“We are going to move toward face coverings,” he said in an interview with ABC.
Esper said the military wants “to take every measure to protect our troops,” but that following national guidance on social distancing isn’t possible for troops in some places, like submarines or tanks.
“But we ought to provide them all the guidance they need to adjust it in whatever is unique to their situation, their circumstance or their mission set,” the secretary said.
The Pentagon has made a number of adjustments amid the pandemic, including adopting “dramatic mitigation measures to protect service members, civilian employees, contractors and their families from Coronavirus.”
Concerns about the pandemic’s spread drove the US Marine Corps to temporarily suspend basic training for 50% of its new enlisted recruits on Monday, and the Pentagon is increasingly preparing for the possibility of wider outbreaks across the force than originally anticipated.
CNN reported earlier this month that the US Army is suspending “non-mission essential functions,” including some non-critical training of units in the field and physical fitness training involving large numbers of troops, according to an internal Army directive that was obtained by CNN.
CNN’s Ryan Browne, Paul LeBlanc and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.