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DoD Programs Ease Force Stress Without Hiking End Strength

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2005 – Ongoing Defense Department transformation initiatives are designed to relieve force stress without increasing the number of military forces, a senior defense official noted to House Armed Services Committee members March 16.

"By focusing attention on efforts to reduce stress on our forces, we believe we can negate any need for an increase in military end strength," Charles S. Abell noted in his prepared statement before the Military Personnel Subcommittee. Abell is the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The department has employed several transformational initiatives, Abell noted, that are designed to improve military responsiveness while easing "stress on units and individuals by building up capabilities in high-demand units and skills."

As part of that endeavor, he said, DoD has rebalanced about 50,000 troop billets across the active and reserve components from low-demand skill groups to high-demand competencies between fiscal 2003 and 2005. More rebalancing is slated for fiscal 2006 through 2011, he added, with most of the changes slated for the Army.

Abell noted that military-to-civilian job conversions "are also helping to alleviate stress on the force." In 2004, DoD converted more than 7,600 military billets to be performed by DoD civilians or contractors, he said. And, the department plans to convert another 22,000 military billets to civilian slots during this fiscal year and the next, Abell noted, with additional conversions being planned for fiscal 2007-2011.

"Military end strength made available from these conversions," Abell said in his statement, "is being used to reduce high-demand/low-density units, alleviate stressed career fields, demobilize National Guard units, and assist with Army modularity."

Abell noted that force stress also could be reduced through the implementation of new technology like improved information systems, precision weapons, unmanned air and sea vehicles, "and other less manpower-intensive platforms and technologies to relieve stress on the force."

DoD has also employed innovative joint operations, Abell explained, "to spread mission requirements across the force where possible in order to meet mission requirements." For example, he noted that Navy and Air Force members are supplementing Army and Marine ground forces in Iraq.

There will be fewer sailors and airmen in coming years, Abell noted. The Air Force will reduce its manpower through military-to-civilian slot conversions, he said, while the Navy envisions reduced manning needs through advances in ship design and other implementations of new technology.

Congress recently authorized the Marines to boost their forces by about 3,000, while the Army is slated to gain around 30,000 troops to assist in the war against global terrorism and to facilitate the Army's modernization.

However, as a result of transformational changes occurring across the armed services, including the services' stress-reducing initiatives, Abell noted that DoD "does not see the need for additional permanent end strength at this time."

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Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles S. Abell

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