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Reserve Forces Forge Ahead Into New Millennium

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10, 1999 – A year-long DoD-wide study recently released by the Pentagon may greatly improve the way reserve component forces are trained, organized and utilized into the new millennium.

That's the assessment by Charles Cragin, acting assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. He was a key player in conducting the study "Reserve Component Employment 2005," or RCE-05 for short.

"I think it's exciting because the only constant we have in our society today is the constant of change," Cragin said. "This is an inclusive look at how we're going to utilize and rely on the Guard and Reserve in the future. I think members of the Guard and Reserve are going to get a lot of professional and personal satisfaction as we clearly delineate some of the existing missions, as well as new missions.

The study was launched in June 1998 as a follow-up to Defense Secretary William Cohen's September 1997 memorandum calling for a "seamless total force." That memorandum tasked DoD's military and civilian leadership to remove structural and cultural barriers to effective integration of the reserve and active components. The study included participants from the active, reserve and National Guard components, and representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and unified commands.

Cragin said RCE-05 focused on homeland defense, smaller-scale contingencies and major theater wars. Within those three areas, the study recommended changes for the near future and identified issues for further study.

For example, within homeland defense, the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the services are working to stand up a 400-person, joint reserve component virtual information operations unit -- an initiative Cragin said breaks out of the mold to capitalize on existing skills and technology.

"The classic way we have always worked is in a unit, and you bring everybody into one geographic location. Well, that isn't terribly cost effective if what we're looking for is their professional expertise," Cragin said. "We have the ability through advanced communications systems to interconnect people so they become a virtual unit.

"What we'll have, then, is 400 information operations experts spread out across America. They will be interconnected, and they can be carrying out collective information operations missions."

Issues within homeland defense recommended for further study include:

  • Determining more precisely how reserve component units can contribute to homeland defense. This may mean dual missions or restructuring units to focus only on homeland defense, as do the Rapid Assessment and Initial Detection teams being trained to respond to incidents involving nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
  • Examining how to integrate the reserve components into the Joint Task Force Headquarters for Homeland Defense being developed by the Atlantic Command.
  • Employing reserve component personnel for national missile defense missions.

Cragin said a major part of the study regarding small-scale contingencies focused on operations tempo and rotational duration.

"What we're trying to do is take a look at what is the right rotational duration as it relates to commanders' requirements and to reserve component members' responsibilities with their employers," Cragin said. The unified commands have various rotation standards ranging from 90 to 270 days.

"What we will do now is see if there's an optimum period that fits the way everyone is doing business," he said. The Air Force, for example, is looking at 90-day rotations for its new expeditionary forces. "Perhaps that's the appropriate duration for reserve deployments as well," he remarked. "We'll continue to look at that issue."

The study examined two critical issues regarding major theater wars: the definition of strategic reserve and the improvement of post-mobilization training for reserve component forces.

Cragin explained that a major Cold War role of the reserve components was to serve as a strategic reserve in the event of global war. Because the issue hasn't been addressed in years, he said, DoD will conduct a follow-on two-part study to redefine the strategic reserve and the military requirements for strategic reserve missions.

Another follow-on study will also examine rounding out enhanced support brigades within the Army National Guard, as well as providing more efficient post-mobilization training.

"Right now, for example, the Army relies on its own training sites," Cragin explained. "When we're getting ready for war, you send all those warfighters to the training sites to get them up to mobilization status. Well, everybody has to stand in line, and National Guard divisions are at the end of the line."

He said follow-up work will focus on the potential of developing memorandums of agreement with training facilities, such as the Marine Corps site at Twentynine Palms, Calif., to get Guard units in faster for post-mobilization training.

Other major theater war recommendations included the following actions for consideration:

  • Establishing post-mobilization training standards and timelines for deployment of Army National Guard divisions.
  • Within the Air Force, creating "associate program squadrons" in tactical fighter squadrons comprised of reservists to fill shortages and guarantee full manning in wartime.
  • Transferring one B-52 and one B-1B squadron from the active to reserve component to help alleviate the current shortage of active duty pilots.
  • Converting one Air Force fighter wing from active to reserve component.

Calling RCE-05 "a great step forward," Cragin said it would be wrong to consider it only a reserve component study. "This involves how the total force operates and functions and how to take advantage of the expertise, professionalism and dedication of every man and woman in the force," he said.

Although RCE-05 raised a variety of issues that still must be resolved, Cragin said one of the best things that could have occurred because of RCE-05 has already taken place -- the services and all components willingly worked together to make the concept of total force integration a success.

"There have been periods in the past when the components were not working collaboratively and cooperatively," he said. "Now we have to demonstrate it was not just for the period of developing recommendations and further studies. We have to carry on with these studies and bring them to fruition on a timely basis."

For the full text of the study, go to www.defenselink.mil/pubs/rces2005_072299.html.

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