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Terror Weapons Grow New Guard and Reserve Roles
Remarks by Deborah R. Lee, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, Association of Military Surgeons of the United States 104th annual meeting, Nashville, Tenn., , Monday, November 17, 1997

Defense Issues: Volume l2, Number 53-- Terror Weapons Grow New Guard and Reserve Roles American military medical personnel face daunting challenges in preparing for incidents involving weapons of mass destruction: how to protect and treat others without needing treatment themselves?


Volume l2, Number 53

Terror Weapons Grow New Guard and Reserve Roles

Remarks by Deborah R. Lee, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, at the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States 104th annual meeting, Nashville, Tenn., Nov. 17, 1997.

It is indeed a pleasure to be here in Nashville today for this important and timely meeting.

We are assembled at a time when the world has changed fundamentally from the one we knew during the Cold War. Then we knew who the enemy was -- the Soviet Union and its communist ideology; and we knew that future conflicts would very likely be global in nature and catastrophic in consequence.

Here's the good news about our new strategic environment: The threats of national destruction and nuclear Armageddon are gone. But there's also bad news: Widely dispersed, ill-defined threats now confront us. Among the most troubling of these are terrorism and the uncontrolled proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They are at the top of our security agenda.

The old Cold War strategy of containment and large forward defense has been replaced by a new strategy that calls for smaller and more mobile forces, less dependent on nuclear weapons, more reliant on increased flexibility. And as we see in Bosnia, the orders of the day call not only for combatant units, but also for support units. All of these changes have led to an unprecedented reliance on and use of our National Guard and Reserve forces to get the job done.

This increasing use means that we are placing ever more demands on our people. And so with this increased use, we need to continue to take care of our people.

Today, I would like to focus on three issues, each of which has particular relevance to the challenge of taking care of our people while meeting the new threats to our security, now and in future.

First, the changing role of the reserve components in our national military strategy and how they are adapting to increased use within the changed strategic environment.

Second, preparations for use of the reserve components in response to a domestic incident involving use of a weapon of mass destruction.

And third, the specific steps that we are taking to ensure the continued health and readiness of reserve personnel.

First, let me talk about major developments in the evolution of the reserve components over the last decade, including Secretary [of Defense Williams S.] Cohen's recent guidance for the future of the reserve components. Let me begin with the demonstrated performance of the reserve components. The RC are doing more and doing it in ways which confound conventional wisdom.

Here are a few statistics. In fiscal 1996 alone, the use of reservists to support missions around the world equaled 13.6 million man-days -- 13.6. That's up manyfold over the last decade.

And just for comparison, that usage for 1996 equaled one-third of the RC usage in 1991 during the Gulf War, when 268,000 people were mobilized. That's a lot of work being done in peacetime.

The RC did important work in the expected areas -- drug interdiction, domestic emergencies, natural disasters. But these were not the high-volume areas. Surprisingly, they only comprised 10 percent of the total, while another 15 percent came from presidential callup for operations in and around Bosnia.

The high-volume areas -- nearly three-quarters of the usage -- came in support of missions and exercises of the services and the global commanders in chief -- the CinCs.

These are important numbers. They show that the RC are making the kind of contribution the times demand. They show that the RC are effective in the post-Cold War world.

Perhaps most remarkably, a decade of increased use -- up manyfold since 1987 -- has not had a negative impact, at least not yet, on readiness or on our ability to meet end strength targets. Moreover, attrition figures are stable, and recruiting and employer support remain strong.

These facts and figures aren't just interesting from a theoretical point of view. To the contrary, they directly relate to important policy decisions emanating from the Quadrennial Defense Review -- policy decisions that say:


  • We will continue to use the National Guard and Reserve in the future, not only in war, but also in peace.
  • And we will continue to use the Guard and Reserve when possible to help reduce active component optempo [operating tempo].

We've also received some recent marching orders from Secretary Cohen on the subject of active/reserve integration. He said, ... :

"Our goal as we move into the 21st century must be a seamless total force that provides the National Command Authority the flexibility and interoperability for the full range of military operations." ...

He went on to challenge each of us to identify and tear down any remaining barriers to effective integration.

Now let me share a few examples of the outstanding operational contributions made by National Guard and Reserve personnel at home and abroad.

Medical Army National Guard and Reserve personnel are key contributors to our peace efforts in the former Yugoslavia. This support includes thousands of hours in support of backfill missions in Germany and medical support in Hungary and Bosnia.

In addition, Army National Guard medical personnel provided ambulance support in Bosnia and Hungary, and they supported multiple missions in Honduras. They also worked with great dedication within the United States, providing assistance to underserved communities while enhancing readiness training.

Medical personnel in the Air [Force] Reserve and Air National Guard have recently been on call supporting air evacuation needs during Operations Southern Watch, Desert Focus and Joint Guard.

And our Naval Reserve personnel have also become more active in providing operational support here at home. They have been providing backfill to three U.S. medical treatment facilities, which allowed active duty forces to undergo critical fleet hospital training. And they participated in 29 operational contingency exercises, including two combined arm exercises.

These examples -- and there are many others -- show RC medical personnel are a critical part of the Department of Defense's medical response capability. And for good reason: You always come when called. You do an outstanding job.

Now let me focus on how the reserve components are being integrated into a comprehensive national plan to respond to the threat of weapons of mass destruction here in the U.S. It's a very complex issue, but let me try to simplify it in the interest of time.

