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Force Increase Involves Range of Capabilities, Chu Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2007 – An increase in the active-duty military and changes to the policies for reserve forces announced this month by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates are aimed to increase the military’s overall capabilities, a senior defense official said here today.

“This build is about the whole range of capabilities that makes American military forces effective,” David S. C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said at a Pentagon news conference. “Particularly, it is designed to relieve the pressure on units that are described as ‘high-demand, low-density,’ meaning in plain English, there aren’t enough.”

Gates announced Jan. 11 that the active-duty Army and Marine Corps will grow by 92,000 troops over the next five years -- 27,000 in the Marine Corps and 65,000 in the Army. He also announced significant changes in the way reserve forces’ mobilizations are handled. Notably, mobilizations for reserve forces will only be one year long and will be unit-based, and compensation will be given to troops who are involuntarily remobilized.

By the end of this fiscal year, the Marine Corps expects to be at an end strength of 184,000 people, and will grow by 5,000 people a year until 2011, when it will reach 202,000, Chu said. The Army will be at 518,000 by the end of this fiscal year, and will grow by 7,000 troops a year until it reaches 547,000 in 2012, he said.

This increase in troops will come from in-service adjustments, such as military-to-civilian conversions, as well as recruiting and retention efforts, Chu said. He noted that all military services met their recruiting and retention goals last year and said that current efforts in those areas will be continued and expanded to account for the troop increase.

Chu noted that the military currently recruits about 300,000 people a year and that interest in military service among young people remains high. The challenge, he said, comes when parents, teachers and coaches who are opposed to military service influence potential recruits.

“Our real challenge is convincing the American public, which views the military as its most respected institution, that military service is not someone else’s job; it’s everyone’s job,” he said.

The changes in policies for reserve forces are designed to reduce stress on a force that has been burdened greatly in the war on terror, Chu said.

“This is a high-morale force, a force that is willing to accept the challenging assignments the nation has given them,” he said. “But we must be judicious in how we use this force. So the secretary has reinforced our objectives for the deployments people can expect, versus the rest they can expect.”

For reserve forces, the Defense Department’s goal is to deploy units one year out of every six; for active-duty forces, the goal is one year out of every three. When reserve forces are mobilized, their mobilization will be limited to one year, including training, and will be unit-based, as opposed to relying on individual volunteers, Chu said.

Currently, reserve forces spend about 18 months mobilized, using the six months at the beginning for training. This shorter mobilization will require units to stay at a higher level of readiness while they’re not deployed, but that will be helped by the fact that they will always operate as a unit and will have a more predictable schedule, Chu said.

“The readiness standards to deploy will remain the same,” he said. “The units need to be able to do their jobs; the people need to be skilled in their responsibilities. What this will require is a set of changes in how we get them ready, and that will require adjustments in how reserve units train and prepare.”

Gates is focused on keeping the number of involuntary repeat mobilizations as low as possible, Chu said, but circumstances on the ground could dictate otherwise. DoD is developing compensation packages for troops who are deployed significantly sooner than they should be under the department’s new goals, he said.

“We need to demonstrate that we understand that we have imposed on you, your family and your employer a significant burden,” he said. “You may have accepted that burden, but we need to compensate you for it.”

The details of this compensation have not been finalized, and the cost for the troop increase and changes to reserve policies will be included in the president’s budget, which will be submitted in February, Chu said.

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David S. C. Chu

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