Official Details DoD Efforts to Transform, Retain Quality Force
By Terri Lukach
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 7, 2005 The Defense Department is working to reduce stress on the force and negate the need for more people in uniform, a top official said here April 5.
"Transformation of how the U.S. military is structured ... is the biggest way in which the department is working to reduce demand on U.S. forces," Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S. C. Chu said in testimony on Capitol Hill. "This will be accomplished by converting capabilities in both the active and reserve components that are in lesser demand to a higher priority structure."
Chu and several other military personnel officials from the services testified before the Personnel subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said rebalancing the force from one based on threats, as it was during the Cold War, to a force based on capabilities will improve responsiveness and ease stress on units and people by building up high-demand capabilities. Chu outlined the department's four primary methods for restructuring the force:
- Limiting the involuntary mobilization of individual reservists to achieve a reasonable and sustainable rate;
- Rebalancing the mix of active and reserve-component forces to make the most of needed skill sets;
- Speeding military-to-civilian conversions to free up forces for military duties; and
- Investing in new Information Age technologies, precision weapons, unmanned air and sea vehicles, and other less manpower-intensive platforms and technologies to relieve stress on the force.
The department also is increasing the "jointness" of U.S. military forces and spreading mission requirements across the force "to ease the burden on some high-demand, low-density units and skills," Chu said. He also noted that the purpose of reserve components has changed, and that a mission-ready National Guard is a critical element of national security strategy.
"This is not a strategic reserve that we use only during and after planned mobilization or in the event of a major war," Chu said, "but a force that contributed between 12 and 13 million duty days annually from (fiscal) 1998 to (fiscal) 2001." Portions of the reserve components have been operational since they were called up for Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, he noted.
Chu said that because the National Guard is both an integral part of the military's "total force mission capability" and a "critical element in a governor's response to natural disasters," that component will continue to have dual missions.
He acknowledged that America's military faces many challenges. "Where it does," he said, "particularly in the area of recruiting, retention and stress, we carefully monitor the current status and take measures to resolve problems."
Chu said the department continually reviews compensation packages "to ensure they are adequate to meet the needs of recipients" and works jointly in many areas "to take full advantage of the strength that comes from combining resources and knowledge."
"We are guided by the understanding that people are more than just numbers, and budgets are more than just sums in columns. The decisions we make about funding the next fiscal year matter a great deal to real people," Chu said.