DoD Asks for $18.4 Billion for Reserves
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 2, 1996 "We're in good, but tight shape" is the way Deborah Lee described the fiscal 1997 reserve component budget.
"Congress hasn't spoken to the fiscal 1997 budget, but the budget proposal has about $18.4 billion in it for the reserve components, which is close to what we requested last year," said Lee, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.." Reserve programs received $20.5 billion in fiscal 1996.
"That's $1.9 billion more than we requested," Lee noted. "All the military services' budgets are tight and the reserve components' budgets is similarly tight. But it's good resourcing and we can get our job done."
The reserve components requested $9.1 billion for personnel and $8.4 billion for operations and maintenance in the fiscal 1997 budget proposal.
"All units, regardless of their deployment schedule, are funded for 48 drills and two weeks of annual training," she noted. Lee said there has been an effort to ensure early deploying units have adequate funds to ensure they are ready.
The 1997 budget proposal includes a 3 percent military pay raise, Lee said, adding DoD also put money in for the future years to ensure service members will get the maximum allowable pay raise under law.
"Secretary Perry has also protected health benefits, commissaries, barracks and housing. Since only a few reserve component personnel are on active duty, that's mostly for the active forces, except for the pay raise. But guardsmen and reservists benefit from quality of life improvements implemented by the active components," she said.
The reserve component budget request also contains money to continue a series of pilot projects designed to increase the peacetime use of the Guard and reserves in overseas mission, she added. Lee asked for $25 million in the fiscal 1997 budget proposal for increased use initiatives.
"The services and the commanders in chief provide matching funds," she noted. "In pooling our resources, we're able to send more reserve component personnel to locations worldwide where they're need to do the real work of the total force.
"Rather than doing their twoweek annual training in a simulated, closetohomestation environment, increasing numbers of citizensoldiers are spending three or four weeks training in places such as Europe," Lee said.
"This helps reduce active duty personnel deployments and personnel tempo, which has been quite significant during the past few years. It's also a way to get our people good training," she added. "It's been a big success and major commanders are asking us to do more of it."
A construction and repair backlog still troubles reserve component officials. "The high point of the construction backlog was fiscal 1991," Lee said. "Since then, we've reduced the backlog from $8.9 billion to $6.9 billion in fiscal 1995 as a result of high level of military construction appropriations, base realignment and closures.
"We've requested $194.1 million in the fiscal 1997 budget," Lee noted. "The reserve components' military construction backlog contains both nearterm and longrange facility replacement and modernization requirements."
Reserve affairs officials are working on several quality of life issues that have little or no impact on the budget. Among them are allowing reservists to shop at commissaries more than once per month, a new mobilization insurance plan, a tax incentive for employers of reservists, a dental insurance system and a medical fitness program.
Work is also under way on a distance learning program geared toward training smarter, better and more efficiently while using less time.
"There are various kinds of technology designed to bring the schoolhouse to the people who are widely disbursed as opposed to making everybody travel, spending additional time and money to get to the schoolhouse," Lee said.