'
And meeting them will require a partnership between the military and Congress, he said, because Congress the government's finances.
'So we need them,' he said.
'We can't do this any other way.'
The upcoming midterm elections will hopefully 'self correct' the gridlock in Congress and allow for a closer partnership between the administration and lawmakers, the Pentagon chief said.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2812890/Secretary-Defense-Chuck-Hagel-directs-military-quarantine-soldiers-Ebola-afflicted-countries-21-days-allowing-return-U-S.html#ixzz3HYj8CrCH
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook