USA — Operational Reserve Makes Business Sense, General Says

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) 

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