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Stop Loss Program Provides Authority to Keep Key People

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 21, 1999 – When President Clinton mobilized 33,102 reservists April 27, he also quietly gave the services the little-used right to keep members in uniform past their normal separation or retirement dates.

The presidential authority, called the Stop Loss program, suspends laws related to military retirements, separations and promotions. The president delegates it downward to the service secretaries through Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Stop Loss can only be initiated after a declaration of war, during a national emergency or when members of any reserve component are involuntarily called to active duty. Further, the authority lasts only as long as the period for which reserve component members have been involuntarily activated.

Stop Loss helps the services maintain the critical skills they need to support continuous military operations such as NATO's ongoing Allied Force. The services may implement Stop Loss according to their own missions and personnel requirements, and they can modify their plans, adding and deleting career specialties as circumstances change.

While they could conceivably apply Stop Loss across their entire active and reserve spectrum, the services will usually quickly establish a list of critical specialties and limit the impact to as few skills and people as possible. For instance, the last time Stop Loss was invoked, during the 1991 Gulf War, it affected only service members engaged in theater operations, those supporting the operations and other critical skills.

When Clinton's April 27 order activated Stop Loss, Air Force officials said they would use it, but they've announced no further details since, such as how many airmen might be affected. "We want to do this as soon as we can, but we don't want to make an announcement and then have to go back and change it," one service official said.

The other services said they would not use Stop Loss, though Navy officials reserved the right to change their minds.

Stop Loss permits the services to exceed promotion quotas set for each grade, but none expects to invoke this aspect in the current situation.

Stop Loss prohibits the reassignment of reserve component members into resource pools of lesser availability. They can't be shifted, for instance, from the Selected Reserve to the Individual Ready Reserve.

There are exemptions. Disability retirements and separations and separations for cause are unaffected. Other Stop Loss exemptions include hardship, discharge for pregnancy, discharge in lieu of court-martial, and high-year-of-tenure retirements and separations

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