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Officials Suggest New Role for More Capable Reserve Force

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2011 – Capabilities gained from a decade of combat have transformed military reserve components into a full-spectrum operational force that should be integrated into the active fighting force, a defense official said today.

Paul Patrick, deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs for readiness training and mobilization, briefed an audience here on the Comprehensive Review of the Future Role of the Reserve Component, approved by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on April 27.

The report calls on the Defense Department to institutionalize experiences and integration that has occurred among the National Guard and reserves over the last 10 years After operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are over, Patrick said.

The reserve components study was a product of the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, completed last year. The review called for a comprehensive look at the roles of the National Guard and reserves, and the balance between active and reserve forces.

Dennis M. McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, and Marine Corps Gen. James E. Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were co-chairs in the review.

“The 21st century will require the United States to maintain an array of forces that can consistently win across the full spectrum of military operations on a global scale,” McCarthy and Cartwright wrote in the study foreword.

“These forces must be augmented by an accessible and ready pool of reinforcing and complementary capabilities, some of which will reside in our reserve components,” they added, noting that “the policies and practices necessary to use the National Guard and reserve as the report suggests have not been fully institutionalized.”

At the briefing, Robert Smiley, principal deputy for readiness training and mobilization in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said 24 DOD agencies participated in the study, which offered seven suggestions for best use of the part-time military force.

In its current role -- as units, teams and individuals -- the reserve component participates in overseas conflicts, defends the homeland against external attacks and supports civil authorities in response to attacks or natural disasters.

In major combat operations it augments and reinforces the national effort with combat and support forces, supports combatant commanders worldwide and supports the efforts of the military services to preserve the all-volunteer force.

According to the report, several options exist for rebalancing capabilities in the total military force.

These include relying on the reserve component when building force structure to avoid shortfalls or expand capacity, assigning some recurring operational missions to reserve component units, and establishing long-term relationships between specific guard or reserve units and individual combatant commands.

“If you have the same people come back to the same well several times, we think that works out better, and this long-term relationship we think is a good deal,” Smiley said.

“[Intelligence] people do that now,” he added. “A lot of [reserve] folks work on intel things, and the intel folks see the same people over and over again. It’s a good idea to build these relationships.”

Other options include establishing national or regional reserve units staffed with people who are willing to serve on active duty more often or for longer periods than usual based on individual missions, and using reservists to respond to emerging needs like cyber defense.

“How do I capture [an] engineer from Microsoft and say to him, ‘You don’t have to join the military all the time, but we need your expertise for this requirement?’ Smiley asked.

“What can we do in the reserves?” he continued. “How do we recruit that person, how do we retain that person, and what’s the proper way to compensate that person?”

The report also suggested integrating active and reserve forces into blended units, and assigning some institutional support tasks -- recruiting, organizing, supplying, equipping, training and others -- to reserve-component units, teams or individuals.

Without employing the Guard and reserves, the report says, “the United States cannot continue to remain engaged globally, given DOD’s current force structure.”


Contact Author

Paul Patrick

Related Sites:
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs
Comprehensive Review of the Future Role of the Reserve Component, Full Report


Article is closed to new comments.

The opinions expressed in the following comments do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Defense.

8/9/2011 1:40:11 PM
It sounds good to say "we'll just make them do the paperwork and such from home in between drills". Ok, how much more should the Reservists be paid to put in this additional time? In most cases, senior leaders are already doing mountains of paperwork and engaging in a couple of telephone conferences each month (averaging 1-1/2 hours each). Add in time for on-line training (plus 8 to 10 hours per day for his civilian job), and one begins to wonder when the Reservist gets to spend time with his kids. In the history of bad ideas, the 'Operational Reserve' concept ranks in the top three. It seems obvious this concept was developed and is being encouraged by full-timers who don't have a clue about what life is like for the soldiers way down the chain. The 'Good Idea Fairy' strikes again.
- SFC Cox, United States

6/8/2011 1:38:58 PM
Some thoughts: - Expanding active duty time for reservists risks alienating them from the civilian workforce. How many 'A' players are going to sign up for repeated active duty time? Reservists are already stretched from frequent deployments. If there is really such a need for active duty focused troops lacking civilian skills, then there should be no discussion of reducing the size of the active force. An active reserves will be a reserve force consisting of government workers, students, and those in between jobs. Professionals and entrepreneurs will flee from such a structure. - Pushing all of the tasks on-line is asking too much. How willing are active duty personnel to take an unpaid part time job on top of their existing duties? Reservists are valuable because they have civilian skills and perspectives. Let them be good at their jobs withour screwing with them and you will be happy with their performance in war. Screw with them, and watch the talent flee.
- Marcus Snow, Lancaster, PA

6/8/2011 10:21:14 AM
As a retired reservist, who was caslled to active duty for 21 months years ago, I think the idea that reservists and guardsmen are really active duty troops who are not being utilized at the moment, but can be activated as often as necessary for as long as necessary, is just awful. From an employers view, who would hire a reservist who might be called up several times a year for a month or two? Being called to active duty in time of war is understood and accepted, but the current thinking is simply disastrous for the reserve program and for pootential employers.
- Jeromke Grill, New Jerfsey

6/7/2011 6:24:23 PM
Reservist would love to accomplish their MOS training during the weekend but how are you going to pay me to "tele-commute" to accomplish all the online CBTs?
- J. Angel, ATL

6/5/2011 1:46:41 PM
The complaint that I hear from people is that their 2 day drill each month usually consists of paperwork or unit training and not MOS training. If that is the case, wouldn't it be better to have MOS training on the 2 day drill and leave it up to the individual to complete the unit training online between each drill? As an alternative, maybe the unit can space the unit training out over several months while ensuring that each drill would consist of mostly MOS-related training or mission-related tasks.
- Raymond Miller, Southern California

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