Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 23-- National Guard, Reserve -- Central Parts of Total Force DoD is always looking at ways to adjust the force structure to meet global threats more effectively and at lower cost. The use of the Guard and Reserve figures prominently in the planning.
Volume 11, Number 23
National Guard, Reserve -- Central Parts of Total Force
Prepared statement of Deborah R. Lee, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, to the Readiness Subcommittee, Senate Armed Services Committee, March 21, 1996.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee for the opportunity to talk to you about America's reserve components. Over the years, this committee's actions have supported reservists, their families and their employers. You have modernized their equipment and infrastructure, and you have ensured mission-ready forces in the reserve components. Your efforts are appreciated, and on behalf of each and every reservist, I thank you very much.
Since the congressional hearing season has been compressed this year, I want to take this opportunity to present you with a broad overview of the accomplishments made possible by your support, our goals for the coming year and areas where your continued support is needed.
Before I begin, I want to acknowledge the bipartisan basis for today's increased reliance on the Guard and Reserve forces. In 1973, under Secretary [of Defense Melvin] Laird, the Department of Defense adopted a Total Force policy, which recognized that all of America's military assets -- active, Guard, Reserve, civilians and contractors -- should be fully used to provide for our defense.
Each succeeding administration has supported this policy. The integration of reserve forces into the services' warfighting capability, as required by the National Military Strategy, has reached an all-time high. The lower peacetime costs of reserve forces, when compared to similar active units, have made possible a fully capable total force at a smaller defense budget.
This year I established four overarching goals for the National Guard and Reserve to support Secretary [of Defense William] Perry's goals for the total forces:
- Maximizing the reserve component contribution and promoting its accessibility in support of the total force;
- Promoting readiness of the reserve forces;
- Promoting further integration and jointness of the reserve components in the total force; and
- Improving reserve component quality of life to support a ready force.
I will address each goal in greater detail and describe initiatives we have under way within each goal.
You can feel proud of the contributions that the reserve forces made this past year in support of their services and the CinCs [commanders in chief]. This year, I want to make it possible for them to contribute to their full capabilities. My three objectives under this goal are to promote increased peacetime operational use of the RC, to promote reserve component accessibility for the full range of military operations and to address force structure options for increased reliance on Guard and Reserve forces.
Promoting increased peacetime use of the RC by leveraging existing training resources and opportunities overseas and in the U.S. communities is a win-win proposition. The use of existing RC training resources to support real-world mission requirements overseas for the CinCs and services generates valuable training as a byproduct.
In addition, the RC undertake medical and engineering projects which enhance mission readiness skills and help address pressing community needs here in the United States. These innovative readiness training projects provide training normally not available, involve the military in our communities (thus improving recruiting, retention and morale), while leveraging taxpayers' dollars to provide cost-effective medical and engineering support.
- In FY [fiscal year] 96 Secretary Perry set up a pilot program to increase the peacetime operational use of the RC to relieve active perstempo/optempo [personnel tempo/operations tempo]. He provided a central fund of $25 million per year to cover increased transportation costs and incremental days of active duty associated with training outside the U.S. In PSRC [Presidential Selected Reserve Call-up] 96, more than 120 CinC missions for the Guard and Reserve were approved and funded worldwide.
- In the FY 97 budget, we will need your support in providing us some flexibility to overcome an obstacle we have encountered to effectively implement these initiatives. We have requested authority to transfer small levels of O&M [operations and maintenance] funds to military personnel, should the CinCs desire, in order to pay some of the incremental costs associated with these initiatives.
Promoting reserve component accessibility is key to expanded RC use. The Commission on Roles and Missions concluded that reserve accessibility is no longer a major issue. I agree. The department greatly appreciates your help in providing greater access to the Guard and Reserve by allowing for a 270-day call-up duration under PSRC.
The voluntary and involuntary use of reserve component units and individuals in Haiti and Bosnia have been good news stories about the accessibility of the RC. In both instances, all the reserve components have been involved. I will continue to push for streamlining of DoD's procedures to implement involuntary call-up.
Providing analysis and advice on force structure options for increased reliance on Guard and Reserve forces is an important part of my job. The Bottom-up Review established a DoD force structure capable of fighting and winning two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts and conducting a wide range of other military operations.
The department is always looking at ways to adjust the force structure and the use of Guard and Reserve forces to meet these threats more effectively and at lower cost. I intend to continue to participate fully in these reviews and to advise the secretary on how Guard and Reserve forces can be helpful.
