Pentagon pauses support for congressional travel to Israel

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has issued a memo that pauses Defense Department support for congressional travel to Israel right now and restricts visits by defense and military leaders.

The memo, dated October 31, is meant to discourage “combat tourism,” according to defense officials. The military is already doing so much in the area that there’s no reason for additional military aircraft to bring in anything non-essential, officials said.

A defense official said the restrictions were put in place because of the risk and undue burden on service members who would provide support for a visit to Israel.

Defense Department “support to congressional delegation visits will be unavailable to Israel during this period, and no DoD support shall be made available for congressional travel to Israel without my approval,” Austin wrote in the memo. 

Members of Congress may still travel to Israel but must do so without using Defense Department resources. 

Punchbowl News first reported the existence of the memo. 

The defense secretary or chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must approve any visits to Israel by senior Pentagon leaders who are not involved in providing support to Israel. Defense officials say that aid is being flown into Israel nearly every day. 

The Defense Department will continue to support any visits by President Biden and Vice President Harris the memo says. The travel restrictions also do not apply to travel by the secretary of defense, deputy secretary of defense, chairman or vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the heads of the military departments and service branches. 

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