The Pentagon is reportedly considering implementing its controversial "stop-loss" policy amid the coronavirus outbreak, which is impacting defense readiness due to growing numbers of troops in self-isolation and quarantine.
Coronavirus is also reducing the number of new recruits and incoming personnel, given the Army, Marines, and other branches have begun halting sending new members to boot camps.
The US Army announced Monday plans to immediately "stop sending new recruits to basic training in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the military – a dramatic decision that Pentagon leaders fear could undermine national security and affect their ability to field forces for months if not years to come."
This after the Marines made a similar decision. The pause in the new recruit pipeline is "conditional" based on two weeks at a time followed by a reassessment, the Army said.
The "stop-loss" goes back to Vietnam, but was last activated during the Bush administration, and was designed to prevent severe strain on DoD-wide troop numbers and force readiness during the so-called 'war on terror'. Once in effect it forcibly retains enlisted troops beyond their planned departure date; it also delays officers' retirement dates.
Defense Department spokeswoman Lisa Lawrence said in a statement:
"Given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation as a whole and on the military's ability to recruit and train new service members, the Department is looking at a wide range of options that will ensure enduring national security mission capability."
However, Lawrence added it will "only be considered if absolutely necessary and is an alternative that we will work diligently to avoid."
The #USArmy has temporarily delayed the movement of future Soldiers to Basic Combat Training effective April 6.— U.S. Army (@USArmy) April 6, 2020
Photo by Terrance Bell#ArmyCOVID19Fight pic.twitter.com/r2i4pXLbTl
Currently over 1,500 uniformed service members have tested positive for COVID-19; however, contractors and military dependents have also been infected - making the actual numbers higher DoD-wide.
The stop-loss came to be so dreaded among US enlisted ranks — as it mandates they stay active duty beyond their contracts — that a 2008 Hollywood movie called Stop-Loss was made, detailing its negative effects on troop morale during the Iraq war.
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"You've been stop-lossed..."