WASHINGTON — Department stores hire temporary workers for the holiday crunch time, then lay them off when the demand wanes in early January. Given the opportunity, commercial airlines would love to pay their pilots only while they’re in the cockpit, taking them off the clock –- and off the payroll –- once they land.
“You could run a pretty profitable airline if you could find somebody willing to do that,” Army Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, the top Army Reserve officer, told American Forces Press Service. “We [in the Army Reserve] are kind of [like] that airline, because we say, ‘You pay us when you use us, and then when you’re not using us, we go back to our civilian jobs.”
That’s the concept Stultz will advance in a white paper that makes a business case for maintaining an operational Army Reserve for the long term after the current conflicts conclude.
Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and now New Dawn have demonstrated the capabilities the reserve components bring to the military, Stultz said. Particularly important, he added, have been the “enabling capabilities” resident in the Army Reserve: logistical, engineer, military police, medical and civil affairs support.
“We as a military have come to the realization that we can’t fight an extended conflict without the reserve,” Stultz said. “We’ve built an army that is dependent on having access to the reserve when it needs them and with the expectation that it is going to be trained and ready –- that it’s not going to be in a strategic posture.”
But Stultz expressed concern that the military, looking for ways to cut costs and reap a “peace dividend” once the troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan, might try to turn back the clock and reinstitute a strategic reserve. Such a plan would be penny-wise but pound-foolish, he said, because it would cheat the United States out of an important, battle-tested and cost-effective resource and deprive it of valuable opportunities to advance its security strategy around the world.
Like seasonal workers, reservists get paid only when they are in training or mobilized. As a result, Stultz reasoned, mobilizing or deploying a reserve-component soldier costs a fraction of what it costs to maintain an active-component soldier.
As the Army institutes the Army Force Generation model -– one designed to provide combatant commanders a steady, supply of trained and ready units, while providing troops predictability about deployments -– Army Reserve soldiers will be on tap to deploy for one year in every five.
Once these Army Reserve units are no longer required in Afghanistan and Iraq, Stultz said, he sees other big opportunities for putting their capabilities to use. While serving as a standing contingency force, ready to be called as needed, they also could help the United States amp up its theater engagement and theater security strategy around the world.
The Army Reserve already supports many of these efforts: medical support and engineering missions in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa and aboard U.S. Southern Command’s Continuing Promise and U.S. Pacific Command’s Pacific Partnership medical missions.
“If you go to Southcom and talk about their engagement strategy with Central and South America and the Caribbean, they will tell you that one of the most effective tools they have is the medical support that they provide,” Stultz said. “Where do they get that medical support? Right now, it is reserve units providing the majority of it.”
Army Gen. William E. “Skip” Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, and Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, appear to agree. Both related in testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March that they welcomed the additional capabilities an operational Army Reserve could continue to contribute to their security activities.
Stultz said combatant commanders get excited when he suggests these possibilities.
“What if in the future –- when these units are in the [Army Force Generation] model and when there is no requirement for them in Iraq and Afghanistan –- I could give you these units for 90 days at a time?” he asks, rather than the current two or three weeks.
“Their eyes light up,” he said. “They say, ‘Now you are talking about really expanding our horizons as far as engagement strategy, if we were able to build a strategy around that capability.’ ”
That approach could be used to fine-tune reserve-component skills, while putting no additional burden on the active force, he said.
“We as a country have got a security engagement strategy, and we have this contingency force that is sitting there and is a great return on investment,” Stultz said. “That is what we are trying to get at.”
When considering the future posture of the Army Reserve, Stultz noted another important consideration: the troops themselves. He’s convinced that after playing key roles in an operational reserve, they’ll never be satisfied reverting to their long-abandoned “weekend warrior” status.
“We have transitioned our personnel and our mentality to an operational reserve,” he said. “We have created an environment and culture that [the soldiers] want to be part of and that they feel good about.”
Stultz said he’s told the Army leadership and others there’s no turning back.
“We can’t go back to a strategic reserve –- one, because you can’t afford it, the nation needs us; but two, we can’t go back because the soldiers we’ve got signed up to be utilized,” he said.
“What we’re saying is, an operational reserve makes sense,” Stultz said. “It’s the right thing for the military, it’s the right thing for the nation, and it’s the right thing for the soldier.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)