Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelInterpreter who helped rescue Biden in 2008 escapes Afghanistan Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE has ordered all U.S. troops returning from Ebola response efforts in West Africa to undergo a 21-day "controlled monitoring regimen."
"The secretary believes these initial steps are prudent given the large number of military personnel transiting from their home base and West Africa and the unique logistical demands and impact this deployment has on the force," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby in a statement Wednesday.
"The secretary's highest priority is the safety and security of our men and women in uniform and their families," Kirby added.
Hagel directed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to develop a detailed implementation plan within the next 15 days.
He also ordered to the Joint Chiefs to conduct a review of the new regimen within 45 days.
Hagel's order comes a day after the Joint Chiefs recommended what the Pentagon has described as a "quarantine-like" policy.
The Army implemented that policy for all soldiers earlier this week. So far, several dozen returning soldiers are being isolated and monitored at their home station in Vicenza, Italy.
Defense officials say the policy does not quite meet the criteria for a quarantine, but that the troops are not allowed to leave the facility or have contact with their family members.
There are currently about 880 U.S. troops in West Africa, and as many as 4,000 may deploy in the coming months to train healthcare workers, build Ebola treatment units and mobile labs, and help with logistical efforts such as transporting medical supplies.
While Hagel's order seemingly conflicts with an anti-quarantine policy recommended by the White House, President Obama sought to smooth the discrepancies Tuesday.
During a press conference, the president said volunteer civilian healthcare workers should not be discouraged from serving in West Africa, whereas troops were ordered to go there and are used to restrictions.
His comments provoked a backlash from military spouses, who say troops are also volunteers, and a quarantine for troops is no easier than for civilian volunteers.