Officials Suggest New Role for More Capable Reserve Force

WASHINGTON — Capa­bil­i­ties gained from a decade of com­bat have trans­formed mil­i­tary reserve com­po­nents into a full-spec­trum oper­a­tional force that should be inte­grat­ed into the active fight­ing force, a defense offi­cial said today.
Paul Patrick, deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for reserve affairs for readi­ness train­ing and mobi­liza­tion, briefed an audi­ence here on the Com­pre­hen­sive Review of the Future Role of the Reserve Com­po­nent, approved by Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates on April 27.

The report calls on the Defense Depart­ment to insti­tu­tion­al­ize expe­ri­ences and inte­gra­tion that has occurred among the Nation­al Guard and reserves over the last 10 years After oper­a­tions in Iraq and Afghanistan are over, Patrick said.

The reserve com­po­nents study was a prod­uct of the Pentagon’s Qua­dren­ni­al Defense Review, com­plet­ed last year. The review called for a com­pre­hen­sive look at the roles of the Nation­al Guard and reserves, and the bal­ance between active and reserve forces.

Den­nis M. McCarthy, assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for reserve affairs, and Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were co-chairs in the review.

“The 21st cen­tu­ry will require the Unit­ed States to main­tain an array of forces that can con­sis­tent­ly win across the full spec­trum of mil­i­tary oper­a­tions on a glob­al scale,” McCarthy and Cartwright wrote in the study fore­word.

“These forces must be aug­ment­ed by an acces­si­ble and ready pool of rein­forc­ing and com­ple­men­tary capa­bil­i­ties, some of which will reside in our reserve com­po­nents,” they added, not­ing that “the poli­cies and prac­tices nec­es­sary to use the Nation­al Guard and reserve as the report sug­gests have not been ful­ly insti­tu­tion­al­ized.”

At the brief­ing, Robert Smi­ley, prin­ci­pal deputy for readi­ness train­ing and mobi­liza­tion in the office of the assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for reserve affairs, said 24 DOD agen­cies par­tic­i­pat­ed in the study, which offered sev­en sug­ges­tions for best use of the part-time mil­i­tary force.

In its cur­rent role — as units, teams and indi­vid­u­als — the reserve com­po­nent par­tic­i­pates in over­seas con­flicts, defends the home­land against exter­nal attacks and sup­ports civ­il author­i­ties in response to attacks or nat­ur­al dis­as­ters.

In major com­bat oper­a­tions it aug­ments and rein­forces the nation­al effort with com­bat and sup­port forces, sup­ports com­bat­ant com­man­ders world­wide and sup­ports the efforts of the mil­i­tary ser­vices to pre­serve the all-vol­un­teer force.

Accord­ing to the report, sev­er­al options exist for rebal­anc­ing capa­bil­i­ties in the total mil­i­tary force.

These include rely­ing on the reserve com­po­nent when build­ing force struc­ture to avoid short­falls or expand capac­i­ty, assign­ing some recur­ring oper­a­tional mis­sions to reserve com­po­nent units, and estab­lish­ing long-term rela­tion­ships between spe­cif­ic guard or reserve units and indi­vid­ual com­bat­ant com­mands.

“If you have the same peo­ple come back to the same well sev­er­al times, we think that works out bet­ter, and this long-term rela­tion­ship we think is a good deal,” Smi­ley said. “[Intel­li­gence] peo­ple do that now,” he added. “A lot of [reserve] folks work on intel things, and the intel folks see the same peo­ple over and over again. It’s a good idea to build these rela­tion­ships.”

Oth­er options include estab­lish­ing nation­al or region­al reserve units staffed with peo­ple who are will­ing to serve on active duty more often or for longer peri­ods than usu­al based on indi­vid­ual mis­sions, and using reservists to respond to emerg­ing needs like cyber defense.

“How do I cap­ture [an] engi­neer from Microsoft and say to him, ‘You don’t have to join the mil­i­tary all the time, but we need your exper­tise for this require­ment?’ Smi­ley asked. “What can we do in the reserves?” he con­tin­ued. “How do we recruit that per­son, how do we retain that per­son, and what’s the prop­er way to com­pen­sate that per­son?”

The report also sug­gest­ed inte­grat­ing active and reserve forces into blend­ed units, and assign­ing some insti­tu­tion­al sup­port tasks — recruit­ing, orga­niz­ing, sup­ply­ing, equip­ping, train­ing and oth­ers — to reserve-com­po­nent units, teams or indi­vid­u­als.

With­out employ­ing the Guard and reserves, the report says, “the Unit­ed States can­not con­tin­ue to remain engaged glob­al­ly, giv­en DOD’s cur­rent force struc­ture.”

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

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