Pentagon may try to prevent troops from leaving military at the end of their tour of duty — because of coronavirus
President Donald Trump and Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command Commander, meet with service members at MacDill, AFB, FL, Feb. 6, 2017. (DoD photo by D. Myles Cullen/Released)

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that the Defense Department is considering bringing back the controversial "stop-loss" policy — which involves retaining overseas troops past their scheduled tour of duty and delaying officer retirements — to deal with the reduced troop deployments caused by the coronavirus pandemic.


"Officials said that implementing the stop-loss policy, employed during the George W. Bush administration as years of grueling combat in Iraq and Afghanistan strained the force, was among the measures being considered but was not the preferred option," wrote Missy Ryan. "Officials said the department’s top official for personnel issues, Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Matthew P. Donovan, is developing draft guidance that if approved would allow the services to suspend planned promotions, retirements and other exits, and potentially to implement the stop-loss policy."

Troops in close quarters can easily spread infectious disease. Part of what allowed the 1918 H1N1 flu pandemic to spread worldwide and kill tens of millions of people was that it spread rapidly through military camps. And the number of troops who have tested positive for COVID-19 has already exceeded 1,500.

"For weeks, senior U.S. military officials have weighed options about what to do if there are large coronavirus outbreaks at recruit training centers. In one Navy memo obtained by The Washington Post last month, military officials suggested that a stop-loss order might need to be explored," wrote Ryan. "To help contain the spread, military officials have paused or restricted training recruits. On Monday, Army officials said that the entry of recruits into basic combat training would be delayed by two weeks to ensure the health of incoming personnel and those around them."

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