Updated May 27, 2020
What does a “Stop Movement” order mean? This is a directive that was applied to military troops at the start of the coronavirus outbreak (as it affected U.S. military operations) and affects both permanent change of station moves and temporary duty assignments. What do you need to know about a Stop Movement order? Who it affects, and how it differs from the similarly titled “Stop-Loss” order.
When a stop movement order is given to troops, it legally obliges them to obey the constraints of that order. No two stop movement orders are alike as they are issued in response to unique circumstances.
When the COVID-19 pandemic reached America, it took the DoD some time to ascertain the level and intensity of the threat to U.S. troops in basic training, on ships underway and at sea, and stationed at bases home and abroad.
But once that threat level was determined, U.S. forces found themselves subject to restrictions on movement including work-from-home orders, workplace social distancing, leave restrictions etc.
Coronavirus Stop Movement Orders In 2020
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper ordered the stop-movement order in effect for permanent change-of-station moves and TDY to move to a phase out approach from the original sunset date through June 30. The new memo establishes regional and installation conditions-based guidelines for lifting a stop movement.
The stop movement order applies to all official travel, including:
- Temporary duty (TDY) travel
- Government-funded leave travel
- Permanent duty travel, including Permanent Change of Station (PCS) travel
- Travel related to Authorized and Ordered Departures issued by the Department of State.
Conditions to resume unrestricted travel:
- State and/or regional criteria based on the administration’s Opening Up America Again guidelines and
- Installation-level factors based on conditions on and surrounding DOD installations, facilities, and locations.
U.S. States and Territories, and Host Nations
Any state, district, territory, or host nation that meets all three criteria below shall be considered to permit movement to/from these areas.
- Removal of shelter-in-place orders or other travel restrictions
- 14-day downward trajectory of flu-like and COVID-19-like symptoms; and
- 14-day downward trajectory of new COV I 0-19 cases or positive tests.
Stage 2: DOD Installations, Facilities and Locations
Any installation, facility, or location that meets all of the criteria below shall be considered to permit movement to or from these areas.
- Removal of local travel restrictions;
- Availability of essential services including schools, childcare, moving services;
- The capability to perform the quality control/assurance functions for household goods packing and movement; and
- Favorable Health Protection Conditions (below HPCON C)
- Medical Treatment Facility capacity
- Testing capability in accordance with the Department’s tiered priority framework to include sentinel surveillance and for at-risk healthcare workers
- The capacity to isolate individuals returning from high exposure locations
Read the full Stop Movement guidelines.
Timeline of Previous Stop Movement Orders
On March 13, 2020, the Deputy Secretary For Defense issued the first memorandum outlining the policies and procedures for a Stop-Movement order effective March 16, 2020. The 60-day moratorium on all non-official travel in the U.S. and certain locations overseas applied to all DoD military and civilian personnel. It also affected families assigned to DoD installations and surrounding areas.
The memorandum declared, “All DoD military personnel will stop movement while this memorandum is in effect. In addition, DoD civilian personnel and DoD family members, whose transportation is government-funded, will also stop movement.”
That order was meant to last 60 days, and then be re-evaluated. But the May 11 deadline was extended and some military leaders have hinted that it could be July before the restrictions are lifted.
The Defense Department has temporarily suspended the 60-day maximum and during COVID-19 measures those who are not allowed to take leave won’t have to worry about losing it.
What the new, temporary leave rules do NOT do is add more leave to a servicemember’s existing balance. Troops are not getting more leave, they are simply allowed to keep what they normally earn even if it extends beyond the use-or-lose limit. This is retroactive to leave balances from March 11, 2020 and extends to September 30, 2020.
Leave is not allowed except in the local area, and the extent of this travel ban includes the entire continental United States (CONUS) and certain locations outside CONUS.
One potential complication with the Stop Movement order could directly affect those who are making permanent change of station moves. Those who had a PCS authorized to be completed at or near the time of the order may experience a delay in shipping or receiving household goods shipments due to coronavirus containment practices.
Much depends on circumstances at the time of the move including the timing of the Stop Movement order. At the very least, some household goods shipments or pack-outs will be slowed down by a bit of extra red tape.
Consider the advisory issued by U.S. Transportation Command directing moving companies contracted to handle military household goods warning them to “take no action on scheduled pick-ups or pack-outs of household goods until they confirm with the Personal Property Office responsible for the shipment that it should continue.”
One consequence of this particular Stop Movement order involves civilian hiring policies for the affected military bases. According to a statement issued by the Pentagon, the current order “will also pause civilian hiring at DoD installations and components for persons who do not reside within the hiring entity’s local commuting area.”
