Domestic travel added to DOD's restrictions for personnel amid COVID-19 outbreak

The Defense Department expanded its travel ban with new restrictions on domestic travel civilian and military personnel amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Defense Department has now barred travel within the U.S. and territories for civilian and military personnel and their families until May 11 in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a memo released late March 13.

"All DOD military personnel will stop movement while this memorandum is in effect," Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist wrote in the memo, the guidance of which is effective March 16. "In addition, DOD civilian personnel and DOD family members, whose transportation is government-funded, will also stop movement."

The guidance takes effect March 16.

The policy includes permanent station changes, temporary duty assignments, and only permits DOD components to bring on civilian personnel "within the local commuting area." Military service members are only authorized local leave per their branch's policies.

As of March 16, DOD also banned unofficial visits, including guests of DOD personnel and contractors. Pentagon tours were suspended March 12. Official visitors are barred from Pentagon facilities if they've traveled internationally within the past 14 days. Access can resume if visitors are asymptomatic by the 15th day of their arrival back to the U.S., DOD said in a release March 13. International partners and visitors are also restricted from the Pentagon with case-by-case exceptions.

DOD banned international travel to countries the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with widespread and ongoing spread of coronavirus March 11, and has been pushing for employees to embrace remote and telework where possible.

CNN reported that DOD will reduce on-site workforce by 50 percent come March 16 as a result.

When asked if DOD was able to adequately supply its workforce with telework devices and network support, a Defense Information Systems Agency spokesperson told FCW the agency "maintains a telework-ready operating status if the situation occurs where personnel are instructed to telework on a large scale," as demonstrated in other emergency events.

"This includes ensuring employees who are eligible to telework have signed telework agreements and have actually exercised recurring as well as ad hoc telework," the statement reads. "We have exercised our telework capabilities for such purposes annually in addition to large-scale telework experience during weather and other emergencies."

According to an Office of Personnel Management report covering fiscal year 2017, almost half of DOD's civilian workforce (then 365,946 out of 785,751) were telework eligible. Of that group, 121,080 teleworked in fiscal year 2017 -- a third of those eligible and 15% of total employees.

Information requested about current numbers and capacity was not supplied by DISA.

This article first appeared on FCW, a partner site of Defense Systems. 

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