Friday, January 7, 2005

Is the Army Resrve a Broken Force?

Summary Report
US Army Reserve chief says 'dysfunctional military policies' hurting reserve.
by Tom Regan

US Army Reserve chief says 'dysfunctional military policies' hurting reserve. The US Army Reserve, a force that is being counted on to provide troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, is "degenerating into a 'broken' force," according to Lt. Gen Helmly.
Reuters reports that Lt. Gen Helmly used the above description in a Dec. 20, 2004 memo written to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, which was made public Wednesday. .

"While ability to meet the current demands associated with OIF (Operational Iraqi Freedom) and OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan) is of great importance, the Army Reserve is additionally in grave danger of being unable to meet other operational requirements including those in named OPLANS (operational plans) and CONUS (continental United States) emergencies, and is rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force," Helmly wrote.

According to the US Department of Defense website, as of Jan. 5, 2004, there are 162,007 Army National Guard and Army Reserve members currently on active duty in support of the partial mobilization in Iraq and Afghanistan.

About 52,000 of those are members of the Army Reserve, with 17,000 currently serving in Iraq.

Army Reserve usually provides "military police, civil affairs soldiers, medics, and truck drivers for the wars."

The BBC reports that in his memo, which originally appeared in Wednesday's Baltimore Sun newspaper on Wednesday, Helmly takes issue with what he calls several "dysfunctional" practices of the Department of Defense: Financial incentives to attract and retain reservists on active duty, which the general says confuses "volunteers" with "mercenaries" Reservists being called to active duty at only a few days' notice   Reserve troops being required to leave equipment for other forces after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

CNN reports that while many Army Reserve soldiers understand that being mobilized in times of war is "inherent" in their contract with the Army, Helmly says in the memo that many others have "expressed surprise and indignation at being mobilized for this war."

The result, says Helmly, is that Reserve commanders spend too much time trying to find ways to accommodate soliders who "don't want to serve" in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, "leaving the force unable to meet its mission requirements."

He says this is the result of policies that were designed for a reserve force in times of peace rather than war.

Richard I. Stark Jr., a senior fellow at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C., and a retired Army colonel, writes in the Bangor Daily News that in May 2004, a defense survey found "a significant decline in spousal support for participation in the Reserves among Iraq-vet families."

He also noted that the Army National Guard missed its recruiting goals by 12 percent in 2004.

Mr. Stark says that if we're going to fix these problems, the chief goal must be to manage expectations.
... to establish predictability in the length and frequency of deployments. This will minimize disruptions to families and employers and allow more effective management of units. We must also ensure that we provide resources and training that are adequate for the missions assigned to them. Finally, personnel compensation and benefits need to be reconciled with the nature of Reserve duty, both to ensure equity and to assure that Reserve service remains competitive and attractive.

The Washington Post reports that Col. Joseph Curtin, a senior Army spokesman, said Helmly's concerns are "not new" and that "the Army is moving to resolve them."

Summarized by Copernic Summarizer

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