The current travel restriction is enforced in tandem with a separate travel ban for government-paid travel “to, from or through” locations that have a Level Three Health Travel Notice issued by the Centers For Disease Control.
Not all Stop Movement orders will apply rules like these; each one is crafted in response to the specific circumstances that warranted the order.
Effective April 20, 2020 (cancelled on May 26, 2020), the DoD extended the stop movement order through June 30 to aid in the further prevention of the spread of COVID-19.
“All DoD Service members will stop movement, both internationally and domestically, while this memorandum is in effect. All DoD civilian personnel , and dependents of DoD Service members and DoD civilian personnel, whose travel is Government-funded will stop movement, both internationally and domestically, while this memorandum is in effect.”
Each year, active-duty service members are granted 30 days of leave, but at the end of each fiscal year, they normally lose any unused leave exceeding 60 days. With the leniency granted due to the pandemic travel restrictions, service members can now accrue a leave balance of up to 120 days until Sept. 30, 2023.
The Stop Movement applies to all official travel including:
- Temporary Duty (TOY) Travel
- Government-Funded Leave Travel
- Permanent Duty Travel
- Permanent Change of Station (PCS) travel
- Travel Related to Authorized and Ordered Departures issued by the Department of State
For service members, it also includes personal leave outside the local area and non-official travel outside the local area.
DoD Components may onboard civilian employees within the local commuting area only, and civilian employees whose travel to the local commuting area is not government-funded.
Stop Movement Exemptions
- Travel associated with uniformed personnel recruiting and accessions activities, to include accessions, basic training, advanced individual training, and follow-on travel to the first duty station
- Travel by patients, as well as their authorized escorts and attendants, for purposes of medical treatment. Travel by medical providers for the purposes of medical treatment for DoD personnel and their families
- Travel for Global Force Management (GFM) activities
- Travel by authorized travelers who departed their permanent duty station and are awaiting transportation,” and by authorized travelers who have already initiated travel (including intermediate stops), can continue travel to their final destination on approved orders
- Travel by authorized travelers whose TOY ends while this directive is in Such travelers are authorized to return to their permanent duty station
- Travel authorized by the Commander , U.S. Transportation Command (USTRA SCOM), to continue execution of the Joint Deployment and Distribution Enterprise as required to project and sustain the Joint Force globally.
- Travel by individuals pending retirement or separation
- Travel by those under authority of a Chief of Mission and authorized by that Chief of Mission
Special Leave Accrual due to Stop Movement Order
Due to the pandemic travel restrictions service members can now accrue a leave balance of up to 120 days (960 hours) until Sept. 30, 2023. Each year, active-duty service members are granted 30 days (240 hours) of leave, but at the end of each fiscal year, they normally lose any unused leave exceeding 60 days (480 hours).
The Definition Of A Stop Movement Order
A Stop Movement order is a temporary change in DoD policy regarding travel for military members and family members, and transfer regulations for TDY, PCS, or other official moves.
Such orders can delay TDY and PCS travel, and can be issued for a limited time and/or a limited geographic area. “Stop Movement” prohibits all but mission-essential travel. What is deemed mission essential?
That is up to the issuing authority to decide. Stop Movement can restrict leave to the local area, prohibit all but mission-essential movement, and could in some cases affect retirement plans or professional education.
Motivation for a Stop Movement order could come out of a need for enhanced safety or security. In the case of the order given in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus problem it was associated with containment of the virus and preventing it from spreading to military communities or from them.
Stop Movement Versus Stop-Loss
A Stop Movement order limits travel and leave; this should not be confused with a different type of military procedure known as Stop-Loss.
Stop-Loss is a kind of military administrative policy that can be put into place when the government needs to reduce the number of troops leaving military service, certain mission types, and in some cases is used to prevent critical staffing shortages caused by Permanent Change of Station moves.
When a Stop-Loss order is enforced, it involuntarily extends a military member’s active duty service commitment beyond the official date they were expected to depart. This extension of service can go up to the end date of the End Of Active Obligated Service, or EAOS. Stop-Loss was used to maintain troop levels during the first Gulf War, but also during the war on terror following 9/11.
Stop-Loss can also refer to the cancellation of a PCS move for someone who is still serving. The motivations for using that type of Stop-Loss could include mission requirements at the unit level, but natural disasters, disease outbreaks, terrorist attacks, or many other variables could also require a Stop-Loss directive to sustain a particular mission.
Stop-Loss and Stop Movement are unrelated. The two may be ordered simultaneously, but one is not dependent on the other.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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