Wolfowitz Addresses Guard, Reserve Deployment Concerns
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 1, 2004 Though reserve component forces are going through a stressful time, the Defense Department is working hard to improve the situation, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Guard and Reserve leaders here today.
Wolfowitz, speaking at the Adjutants General Association of the United States mid-winter meeting, told the group the nation is asking National Guard and Reserve members to serve for longer periods and in larger numbers and "with greater uncertainty than I think any of us ever envisioned."
Wolfowitz cited several burdens being placed on both reserve components, noting that National Guard and Reserve soldiers make up 40 percent of the new rotation going into Iraq.
The deputy secretary said that when he flew into Iraq aboard a Tennessee Air National Guard C-130 in July, he was told the unit had been on active duty 19 of the 23 previous months. He said that case begs a fair question: "Are we distributing the burden fairly?" It's impressive, however, that fair or not, "people take of the burdens that are assigned to them," he added.
He said that case also illustrates the need for the Pentagon to look at tour lengths and balancing skill areas for Guard and Reserve forces. "We are doing that," he said. "And in doing so, we are emphasizing how we use our people, whether it's for 39 days a year or for 365."
He said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is committed to reducing mobilization by looking at how to balance military commitments throughout the total force.
"We need to ensure that we have the right kinds of capabilities that meet the mission requirements we face," he said. "We are looking hard at it, and I think we are making lots of changes, and I know we are making progress."
Wolfowitz said the Pentagon is well aware that the process for calling up and deploying National Guard and Reserve forces is "imperfect." "As you know, our top leader is engaged, and everyone who works for him is engaged, including all of you in this room, to deal with this problem better," he said.
The deputy secretary said the Pentagon is working with the combatant commanders and the services to ensure they are identifying requirements in a timely way that allow for members of the Guard and Reserve to react "purposely and methodically."
"We are committed to not having one more soldier or airman than necessary in any theater, nor one soldier or airman less than required," he said.
Still, he reminded the room filled with top reserve component leaders that the nation is fighting a long war against terrorism. He said that in the two and half years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the country has made "extraordinary progress." But, he added, "there's a great deal more to do."
Wolfowitz said he has enormous respect for and is grateful to guardsmen and reservists for playing a critical role in the global war on terrorism and for helping to strengthen the total force.
The nation "could not fight the war on terrorism without the support of guardsmen and reservists, and the employers who support them," he said.