The Pentagon is considering new steps to retain uniformed service members, including the potential revival of the military’s controversial “stop-loss” policy, as the coronavirus crisis limits the arrival of new troops and disrupts its personnel pipeline.
Officials said that implementing the stop-loss policy, employed during the George W. Bush administration as years of grueling combat in Iraq and Afghanistan strained the force, was among the measures being considered but was not the preferred option.
“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,” Defense Department spokeswoman Lisa Lawrence said in a statement. Covid-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. She said there had been no formal recommendation to take that step and no decisions had been made.
Lawrence said that stop-loss — which can retain enlisted troops beyond their planned departure date, delay officers’ retirement and lengthen reserve troops’ active-duty service — would “only be considered if absolutely necessary and is an alternative that we will work diligently to avoid.”
The Washington Times first reported that the military was considering reviving the stop-loss program.
Officials said the department’s top official for personnel issues, Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness Matthew P. Donovan, is developing draft guidance that if approved would allow the services to suspend planned promotions, retirements and other exits, and potentially to implement the stop-loss policy.