Gates Likely to Approve Accelerated Army Plus-up
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today he’s “inclined to approve” an Army request to expand its end strength faster than initially planned to reduce stress on the force. (Video)
Recognizing the “cumulative effect of years of deployments in terms of their impact on the force,” Gates began early in his term as defense secretary to promote plans to increase the active Army to 547,000 soldiers by 2012, he said today. The Army announced in January that it would add the additional end strength within five years, but service leaders now hope to reduce that to four years.
Gates told Pentagon reporters today that he recognizes why Army Secretary Pete Geren wants to speed up the timetable for increasing active and reserve forces by 74,000 troops. But Gates said he wonders if the Army can achieve this goal without lowering standards.
The secretary said he has been “very explicit that, at least as long as I am here, I will not allow them to lower the standards.”
Gates noted that the percentage of new Army recruits with high school diplomas is about 76 percent. “And we’d like to see that get back up,” he said.
He said he “doesn’t like” waivers for recruits, particularly those with criminal records, and would like to see fewer granted. But he told reporters there’s a misconception that the military is “going out and getting people out of prison or felons who have committed crimes of violence.”
Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, emphasized that the department has not changed its policies regarding minimum academic, moral and other standards it will accept for new recruits.
All services remain within a prescribed “band” of acceptable standards, Pace said, but he noted that the Army has dropped from very high in that band to about 77 or 78 percent. “You always want to be going for the highest quality that you can get, even though within that band, you are still within the parameters that the Defense Department has set for us,” he said.
Gates said another consideration in approving the Army’s plan is whether the service will have enough junior leaders in place at the unit level to lead the additional soldiers. “They are confident that they can do that” and have put together programs to support it, he said.
“And I am probably going to recommend that they go ahead and give it a try, but I am also asking for periodic reports in how they are doing against some of these concerns that I have,” The secretary said.