Defense

Pentagon readies reopening plan

Pentagon (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Ken Hammond, U.S. Air Force) 

The Defense Department is planning to shift from pandemic footing to more normal operations, and is using White House issued criteria on declines in reported symptoms, declines in new cases and hospital access to determine when restrictions will be lifted.

The Pentagon's five-phase transition plan, from phase zero (right now) to phase four ("return to normal") covers travel and in-person business operations as well as resuming scheduled deployments. Expect transitions to be staggered across the enterprise, as the plan relies on drops in cases among military personnel and in surrounding communities.

At the Pentagon, and for some defense employees other facilities in the National Capital Region, the first transition phase could come soon. Lisa Hershman, DOD's chief management officer, told reporters May 26 that the Pentagon has seen a decline in coronavirus cases since May 14.

"It's not date related, we're looking at the conditions," to determine a downward trend, Hershman said. For the Pentagon Reservation, that's an eight-day downward trend or plateaus of "influenza-like illnesses" that started May 14, however, the analysis has not been updated with data from the Memorial Day weekend.

Matthew Donovan, DOD's undersecretary for personnel and readiness, said that some localities could "go green" immediately because they have experienced several days of decline in new cases. That is, facilities can move out of Phase 0 and into Phase 1 or restricted status if there's been no increase in cases since May 16, and that trend continues until May 30.

Localities must document the 14-day decline or plateau in COVID cases or positive test results, influenza-like illnesses, COVID-like symptoms with no rebound in infections, before moving on to the next phase. Hospital care with robust testing must also be available.

Combatant commanders will be responsible for making the phase transition calls for personnel moving into their areas of responsibility, while the service secretaries will run the transition pace for stateside bases and installations, the officials said.

Social distancing or keeping six feet between individuals as well as face coverings are mandatory until Phase 3, after which point commanders will have the discretion to require or prohibit use coverings. Civilian employees are permitted to continue wearing masks at their own discretion the May 26 memo describing the Pentagon Reservation reopening plan states.

DOD also recommends contractors be deployed into the workplace and follow the same screenings as DOD personnel, including exposure history, symptoms, and testing, according to a May 26 force health protection memo. Those confirmed to and who may be infected will have to self-isolate for 14 days, the memo states.

Maximum telework is encouraged for self-identified vulnerable populations through Phase 2 or moderate operations.

Phase 4 in the Pentagon is described as a "return to normal" but it's going to be a new normal, including increased visitor screening, optimized telework arrangements and the ability to ramp up screening if needed.

About the Author

Lauren C. Williams is a staff writer at FCW covering defense and cybersecurity.

Prior to joining FCW, Williams was the tech reporter for ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In past positions, Williams covered health care, politics and crime for various publications, including The Seattle Times.

Williams graduated with a master's in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor's in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be contacted at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.

Click here for previous articles by Wiliams.


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