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Hall Says Rebalancing Will Reduce Multiple Reserve Mobilizations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 3, 2003 – If you're a National Guardsman or Reservist, chances are about 64 percent that you've been called to active duty during one of seven major mobilizations since 1990. There's about a 4 to 5 percent chance that you've been mobilized two or more times.

And if you're among about 8,000 members of the reserve components, you've experienced the 1 percent chance of being mobilized three or more times since 1990.

As significant as these percentages are, they don't factor in about 7,800 Guard and Reserve members who have been mobilized more than once for the global war on terrorism alone.

Those most likely to have been tapped multiple times serve in what the Defense Department calls "high-demand, low-density" or "stressed" specialties concentrated largely in the reserve components. These include civil affairs, psychological operations, mortuary affairs and air traffic control positions.

Thomas F. Hall, DoD's assistant secretary for reserve affairs, said repeated call-ups for some reserve component members are putting too much strain on families, employers and the troops themselves.

And although Hall reported that all the reserve components met their end- strength targets for fiscal 2003 by Sept. 30, he's concerned that too many call- ups for reserve troops could hurt recruiting and retention down the road.

That's why Hall is committed to Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's plan to rebalance the force -- basically shifting missions between the active and reserve components, and in some cases, to civilian contractors.

Rebalancing, Hall explained, isn't simply a matter of taking high-demand reserve component jobs and moving them to the active force. While that might work in some situations, it won't necessarily work in all, he said.

He pointed to examples in which mobilized reservists bring a treasure trove of experience to their military missions. For example, Army Reservists, who make up 97 percent of the Army's civil affairs units, are contributing city mayors, public works managers, school principals, health-care administrators, banking officials and other highly qualified professionals to rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure.

Another consideration is that building active units "doesn't happen overnight," Hall said. "You have to have training, you have to grow the leaders, you have to recruit. That could take three to four to six years. It takes awhile."

And defense planners aren't willing to take that long to rebalance the force. Hall said he expects it to occur "over this year and next year, not five, six or seven years from now." The services each have plans and "are committed" to the concept, he said.

Another option being considered to rebalance the force, Hall said, is adding more billets for high-demand jobs in the Guard and Reserve. This, he explained, would increase the number of reserve component troops in a particular specialty, broadening the pool of qualified people available for mobilizations. "That way," Hall said, "you wouldn't have to keep using the same ones."

Still another way to help rebalance the force is to contract out some of the jobs Reservists and Guardsmen are being mobilized to carry out, particularly those that are not considered "core" military functions. So far, Hall said, DoD has identified as many as 370,000 jobs that could be performed by civilians.

For example, when Hall visited troops mobilized to Kosovo, he was particularly impressed by the successful use of a contractor to run many typical garrison- type functions. Contractors there ran the food service operation, all morale, welfare and recreation activities, and trash and garbage disposal. "They were also doing force protection," Hall said. "And they were doing a magnificent job."

Hall said DoD probably will use a combination of these options in its strategy to rebalance the force. "There is no one single solution to rebalancing," he said. "It's a multiple-solution problem, and we're looking at all of those multiple options."

In some ways, he said the military's heavy reliance on its reserve components is actually a good-news story -- proof that the military's "total force" concept is working, and that Guard and Reserve have proven themselves as full partners in America's defense.

That's something that won't change through the rebalancing effort. America's reserve components, Hall said, will remain an important part of U.S. national defense plans.

"We made a commitment in the '90s ... to make our Guard and Reserve just as good as the active duty force, to totally integrate them into the force," Hall said. The result is that today's reserve forces are equipped and trained just as well as their active-component counterparts, he said, and they've become vital to the nation's defense.

"These units are superb units, and they're very well trained and very capable," he said. "So we're sending them forward and they're doing the job."

When members of the reserve components are called to active duty, Hall said he's committed to making sure they're trained and ready to do their military jobs, and they're mobilized only for the length of time absolutely required.

"We don't want to have one more or one less Guardsman or Reservist on active duty at any time than we need. Not one more or one less," he said.

"And when we do mobilize, we don't want it to be 'just in case.' We want it to be 'just in time,'" Hall said. "We don't want to mobilize (you) just in case and let you sit at some mobilization station for three months."

The goal, Hall said, is to "get the mobilization timelines down so we mobilize you just in time, have the required training you need, get you over so you can do your job, and get you home as quickly as we can.

"We're leaving the paradigm of 'just in case' and replacing it with 'just in time.'"

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