(NOTE: Navy guidance on the procedures for arranging return travel of eligible family members is included in NAVADMIN message 132/11. For further information, contact your service member, your respective Command Pass Coordinator (CPC) or other designated command representative to discuss your individual situation and options. The Commander, Naval Forces Japan website includes a Homecoming Guide for returning families that captures the guidance released in the NAVADMIN while also providing additional information and points of contact.)

WASHINGTON (NNS) - The Defense Department's voluntary authorized departures for service members' eligible family members to leave Japan in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake effectively ended April 15.

"The Defense Department concurs with the State Department's determination that the situation in Japan does not pose significant risk to U.S. citizens," a Pentagon spokeswoman said. "We will continue to ensure the safety of our families is at the forefront of every decision we make."

The DOD termination follows the State Department's lifting of the voluntary departure order for DOD eligible family members to depart from Honshu, Japan.

More than 7,800 family members stationed at U.S. military bases throughout Japan were flown to various U.S. locations following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the tsunami it caused, and subsequent problems with several of Japan's nuclear reactors.

Family members who left Japan under the voluntary authorized departures or who were prevented from returning during the crisis may now return, except those whose military sponsor will have a permanent-change-of-station move out of Japan within 60 days -- unless they have service secretary approval. This also applies to families of civilian employees who are within 30 days of reassignment, Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde said.

Pay allowances related to the departures will continue for families who fall under those exceptions, officials said. Departure-related allowances for others will end April 25.

Family members who departed under the authorized departures, or whose travel was interrupted to Japan, and who decide not to return to their sponsor's primary duty station, may be authorized movement to a designated place under early return authority or may use the sponsor's PCS orders to travel to the next permanent duty station, Hull-Ryde said.

Family members who used the authorizations with a command-sponsored, school-aged dependent, may remain with the child at their temporary location until the end of the current school semester. Departure-related allowances for these families will end the day after the last day of the school semester, she said.

Service members whose families departed Japan under the authorization are allowed return transportation at government expense and quarantine of two household pets to the evacuated duty station in Japan. Civilian employee dependents must return pets at their own expense, she said.

Hardship duty pay in effect throughout Japan will end May 1, Pentagon officials said. For civilians, the 10 percent post-hardship differential pay will end at the beginning of the next pay period, Hull-Ryde said.

Termination of family separation allowances will vary, but generally will end when dependents are no longer authorized to receive departure-related allowances, they said.

The U.S. military responded to the disaster with some 20,000 troops, 140 aircraft and at least 20 ships in support of Operation Tomodachi. While no ships are directly supporting the operation today, U.S. forces remain ready to help, Pentagon officials have said. Several ships are forward deployed to Japan as part of regular operations, and some 50,000 U.S. troops are based there.