The White House said there's an emerging consensus among governors, the federal government and the military about dealing with suspected Ebola cases.
President Obama defended less stringent federal Ebola protocols for private citizens than for U.S. soldiers returning from the Ebola hot zone.
"We've got to make sure that we continue to provide the support of health workers who are going overseas to deal with the disease where it really has been raging," Mr. Obama said on the White House lawn Tuesday. "We don't expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians."
All Army soldiers coming home from West Africa will first spend 21 days in virtual quarantine. Army soldiers will make up the vast majority of personnel sent to the hot zone.
That's already happening to troops returning from Liberia at a base in Italy.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended this policy apply to all branches of the military. Late Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel approved the plan.
"I think the secretary understands that Army leadership, supported by the recommendations of the Joint Staff, wanted to take a very conservative approach," Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
It's more conservative than new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules that recommend voluntary quarantine only for those known to have had high-risk exposure to Ebola.
"Well, I can understand why people might suggest that there's a benefit to applying a military policy that works in a military context and suggesting that it might work in a civilian context," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said. "And I'm just saying that's wrong. The science doesn't back that up."
New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie will stick with a policy much closer to the Army's and dismissed threats of a lawsuit from nurse Kaci Hickox, who was quarantined in his state over the weekend.
"Whatever," Christie said. "Get in line. I've been sued lots of times before. Get in line. I'm happy to take it on."