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Much-Deployed Guard, Reserve 'Doing A Superb Job,' Rumsfeld Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 12, 2003 – The Defense Department's top civilian today praised reserve and National Guard members serving in the global war on terrorism, while acknowledging some of that force is being stretched by multiple deployments.

Members of the Guard and reserve are "doing a superb job," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared to a group of state legislators gathered here at a downtown hotel.

About 175,000 Guard and reserve members are now on active duty, Rumsfeld said, with many serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. He acknowledged to members of the National Conference of State Legislatures that some Guard and reserve units with specialties such as military police and civil affairs are being heavily employed -- and deployed -- overseas.

The secretary said that if a genuine need existed for a larger active force to lessen reliance on the Guard and reserve, then, "obviously our country should do that." Yet, Rumsfeld pointed to the lack of available substantive studies on increasing the active military. Therefore, he added, it's not "readily apparent at this moment," whether increasing the active forces would be a wise idea in the long run.

Rumsfeld said DoD is taking steps to rebalance the active force with the Guard and reserve, noting he'd just met with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker on that subject.

About 25 years ago, the secretary explained, U.S. defense leaders decided to transfer up to 95 percent of some military jobs -- such as military police and civil affairs -- from the active duty force to the Guard and reserve. In the past few years, he continued, those and some other specialties have been in high-demand in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Therefore, when you're in a situation like we're in, you have to reach into the Guard and reserve and activate people," Rumsfeld said. "We need to rebalance that."

Schoomaker, the secretary continued, "is in the process of moving some skill sets to the Guard and reserve that we have too much of in the active force, and taking those skill sets that are in the Guard and reserve that we need on active duty."

The result, Rumsfeld remarked, should be fewer call-ups of Guard and reserve members, and "people will be called up less often."

That, he noted, would "be a good thing," for reserve component members, their families, and employers of Guard and reserve members.

The Defense Department doesn't want to "call up the same people over and over," Rumsfeld emphasized, noting that if reserve component members wanted to be in the active force "they would have volunteered for that, instead of the Guard and reserve."

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