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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday approved a recommendation by military leaders that all U.S. troops returning from Ebola response missions in West Africa be kept in supervised isolation for 21 days.
Speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum, Hagel called it a 21-day "incubation" period and noted the military will have more Americans in Liberia than any other department. Hagel added that this is also a policy that was discussed in great detail by communities and the families and "they very much wanted a safety valve on this."
The move goes beyond precautions recommended by the Obama administration for civilians, although President Barack Obama has made clear he feels the military's situation is different from that of civilians, in part because troops are not in West Africa by choice.
Hagel said he acted in response to a recommendation sent to him Tuesday by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on behalf of the heads of each of the military services. They cited numerous factors, including concerns among military families and the communities from which troops are deploying for the Ebola response mission.
Just over 1,000 U.S. troops are in Liberia and Senegal supporting efforts to combat the virus.
The Army, acting on its own, put a small number of returning soldiers on a 21-day quarantine in Italy earlier this week.