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Reserve Components Under the QDR

By Maj. Donna Miles, USAR
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 5, 1997 – Peacekeeping in the former Yugoslavia. Flood relief operations in the Dakotas and Minnesota. Road building and other construction projects in Central America. Aircraft recovery support in the Colorado Rockies.

Guard and Reserve members will continue to play vital parts in missions like these into the next century. That's what the Quadrennial Defense Review, a recently released Defense Department blueprint for the military of the future, recommends.

The review calls reserve component forces "essential participants in the full spectrum of operations," from the smallest contingency operations to major theater war.

"The Quadrennial Defense Review really was another vote of confidence in our Total Force policy and in our reserve components," said Deborah Lee, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.

"The QDR said, 'Right on! Right strategy, and proceed as you have been proceeding,'" she continued. "And so the Guard and Reserve will continue to be ever more important partners in the total force as a result."

Lee said the review reaffirms a strategy started after the Cold War -- making reservists not a backup force of last resort, but full players in military operations. "Instead of training for the sake of training, we are increasingly using our Guard and reserve forces to plug into important day-to-day missions," she said.

While affirming the critical role played by the reserve components, the review recommends personnel cuts, just as it did for the active duty force. The report calls for a reduction of about 54,000 reserve component positions, most of them from the Army, to help free up money for new weapons and equipment -- a modernization effort officials say has been underfunded for too long. And the review recommends shifting some missions between active and reserve component units.

Army Reserve Component

The Quadrennial Defense Review recommends cutting 45,000 positions from the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

The report acknowledges the continuing need for 15 enhanced separate brigades in the National Guard, designed to reinforce active duty combat units in wartime. But the review takes a hard look at National Guard divisions, which would not participate directly in major wars under existing defense plans.

The review recommends converting some of these National Guard combat forces to combat support and combat service support units -- helping eliminate a shortage in support forces. It also would prepare the divisions for missions they would likely be called on to carry out in the future: to ease active duty personnel tempo in peacetime, to support extended contingencies and to respond to domestic emergencies.

Naval Reserve

The review recommends cutting 4,100 Naval Reserve positions. Most would come from the augmentation forces of ships slated to leave the fleet, including surface combatants, submarine tenders and combat logistic ships being assigned to the Military Sealift Command. Other cuts will involve the early retirement of the Naval Reserve's SH-2 Seasprite anti-submarine helicopters.

Air Force Reserve Component

The Air Force will transfer one active component fighter wing to the reserves. That transfer will give each reserve fighter wing 15 aircraft, which would ultimately reduce operations and support costs. In addition, the Air Force plans to convert six of its 10 air defense squadrons to general purpose, training and other missions. That reorganization will allow 700 positions to be eliminated from the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, the smallest number of Quadrennial Defense Review cuts for any service.

Marine Corps Reserve

The review recommends cutting 4,200 positions from the Marine Corps Reserve. The plan calls for reductions not only in drilling reservists, but also among active duty Marines who directly support the reserves, active reserves and individual mobilization augmentees. Marine Corps officials said they plan to conduct a study to identify which specific positions should be eliminated.

The force reductions will not detract from the reserve components' ability to carry out their missions, Lee said, adding since the Cold War, the reserve components have faced fewer cuts percentagewise than the active force. "So despite the reductions, the reserves are taking a bigger piece of the defense mission," she said.

But Lee acknowledged the reserve components need to make the Quadrennial Defense Review-recommended changes to ensure they're structured, trained and equipped for the challenges ahead.

"The key is to match the forces with the key missions that we need to fulfill for the future," she said. "Day-to-day operations. Peacetime. Wartime. Domestic emergency. The Guard and Reserve will be called upon to assist with them all."

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