House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon applauded Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision on Wednesday to order a 21-day quarantine for all U.S. troops returning from Ebola work in West Africa.
“By agreeing with the Joint Chiefs, Secretary Hagel made a tough call today. For now I think it is the right call,” McKeon said in a statement.
The policy had been formally recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Tuesday, although it goes beyond what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House have recommended.
That recommendation put Hagel in a tough spot, though the president suggested Tuesday that there was no conflict in the positions.
The Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno ordered earlier this week for all soldiers returning from West Africa to be quarantined, and while Hagel’s decision would not have reversed that decision, it now expands it to all military personnel.
As many as 4,000 troops will deploy to West Africa over the coming months. Currently, there are about 900 helping to train healthcare workers, build treatment centers and mobile labs, and provide logistical support.
Although troops are not expected to come into contact with Ebola patients, the measure was taken out of an abundance of caution, Pentagon officials said.
McKeon said sending troops to combat Ebola in West Africa “is an important mission” though “one full of uncertainty.”
“I again commend the brave men and women in uniform who have deployed to help Ebola’s victims,” he said. “Uncertain missions often require us to take steps out of an abundance of caution. Here the Secretary is acting not only to protect our forces but the larger military family.”