Pentagon to extend troop movement freeze past May 11

Pentagon to extend troop movement freeze past May 11
© Greg Nash

The Pentagon will extend the freeze on service member travel and movement domestically and overseas past the current order’s May 11 end date, Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperTop admiral: 'No condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Oldest living US World War II veteran turns 111 MORE said on Tuesday.

The original 60-day stop movement order – which applies to all U.S. forces, civilian personnel and families — was put in place last month to attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus among troops. A new end date has not yet been set.

“This is a necessary measure to keep our people safe and our military ready to act,” Esper said of the extension during a Pentagon media briefing.

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He added that a new end date will be picked “in the next couple of days,” and that he and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley will review the pause in movement “every 15 days, to see if we can curtail it sooner or if we need to extend it further.” 

“Before I start moving people around . . .  I want to make sure I can do it with a high degree of confidence that it will not further spread the virus and contaminate units and communities,” Esper said.

As of Tuesday morning there were 2,618 recorded cases of coronavirus among service members, as well as another 1,509 spread among Defense Department civilians, contractors and dependents. 

Esper also said that the Pentagon plans to significantly increase testing of servicemembers in the next several weeks to address the issue of asymptomatic individuals that may be spreading the illness throughout the military unknowingly.

And Milley said military labs have the capability to process nearly 9,000 tests a day but they have “an objective . . . of ramping that up to about 60,000 tests here in about 45 days or so.”