USA — Report on Reserve Component’s Future Coming Soon

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2011 — The future of the Defense Department’s reserve com­po­nent is the top­ic of a review due this week, a senior defense offi­cial said today.
Den­nis M. McCarthy, assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for reserve affairs, told the audi­ence at the Reserve Offi­cers Association’s 26th annu­al expo­si­tion that he has been involved in prepar­ing the review for the past eight months.

The Pentagon’s Qua­dren­ni­al Defense Review com­plet­ed last year called for a com­pre­hen­sive review of the reserve component’s future role and the bal­ance between active and reserve forces. Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was McCarthy’s co-chair in the review.

McCarthy declined to dis­cuss the review’s find­ings, say­ing he will sub­mit the review to Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates. But he said he’s con­fi­dent those find­ings rep­re­sent a thor­ough assess­ment of the reserve component’s changed role after near­ly a decade of fre­quent deploy­ments.

“Ideas about the reserve com­po­nent have changed very, very sig­nif­i­cant­ly,” McCarthy said. “Peo­ple who used to see the reserve com­po­nent as exclu­sive­ly — or maybe at most — a strate­gic reserve to be used once in a life­time, have come to under­stand that isn’t like­ly to be, ever again, the way we see [reserve forces.]”

A recent­ly pub­lished report not­ed that if the Defense Depart­ment were to put the Nation­al Guard and Reserve “back on the shelf,” the active-duty Army would need an end-strength increase of 170,000 to fill the gap, McCarthy told the group.

“The reserve com­po­nent is posi­tioned, I would sug­gest, to play an impor­tant role in putting forth a full-spec­trum force around the world in an effi­cient and cost-effec­tive way,” he said. With rough­ly 1.4 active-duty ser­vice mem­bers, 1.2 mil­lion reserve-com­po­nent mem­bers and like­ly future mis­sions world­wide, he added, the mil­i­tary will need to con­tin­ue to rely on reserve strength.

“The chal­lenges [the Defense Depart­ment] has to face are not going to be han­dled by cir­cling the wag­ons here at home,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to con­tin­ue to need a force that can deploy world­wide … for the full spec­trum of mis­sions.”

The cur­rent stress on the force from repeat­ed deploy­ments also indi­cates the reserve com­po­nent will have a crit­i­cal role to play in help­ing to ensure the active com­po­nent gets ade­quate time at home sta­tions between deploy­ments, McCarthy said.

“The ‘dwell-to-deploy­ment’ cycle is a sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor,” he said, adding that the reserve com­po­nent can play a pos­i­tive role in main­tain­ing a healthy bal­ance between time away and time at home for the over­all force.

Reserve ser­vice mem­bers today, like their active-duty coun­ter­parts, know they can expect to deploy, McCarthy said, recall­ing that before he was appoint­ed to his posi­tion in 2009, he was called to an inter­view with Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates.

It was a cor­dial con­ver­sa­tion and the sec­re­tary is a “con­sum­mate gen­tle­man,” McCarthy said, but about mid­way through the inter­view, Gates told him he was very con­cerned that per­haps the depart­ment had “pulled a bait-and-switch” on its reserve mem­bers and was ask­ing them to do things they hadn’t signed up for.

McCarthy said he told the sec­re­tary, “I must dis­agree.”

From his per­spec­tive, McCarthy said, every­body serv­ing in uni­form in 2009, like every­one serv­ing today, had either enlist­ed or re-enlist­ed since 9/11.

“There’s nobody [in the ser­vices] who didn’t know what they were get­ting into,” he said.

Reserve ser­vice mem­bers’ fam­i­lies and civil­ian employ­ers have adjust­ed to the tem­po of the last decade and the like­ly future as well, McCarthy said.

“That’s because of a lot of hard work by a lot of peo­ple, but the fact is that our fam­i­lies and our employ­ers have con­tin­ued to sup­port the men and women who are serv­ing in uni­form,” he said.

“I think all of us rec­og­nize that that sup­port is absolute­ly essen­tial,” he added. “If we ever lose the sup­port of our fam­i­lies and our employ­ers, we’re going to be out of busi­ness as a reserve com­po­nent.”

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

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