Secretary Cohen has made it crystal clear that he wants the Guard and Reserve front and center in DoD's response plans for terrorism here at home. Why? Because it is a national role.

All National Guard and Reserve forces have some capabilities to function in a nuclear-biological-chemical environment. Within affected regions, they can be significant force multipliers:


  • They are readily familiar with the local area.
  • They know its plans.
  • They know its infrastructure.
  • And they certainly know the geography.

They also have strong community links that will be invaluable in times of crisis.

When it comes time for the military to lend a hand, the National Guard will be the first line of military responders. Guard units have sophisticated disaster response capabilities. And these capabilities are used regularly to support state governments in all types of disaster response. The goal now is to adapt those capabilities to the requirements of consequence management for weapons of mass destruction.

Our focus is on how to coordinate national, regional and local assets. How to deal safely but quickly with the effects of an incident. How to treat victims within a contaminated zone. How to move them to appropriate medical facilities. And how to help clean up the mess.

Let me stress, however, that this is not a DoD mission alone or an RC mission alone, but rather the use of DoD assets in the Guard and in the RC specifically to support other authorities, particularly the FBI in crisis response and FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] in consequence management. It's a big job.

And now for some truth in advertising. We as a government don't have a fully developed plan yet. As I said at the outset, this is a complex area. But we're working on it. We're working it hard.

The Clinton administration and the Congress have jointly called on DoD to guide an interagency effort to develop a national response capability. As a first step, we now have an interagency strategic plan which focuses on "training the trainers" of local, first-responding agencies in 120 of the largest U.S. cities. In addition, Congress has allocated $10 million during FY [fiscal year] 98 so that we may explore ways that the National Guard might augment the efforts of other federal, state and local agencies. And, as we speak, a tiger team on WMD is hard at work within the Pentagon, reviewing options for getting the National Guard and Reserve involved in the overall plan.

Let me emphasize, should the unthinkable occur, should a weapon of mass destruction actually be used, military medical forces will confront unique and daunting challenges.

Survivors of a WMD incident will need medical assistance. That assistance will need to be immediate and massive. Survivors will need information on where and how to get help. Specialists will have to identify and restrict access to hazardous areas. Others will be needed to decontaminate those areas. And there is serious risk of rescue and medical personnel themselves becoming casualties.

In short, the challenge for medical military personnel is to protect and treat other military personnel and the civilian population -- without themselves needing treatment. We'll need to work closely with the surgeons general and other medical professionals as we develop our plans to make sure that we get it right.

Our close and continuing association with medical professionals continues in other areas as well; and I, for one, am taking Secretary Cohen's charge on taking down barriers to integration very seriously.

So it gives me great pleasure to announce that within the next month, Ed Martin [assistant secretary of defense for health affairs] and I will be hosting the first-ever Reserve Health Care Summit targeted at improving our capability to take care of our reservists.

Throughout the summit, we'll be reviewing practices and laws begun in the Cold War to ensure that they work in the new world environment, so that our people are afforded the finest health care available -- from the time a member enters the force until the time he or she leaves it and beyond.

The summit will take place in three phases.

The first phase will address RC health care from the legislative, policy and implementation framework. Reserve affairs, in conjunction with Dr. Martin and his staff, will tackle this issue with our primary objective being improvement in the readiness of our forces.

Phase 2 will see reserve affairs and health affairs joining forces to look at those members of the National Guard and Reserve who sustain a permanent injury or illness during service -- a disability.

And in Phase 3, reserve affairs, health affairs, and force management and policy will be working closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs, with Dr. [Thomas L.] Garthwaite [VA deputy undersecretary for health], Dr. [Kenneth W.] Kizer [VA undersecretary for health], and Mr. Joe Thompson, the VA's new undersecretary for benefits, as we review the links between the DoD and the VA, which in many cases is the only provider for reservists who incur service-related injuries.

The bottom line is really quite simple.

First, we need to reach consensus on RC health care-related requirements.

Second, we need to identify who will be responsible -- who will be accountable -- for meeting those requirements.

Third, we need to identify how those requirements should be resourced for the future.

And fourth, we need to work cooperatively to develop real solutions to the real challenges our reservists will increasingly face in this era of increased use. We can do no less if we mean what we say about the importance of integration.

Incidentally, one outstanding example of the success that is possible when we work together to take care of our people is the TRICARE Selected Reserve Dental Program, a new voluntary plan that provides an enrolled member with routine preventative and emergency services for less than $5 per month.

This is a win-win situation: our Selected Reserve members receive dental care that improves their overall health as well as the readiness of our force. Over 15,000 reservists have applied for this new program to date -- please spread the word on it.

Summing up, ladies and gentlemen, in today's changed strategic environment, when low-intensity and asymmetrical threats challenge our national interests, military medical personnel, both active and reserve, are being called upon with increasing frequency.

In the event of a WMD incident, you will be the ones charged with identifying the medical problems, with dealing with the deadly agents and with helping to determine corrective measures.

And on a day-to-day basis, active and reserve medical personnel are keeping our forces fit, ready for today and ready for the future. You are taking care of our people. And you are doing a fine job.

Your motivation, dedication, demonstrated professionalism and commitment to excellence are and will remain critical to our national defense. On behalf of Secretary Cohen, thank you for all that you do for the rest of us.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at 8 7