Active-duty Downsizing Should Benefit Reserve Forces, Board Says

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2012 — A pol­i­cy board plans to ask Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta to high­light ser­vice in the reserve forces as a good option for out­go­ing active-duty mem­bers dur­ing down­siz­ing.

In its first offi­cial action with broad­er mem­ber­ship and a direct line to the sec­re­tary, the Reserve Forces Pol­i­cy Board yes­ter­day agreed to send eight rec­om­men­da­tions to Panet­ta to encour­age Nation­al Guard and reserve ser­vice for peo­ple leav­ing active duty. The fis­cal 2013 defense bud­get request calls for the mil­i­tary to reduce its end strength by 5.5 per­cent in the next five years.

Retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold L. Punaro, who chairs the board, said a force reduc­tion let­ter the sec­re­tary sent to the ser­vices last month includ­ed 12 objec­tives in the draw­down, but did not men­tion the Nation­al Guard and reserves.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Ani­ta Gal­len­tine, a reserve mobi­liza­tion aug­mentee who heads the board’s con­tin­u­um of ser­vice sub­com­mit­tee, said the Defense Depart­ment should learn from past draw­down mis­takes that dis­cour­aged active duty mem­bers from join­ing the reserve com­po­nents. In the post-Cold War draw­down, she said, pro­grams helped ser­vice mem­bers become civil­ian teach­ers and police offi­cers and offered bonus­es for troops to leave active duty, but they had to pay the bonus­es back if they entered the Guard and reserves.

Gal­len­tine not­ed that the reserve forces now are more of an oper­a­tional force than their tra­di­tion­al sta­tus as a strate­gic reserve, and oth­er mem­bers of the 20-mem­ber board spoke of the need to pre­serve those oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ties and train­ing invest­ments.

Gal­len­tine said the mil­i­tary pay and per­son­nel sys­tem does not allow for an easy tran­si­tion into the reserve forces, and not­ed that many ben­e­fits are not portable. Past efforts in the Defense Depart­ment to improve con­tin­u­um of ser­vice, she added, have “buck­led under their own weight.”

“We believe that there is a lot of work that needs to be done in those over-arch­ing areas,” she said, adding that reserve cen­ters should offer more wide­spread sup­port for reservists, mod­eled after active-duty deploy­ment cen­ters.

The board also agreed to send these rec­om­men­da­tions to the sec­re­tary regard­ing home­land defense:

— Pol­i­cy changes to accel­er­ate the use of Guard and reserve forces to respond to dis­as­ters;

— Guid­ance that train­ing exer­cis­es can be used to sup­port dis­as­ter relief and oth­er mis­sions, such as when the Nation­al Guard pre-posi­tioned forces lead­ing up to Hur­ri­cane Irene in 2010;

— Guid­ance that will allow state lead­ers bet­ter pre­dictabil­i­ty for call­ing up forces under Title 32, which has been used 13 times in the past nine years;

— Increase from 75 to 90 per­cent the amount the Fed­er­al Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency would reim­burse states for Nation­al Guard dis­as­ter relief oper­a­tions;

— Give con­sis­ten­cy to pro­tec­tions and ben­e­fits states give Nation­al Guard mem­bers.

Also, the board request­ed that Con­gress change the law on the Defense Department’s dis­as­ter reim­burse­ment fund for states to stip­u­late it is for domes­tic use only. “If we don’t lim­it it to domes­tic use, it becomes a State Depart­ment get-well fund,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)