The Department of Defense today announced a policy revision that will allow Reserve force members to participate in highly sensitive nuclear-related missions that were barred to reservists in the past. The authority to appoint Reserve force members in duties involving access to nuclear weapons and nuclear-related command and control will rest with the unified combatant commanders.
"The number of Reserve and National Guard forces to be used in nuclear-related missions will be up to commanders to determine, as they work through this process," said Charles L. Cragin, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. "However, a major structural barrier to full integration of the force has been shattered with this determination."
This initiative is a result of a two-year, DoD-wide collaborative effort, called the Reserve Component Employment 2005 (RCE-05) Study, which made recommendations to the secretary of Defense for new and better ways to employ the Reserve forces and foster better integration in the Total Force. The study included participants from the active, Reserve and National Guard components of the Services and representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the unified combatant commands and DoD combat support agencies.
The RCE-05 study and the lengthy discussions that followed it demonstrated that there were many instances that reservists could meet the same stringent standards of the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP) as their active duty counterparts. PRP is the program used for evaluating the overall fitness of individuals for access to nuclear missions and is based on close and direct observation of the behavior of each individual by the chain of command, medical authorities, and the individual's peers. It is a process of continuous evaluation.
Reservists previously were excluded from certification as the presumed level of service - one weekend a month and a single two-week active duty period each year - was not considered sufficient to provide adequate continuous evaluation for personnel reliability purposes.
In today's environment, the level of involvement by reservists can greatly exceed the participation and duration requirements. Reserve integration into PRP, and therefore the nuclear mission, was accomplished by more closely defining the minimum standard for continuous evaluation as it would apply to all personnel.
"Continuous evaluation is now defined as direct observation based on no fewer than 12 working days per month, with no more than 14 days between any two working days," said Cragin. "This was determined to be the minimum level of direct observation required to meet the spirit and intent of the program for the Total Force."
Many Reserve force members perform 12-15 days of military service each month, and therefore, can be considered under that continuing interactive process that is a critical element of the PRP.
The new policy will help national security, in addition to being another successful milestone in the DoD effort to integrate the active and Reserve forces.
"In today's environment of recruiting and retention challenges, the new policy will give senior leaders another option, that of using full mission-qualified and PRP-certified Reserve and National Guard personnel to fill key nuclear positions," said Cragin. "Because the policy provides the same standard for both active and Reserve personnel, the senior leaders can be sure that any member who meets the standards of the program will be a full-up performer."
The full RCE-5 report is available on Defenselink at http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/rces2005_072299.html .