Earnest Likens Sacrifice Of U.S. Soldiers Fighting Ebola To Them Getting Haircuts

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At Tuesday's briefing, White House press secretary Josh Earnest defended the government's policy that would "restrict the movement" of U.S. military personnel who were sent to West Africa.

"It simply will be easier to directly and actively monitor their health if their movements are restricted to certain locations," Earnest said. "We're talking about thousands of military personnel that are traveling from bases all across the globe and in order to monitor their health it is simply easier to do that if their movements are restricted and they are all co-located."

Earnest says this is a military solution and wouldn't necessarily work in a civilian situation.

"As it relates to the specific policy, I don't think it's a particular surprise to anybody who understands that it's not uncommon for the policy that's implemented for civilians to be different than a policy that's implemented for our military service personnel. That's not unusual," Earnest said at today's briefing.

Earnest also likened the sacrifice of quarentining soldiers who were in West Africa to the uniform military practice of haircuts.

"There might be some members of the military who think that the haircut that is required may not be their best, but it's a haircut that they get every couple of weeks because it is in the best interest of their unit and it maintains unit cohesion," Earnest said.

"There are a wide range of sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make for the sake of efficiency and for the sake of uniformity and for the success of our military," Earnest argued.

However, Associated Press reporter Nedra Pickler reminded Earnest that haircuts are quite different than quarantining military personnel.

"We're not talking about haircuts, we're talking about the outbreak of this disease here that has deadly implications," she said.

"Of course not," Earnest said. "I'm not trying to suggest that it's somehow unimportant. I think it is a useful illustration, though, that the kinds of sacrifices that our men and women make in uniform range from very simple, elemental things like a haircut to more serious things like a medical quarantine. But the fact of the matter is, those are the kinds of things that have an impact on their day-to-day personal convenience, but yet they make those sacrifices for the benefit of the broader military."

NEDRA PICKLER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: The president had a meeting with administration officials on Sunday for a couple of hours, including Secretary Hagel. So how come the Pentagon then came out with a different policy for some of its troops in West Africa and isn't that the kind of thing that someone like Ron Klain should be coordinating within the government?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Well, Ron Klain is responsible for coordinating our whole government response to the Ebola situation. He has performed very well in that task. The president and everyone here at the White House who has a role in working on this effort is appreciative of the kind of management expertise that he's bringing to this challenge and that the impact of his work is already being felt both here in the White House and across the government.

As it relates to the specific policy, I don't think it's a particular surprise to anybody who understands that it's not uncommon for the policy that's implemented for civilians to be different than a policy that's implemented for our military service personnel. That's not unusual. That takes a variety of forms. In this case we're talking about a policy that's still under consideration, I might add, by the Secretary of Defense. So, I don't want to suggest that I am getting ahead of any sort of policy announcement that's made by the Department of Defense.

But the policy that is evidently under consideration is one that would restrict the movements of service personnel that had been working in West Africa and this illustrates the kind of different challenges that our civilian governments are dealing with and the challenges that our military is dealing with.

When we're talking about our civilian government, our civilians, and what sort of policy is in place to monitor the health of healthcare workers who are returning from West Africa, we're talking about a couple of dozen healthcare workers a week who are returning to this country from West Africa. When we're talking about military personnel, we're talking about thousands of military service records who have been or will be deployed to West Africa to carry out the mission that the president ordered.

And it simply will be easier to directly and actively monitor their health if their movements are restricted to certain locations. We're talking about thousands of military personnel that are traveling from bases all across the globe and in order to monitor their health it is simply easier to do that if their movements are restricted and they are all co-located.

Now, the other thing that is important for us, I think at this point to acknowledge is that this is indicative to the kinds of sacrifices that our military service members make on a daily basis. That there are a wide range of sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make for the sake of efficiency and for the sake of uniformity and for the success of our military.

So, to take a more pedestrian example than a medical one that we're talking about, there might be some members of the military who think that the haircut that is required may not be their best, but it's a haircut that they get every couple of weeks because it is in the best interest of their unit and it maintains unit cohesion. And that is the policy of the military and that obviously is a situation in which application of military policy, or is necessarily different than the application of policy in a civilian context.

REPORTER: We're not talking about haircuts, we're talking about the outbreak of this disease here that has deadly implications.

EARNEST: Of course not. I'm not trying to suggest that it's somehow unimportant. I think it is a useful illustration, though, that the kinds of sacrifices that our men and women make in uniform range from very simple, elemental things like a haircut to more serious things like a medical quarantine. But the fact of the matter is, those are the kinds of things that have an impact on their day-to-day personal convenience, but yet they make those sacrifices for the benefit of the broader military.

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