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DoD Deals New Hand to Reserve Forces

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 1998 – Changes to homeland defense, the stand-up of new reserve teams to combat weapons of mass destruction and the continuance of reserve component integration with the active force are in the cards for reservists in the next year.

Charles L. Cragin, acting assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said reservists continue to re-serve around the world.

"I've been to Bosnia twice now," Cragin said during an interview. "You can't tell the difference between active and reserve [component service members]. They are all there doing their jobs, proud of what they are doing and motivated. We see this through their retention and re-enlistment figures when they come home. There's no attrition in the units [that go to global hot spots]. In fact, their retention and recruiting are through the roof."

He said a composite Army National Guard aviation company from Florida, Alabama and North Carolina arrived in Kuwait recently. They are there under a presidential selected reserve call-up for 270 days. Cragin said this is just another example of the integration of the reserve components into the total force.

"Where it makes sense to use reservists, we will," he said. "You have to remember that if you call up a reserve unit, it costs just as much as an active unit. The difference is you haven't budgeted for it." Finding ways to use the reserves, therefore, is as much a matter of budget as of need, he said.

The reserve components have a completely new role in homeland defense, Cragin said, and the definition of homeland defense continues to evolve. "Homeland defense has been under discussion for some time, because we don't really know what it constitutes in this day of asymmetrical threats," he said.

"We know for certain that it includes responding to weapons of mass destruction," he continued. "We know that it includes information operations and counterintelligence operations for information warfare. It includes the air defense of the United States. We don't know how much further it goes as it relates to National Guard and Reserve involvement."

Defense Secretary William Cohen's initiatives in the area of weapons of mass destruction have raised the whole homeland defense issue. The congressionally chartered National Defense Panel agreed with him when it recommended the reserve components play a seminal role in homeland defense.

Both Cohen and Deputy Secretary John Hamre feel that the Guard and Reserve are the logical components to be involved in homeland defense, Cragin said, and the role of the reserves will grow as the concept is defined. One outgrowth so far is a new threat category for which the president can activate up to 200,000 reservists: providing assistance for an emergency involving the use or threatened use of weapons of mass destruction.

The regional commanders in chief are discussing the reserve component role in homeland defense. Among the aspects being discussed are which of them should be the responsible commander and how should any new organization be structured, Cragin said.

The threat of weapons of mass destruction means defending against any guy with a bottle or a suitcase full of biological or chemical agents, he said. The threat is asymmetrical, and many people don't understand the term -- among other things, it means an enemy is going to hit you where you least expect it, he said.

"I think the secretary not only understands that, but he appreciates that and has been concerned about it for some time" Cragin remarked. "America is not ready to deal with these sorts of asymmetrical threats be they weapons of mass destruction or cyberterrorism, where we are equally fragile."

Through fiscal 1999, National Guard Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection teams composed of 22 members each will become operational at 10 locations throughout the country. The teams will work with local officials and provide them the expertise to assess and identify chemical or biological substances so they can tell what they are dealing with if an incident occurs.

"This capability is something [DoD] must do for force protection," Cragin said. "But we can also send [the teams] throughout the United States working day-in-and-day-out with local responder colleagues who are always going to be the first on the scene.

"I think once everybody understood what the teams' missions were -- they are there to support the men and women who serve on a daily basis -- they said, 'That's great! We can always use this sort of resource.'"

Early detection and identification of a terrorist's chemical or biological agent can be crucial. "In Tokyo, for example, and the sarin gas attack, the Tokyo first-responders didn't have a clue for the first three hours on what they were dealing with," Cragin said. "So people exposed to sarin gas wandered into hospitals, potentially contaminating them."

Eliminating real and cultural barriers to the full integration of the reserve components into the total force will continue to be a priority for Cragin and DoD. He has asked the services to assess their progress in integrating active and reserve forces. Further, he asked each service to identify remaining barriers and their plans for eliminating them.

One area of contention between the active and reserve forces dealt with resources. "I think one of the things most telling was the involvement of the reserve chiefs when the services' budgets were subjected to scrutiny and oversight by DoD in the program review group and in the Defense Resources Board," Cragin said. All the reserve chiefs attended and had an opportunity to participate in the proceedings.

"That's a historic first. Bringing in [reserve component] two- star leaders and putting them in the rooms with their three- and four-star [active duty] seniors and giving them an equal voice at the table worked," he said. "You can see it working in the integration of Guard, Reserve and active budgeting. You can see the services embed more of their reserve requirements in their budgets rather than the good old days when they said, 'Let Congress plus them up. We won't worry about them.'"

Cragin said DoD can't rest on its laurels as far as producing the "seamless total force" Cohen has called for. "We've got a long way to go. We still have some attitudes that have to be changed, and we still have all the resource issues that must be addressed," he said. "This is the force of the future. This is the way we have to fight."

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