Caring for People Aids Readiness, Official Says
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 17, 2011 The Defense Department is committed to maintaining total force readiness even under tightening budgets and amid plans to transition out of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon’s top personnel official assured a congressional subcommittee today.
The department is committed to carrying out Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ directive to prepare the force to manage risks by being agile, well-trained, and able to work within integrated personnel processes, Clifford L. Stanley, undersecretary for personnel and readiness, told the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel subcommittee.
“My focus has been total force readiness, caring for our people and creating a culture of relevance, effectiveness and efficiency,” Stanley said. “I view total force readiness as a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual preparedness and resilience.”
This, he added, involves enabling training and equipment, supporting forces when they are deployed, and giving them and their families the support they need when they are at home.
The department also considers the role of its civilians in supporting the total force, “as well as how families and volunteers fit into the total force equation,” Stanley said. And attracting and retaining the right people, he told the lawmakers, requires providing a quality of life commiserate with the quality of service.
Stanley was joined at the hearing by personnel leaders from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, who said that while all are meeting recruiting and retention goals, they must work to ensure their services’ policies are the best for attracting, retaining, training and educating the right people, especially as the civilian job market improves.
Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the Army’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, said that as the Army works to restore balance after a decade of a high operational tempo in dual conflicts, its personnel priorities are to recruit and retain the best people, and to make them as resilient as possible.
Those goals come at a time when recruiting and retention are becoming more of a challenge, Bostick said. Fewer than 30 percent of 17- to 24-year-olds are eligible to serve because they can’t meet physical or educational requirements. One in five young people are overweight -– compared to one in 20 in the 1960s –- and they increasingly are not graduating from high school, he said.
“As a nation, together, we must continue to address these concerns,” he said.
Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, Air Force deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said retention among airmen is at a 16-year high, causing the service to exceed end-strength goals. Still, he said, the Air Force will continue to give bonuses to attract the right people into the right jobs.
Lt. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr., the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, said the Corps is the best he’s seen in three decades and that “standards will remain” regardless of force reductions.
“Our top priority is to keep faith with Marines, sailors, and their families,” he said.
Stanley and the service representatives said they are dedicated to drawing down appropriately and as conditions determine.
The Marine Corps grew by about 27,000 for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and will responsibly draw down by about 16,000 as it is able, Milstead said. “Until we’re done with Afghanistan, we have no intention of reducing the Corps,” he said.
All of the services are focused on increasing “dwell time” –- the amount of time at home between deployments -- the leaders said. The Army, for the first time since the wars began, expects to have two years of dwell time for all soldiers who deploy in October, Bostick said.
The Defense Department’s goal for dwell time is three years at home for every one year deployed, Stanley said.
The service representatives also spoke of the risk of operating under a continuing funding resolution, since Congress hasn’t yet approved a budget for fiscal 2011, which began Oct. 1. Navy Vice Adm. Mark E. Ferguson III, chief of naval personnel, said it is especially challenging in planning for permanent-change-of-station moves.
“The uncertainty of our funding streams puts that at risk,” he told the panel, “delaying moves and sliding them in to the next fiscal year.”