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Officials Discuss Plans to Rebalance Guard, Reserve, Active Forces (corrected story)

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2003 – Editor's Note: The figures used in the percentage mobilized among the 1.2 million Ready Reserve and the number of mobilizations in the past 13 years have been corrected.

The days of the "weekend warrior" are gone, Thomas F. Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said here today.

Guardsmen and reservists are giving much more than a weekend a month and two weeks of annual training a year, the retired Navy rear admiral said. Many serve 60 to 120 days a year.

About 25 percent of the 1.2 million members of the Ready Reserve have been mobilized under the current partial mobilization authority.

During the previous seven mobilizations in the past 13 years, a member of the Ready Reserve had a 65 percent chance of being mobilized once; a 4 percent chance of being mobilized twice; and less than a 1 percent chance of being mobilized three times.

Hall said it's the same kinds of specialties civil affairs, air traffic control, mortuary affairs and force protection that always are needed. "It's a new world and we need to transition," he said. This includes a plan to rebalance the force active and reserve components. The plan includes looking at specialties that reside primarily, if not 100 percent, in the Guard and reserve, and perhaps moving them to the active side. Conversely, some active missions might be better suited for the Guard and reserve.

Hiring contractors for some specialties is a third part of the plan. "Are there certain things done by troops today that are not necessarily core competencies that contractors can do?" asked Hall.

A key to rebalancing the force is developing a rotation plan for troops, he continued, a process set into motion by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"Secretary Rumsfeld has asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff in conjunction with combatant and unified and specified commanders and (Office of the Secretary of Defense) staff to develop a rotational policy that says in the next six years we will need these kinds of units - active, Guard and reserve - to meet the worldwide deployments," said Hall. "Once we accomplish that, we'll be able to tell you as a guardsman or reservist, for example, that three years from now you need to do six months of duty in the Sinai."

With a rotation policy comes predictability - something reservists, guardsmen, families and employers want, said Hall.

In his travels throughout the country, Hall said, employers tell him one of the most difficult things they deal with is multiple mobilizations of the same people. "This is particularly true in small business and for self-employed people," added the assistant secretary.

If the same guardsmen and reservists are called up repeatedly, Hall said it could affect recruitment and retention. "This is one reason it's so important to do rebalancing. We're finding that we're taking the same people away (in deployments), and we've got to spread the opportunity to more people."

Hall said he believes rebalancing is an appropriate change. "I think it's transformational," he added, "and I think it will make our forces more agile, more responsive, more integrated and have the ability to meet the demands of the nation in both peace and war."

In addition to a rebalanced force, Hall said he believes the future holds a more flexible drilling schedule for guardsmen and reservists. Instead of the traditional weekend drill, there could be two two-week training periods, he added. Reservists or guardsmen might only go to the drill center once a year for administrative duty. Some might do all their training at the same time. Virtual drilling - a lawyer doing legal briefs remotely, for example - may also be a possibility, Hall noted.

"If it best fits the needs of the service and best fits the needs of the individual, we think a new way of drilling is what we'll see in the future."

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