Secretary of Defense Issues Travel Bans for Military Families: Here’s What You Need to Know

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Secretary Of Defense Issues Travel Bans For Military Families: Here’s What You Need To Know

At 9 PM EST, President Trump addressed the nation in regards to COVID-19. In addition to asking Congress to approve lifting financial constraints on businesses and taxes, as well as health insurance companies to offer free testing and waived copay fees for COVID-19, he also placed a travel ban for those traveling from Europe. But do the travel bans apply for military families? The short answer is yes.

Shortly after the President’s address to the nation, the Secretary of Defense put out a memorandum explaining the limitations on military service members and their families. While the travel ban by President Trump limits foreign nationals from Europe coming into the United States from entering over the next 30 days (with the exception of the United Kingdom), the memorandum from the Secretary of Defense put travel restrictions on service members, their families, and DoD civilians going in and coming out of for Level 2 and Level 3 countries for 60 days. This is markedly more stringent than the travel restrictions placed by the President.

RELATED: What to Do if Your Military Family is Quarantined During PCS
Secretary Of Defense Issues Travel Bans For Military Families: Here’s What You Need To Know

So what do the travel bans for military families mean exactly?

Here is a breakdown of exactly what the travel bans for military families entails as outlined by the Secretary of Defense. All travel bans for military families begin March 13, 2020 and will continue for at least 60 days.

Travel TO and FROM Level 3 countries is stopped for everyone

  • Level 3 countries include:
    • Austria
    • Belgium
    • Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • Estonia
    • Finland
    • France
    • Germany
    • Greece
    • Hungary
    • Iceland
    • Italy
    • Latvia
    • Liechtenstein
    • Lithuania
    • Luxembourg
    • Malta
    • Netherlands
    • Norway
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Slovakia
    • Slovenia
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • Monaco
    • San Marino
    • Vatican City
    • China
    • South Korea
    • Iran
  • Who it affects:
    • Servicemembers
    • Dependents
    • Department of Defense civilians
  • What is being stopped:
    • Permanent change of station (PCS)
    • Temporary Duty (TDY)
    • Government-funded travel
      • Personal travel

Travel TO Level 2 countries is stopped for military dependents and DoD civilians

  • Level 2 countries are all other countries globally, except for the United States as the CDC does not include the United States in travel advisory levels.
  • Who it affects:
    • Dependents
    • Department of Defense civilians
  • What is being stopped:
    • Permanent change of station (PCS)- TO NOTE: Although not confirmed by the Department of Defense, this may mean that PCS orders to every OCONUS location except for Hawaii and Alaska may be halted for 60 days.
    • Temporary Duty (TDY)
    • Government-funded travel
    • Personal travel

Will there be any exceptions to the travel bans for military families?

The Secretary of Defense notes that exceptions can be made but they will come at the discretion of the service member’s Combatant Commander or the first general or flag officer in the traveler’s chain of command. All exceptions will be in a case by case basis and they will be very limited in the number of exceptions they will grant. Exceptions will be considered if:

  • The exception is mission essential
  • The exception is for humanitarian reasons
  • The exception is warranted due to extreme hardship

So what does this mean for military families?

  • All PCS orders have been halted. If you have already shipped your HHGs and checked out of housing, click here for some information and resources on what you can do. PCS orders are halted for the next 60 days.
  • Personal travel is banned for the next 60 days.
  • TDY/TAD travel is banned for the next 60 days unless it is deemed mission essential
  • Dependents who want to travel as civilians on personal travel are NOT recommended from doing so so as to not endanger the capacity of servicemembers. This means that although you are also a civilian as well as a dependent, you are still requested to follow the orders set by the Secretary of Defense despite the initiative set forth by the President.
    • Any travel done by dependents despite a memorandum of the Secretary of Defense will fall on the fault of the servicemember.
    • If you do decide to travel on personal travel, you may be restricted from re-entering the country of origin until this ban is lifted.

Why are the travel bans for military families more strict than those set forth by the President?

The travel bans for military families, service members, and DoD civilians set forth by the Secretary of Defense are more strict in than the one set by the President in the following ways:

  • The travel restrictions set by the President are only 30 days; it is 60 days for the ones set by the Secretary of Defense.
  • The travel restrictions set by the President are for Europe only (excluding the UK); the travel restrictions for military families, service members, and DoD civilians are for any Level 2 and Level 3 countries.
  • The travel restrictions set by the President are for foreign nationals only; the ones set by the Secretary of Defense are for any servicemembers, dependents, and DoD civilians.
  • The travel restrictions set by the President are only for entry into the United States; the ones set by the Secretary of Defense are for both leaving the country of origin to re-enter the United States or to come into the country in question.

