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
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