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Hagel: Monitoring returning troops provides 'safety valve'

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- A 21-day monitoring period for U.S. service members returning from areas affected by Ebola in West Africa provides a margin of safety that troops and their families wanted, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here Oct. 29.

During an interview at the Washington Ideas Forum here, Hagel said the policy he signed this morning was "discussed in great detail by the communities, by the families of our military men and women," who very much wanted a "safety valve" in place.

The order implements a recommendation from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to place all U.S. military service members returning from Operation United Assistance into a 21-day controlled monitoring regimen. It applies to all military services contributing personnel to the fight against Ebola at its source, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

Review required within 45 days

Hagel's directive to the Joint Chiefs also stipulates that they provide operational specifics for the program within 15 days and a review of the new regimen within 45 days. The review will take into account what officials learn and observe from the initial waves of personnel returning from Operation United Assistance, and will result in a recommendation on whether the controlled monitoring should continue, Kirby said.

"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," the press secretary said. "The secretary's highest priority is the safety and security of our men and women in uniform and their families."

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