Why are travel bans for military families more restricted? It is in order to protect the capacity of the United States military. Our national security will be compromised if our military is heavily inundated and incapacitated due to a large number of coronavirus victims so more stringent restrictions are put in place in order to limit the number of coronavirus cases that will affect service members.

RELATED: Apps, Activities, and Tips for Temporary Homeschooling Due to Coronavirus
Secretary Of Defense Issues Travel Bans For Military Families: Here’s What You Need To Know

What about deployment, TDYs/TADs, and troop movement?

There are no specific guidelines in regards to deployments or re-deployments (returns from deployments) being halted or delayed. It is assumed that any troop movement would have to be evaluated as mission essential or non-mission essential. If your service member is scheduled to come back from a deployment or TDY/TAD from a Level 2 or Level 3 country, they will have to speak to their command about further movements for re-deployment. It will more than likely be a case-by-case basis but delays are to be expected. We will update this as more information becomes available.

Here is the full memorandum from the Secretary of Defense:

Secretary Of Defense Issues Travel Bans For Military Families: Here’s What You Need To Know
Secretary Of Defense Issues Travel Bans For Military Families: Here’s What You Need To Know

Within the next 60 days, each organization (i.e., branch of the military as well as other government organizations with employees overseas) will work to expedite reintegration into the United States as quickly as possible. They will:

  • Do pre- and post-travel screening for those traveling as well as information regarding necessary actions according to individual situations
  • Establish a means of communication with personnel until they can resume normal duties
  • Move DoD sponsored family members to military aircraft when necessary and as is capable
  • Inform all traveler’s of their requirement to notify their organization of travel itinerary

Other Initiatives Put Forth by President Trump

Besides the travel restrictions on Europe, President Trump also urged Congress to approve the following items to help the economic backlash of COVID-19 (information comes from USAToday):

  • Paid sick leave: Trump said he plans to take emergency action soon to provide financial relief to workers who are quarantined or caring for others due to coronavirus. He added he would be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend the relief.
  • Small business loans: Trump said he is instructing the Small Business Administration to provide capital and loans to businesses affected by coronavirus, effective immediately. He added he’s asking Congress to increase funding for this program by an additional $50 billion to help those businesses hardest hit by economic uncertainty over the virus.
  • Defer tax payments: Trump said he would instruct the Treasury Department to “defer tax payments” without interest or penalties for “certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted.” He did not define which businesses or individuals. He said the moves would add $200 billion in liquidity to the economy. Tax day is April 15. 
  • Payroll taxes: He called on Congress to provide Americans with “immediate payroll tax relief,” and implored lawmakers to “consider this very strongly” despite bipartisan pushback that idea received Wednesday.

Although these travel bans for military families is inconvenient and stressful, it is imperative to understand that these restrictions have been placed in order to “flatten the curve” of the spread of COVID-19. A single person, who may unknowingly be infected, can infect several other people which then causes the ripple effect. Together, with coordinated efforts, we are able to slow the rate of infection and help fewer people become infected with COVID-19.

WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out What to Do if You’re Military Family is Quarantined During PCS

Secretary Of Defense Issues Travel Bans For Military Families: Here’s What You Need To Know

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10 COMMENTS

  1. Your article is incorrect regarding Japan being the only Level 2 country. CDC increased the level 2 travel advisory on the same day as the DoD Memo (3/11/2020) to the Entire Planet.

  2. Does you know if this truly affects personal travel too? To Japan (Okinawa)? I know the blog says personal travel but the SECDEFS memorandum only says “official travel.” Trying to get back home to Okinawa and am really looking for some clarification because a lot of info is being misconstrued.

    • If you decide to go back to the US on personal travel, you may not be able to go back to Okinawa on your return until the travel ban is lifted. They are asking that military dependents do not travel but if you book a commercial ticket out of the country, they cannot stop you.

  3. Spouses aren’t in the military, how can they expect to enforce a travel ban on family members who did not sign on the dotted line?

    • If you are traveling out of the country of origin into the United States on a commercial flight, they cannot legally stop you. But they can make it so you are not able to return back onto the military installation in the country of origin until the ban is lifted. You are also subject to quarantine going into the United States.

  4. I don’t understand how personal travel is being banned in/out of level 2 countries. The memo says official travel. How is personal travel considered official?

    • The memo states that all “concurrent travel” meaning the same stipulations as Level 3- so official and personal is banned. A dependent can still travel on personal travel through commercial airlines but it is not recommended, and they may not let you back on the installation until the ban is lifted. But DoD civilians cannot travel and neither can service members on personal travel.

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