I continue to focus on the readiness of the reserve forces. In seeking innovative ways to man, train and equip RC units, I am guided by the concept of mission readiness. This concept requires that peacetime resourcing -- for personnel, for training, for equipment and facilities -- be adequate to ensure that units can reach deployment standards in time to meet their most stringent contingency. This approach allows differing levels of readiness resourcing in peacetime, based on the time available to bring a reserve unit to full mission readiness.
Support continues to be provided to people affected by the RC downsizing. We have worked diligently to reduce the hardships associated with force structure changes by providing transition benefits to those forced out of the Selected Reserve. The drawdown of the reserve forces to achieve BUR target levels is now over 80 percent complete. Today, the Selected Reserve comprise[s] a higher percentage of the total force than during the Cold War. The department will continue to use the full range of Guard and Reserve transition initiatives to provide fair treatment of Selected Reservists who will be involuntarily separated.
Improving the effectiveness of recruiting and retention programs is particularly important now. The perceptions caused by downsizing, reduced budgets and the inactivation of local units all contribute to a public impression that the reserve forces are no longer hiring.
With the completion of the active force drawdown in FY 98, fewer prior service personnel will be available to enter the Selected Reserve. This will increase the need to expand nonprior service recruiting and intensify retention efforts. To address these concerns, I formed a RC Recruiting and Retention Task Force to analyze the current programs supporting recruiting and retention and to explore innovative ways to maintain National Guard and Reserve strength.
Ensuring adequate full-time support is critical to unit readiness. The full-time support people perform the training, administration and maintenance functions, and so maximize the training time available to reservists during weekend and annual training periods.
Recognizing that all four categories of full-time support -- active Guard and Reserve personnel, military technicians, active component personnel and civil service employees -- will continue to decrease through the drawdown, my No. 1 priority for full-time support is to ensure the right mix, placement and use of the full-time support force.
In the coming year, I have several objectives:
- To revise department policy to have a more effectively managed program;
- To review each component's program to assess its effectiveness;
- To better manage and account for military technicians;
- To revise reporting requirements for more effective program evaluation and management;
- To assess readiness impacts that may result from any reductions in full-time support personnel and assist the components in maintaining the proper mix and use of each of the four categories of full-time support personnel.
Protecting activated reservist students is important for recruiting because 30 percent of our reservists are college students. USERRA [Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act] provides civilian job protection for reservists, but there is no similar college education protection for reservists.
I have worked to get voluntary support from colleges and universities to ensure that student-reservists are treated fairly, so they receive partial course credit for completed course work or a refund of tuition and fees for that portion of the course they cannot complete, so they have the right to return to their educational institution without prejudice. I'm pleased to report to you that we have been successful in gaining cooperation and voluntary support from the education community. New legislation is not needed.
Implementing Title XI initiatives is well on its way toward full completion. The amendments Congress made to Title XI last year increased emphasis on prioritizing resources for early deploying units. Most initiatives are nearing completion.
The Army is moving towards assigning the entire mandated 5,000 AC [active component] soldiers to RC units by FY 1997. One obstacle is the active duty officer grade strength caps. If the relief proposed by the department is granted, then the Army could fully implement Title XI without adversely impacting joint duty assignments, acquisition officer assignments and deployable unit leadership. I encourage your support for this relief.
Promoting the medical fitness and medical readiness of RC forces. Our reserve medical force plays an important role in the total force. We remain committed to maintaining National Guard and Reserve medical force capability at the highest possible level. Our reserve medical forces have successfully supported not only Operation Desert Storm but also operations in Guantanamo Bay, Haiti and Bosnia.
In addition to supporting operational requirements and missions, reserve medical forces support the military health care mission within the United States, and,while continuing to practice their go-to-war skills, they provide underserved Americans quality health care services.
While being called upon more, our National Guard and Reserve medical force has also been under a great deal of change. Force reductions, reorganizations and mission changes have had a significant impact. This kind of turbulence, coupled with the increased frequency of call-up, continues to challenge our ability to recruit, train and retain a quality medical force.
Last year, to address our concerns, we modified several of the incentives we use to recruit critical medical skills, thanks to your support. I would also like to thank you for the recent enactment of the Ready Reserve Income Insurance program. While I will talk more about this program later, I want you to know that this will significantly relieve one of the major concerns expressed by our health care providers.
Providing reserve forces with a new medical and dental insurance program. A critical element of readiness is the medical and dental health of the reserve forces. However, unlike the active force, National Guard and Reserve members rely primarily on health care provided through civilian providers for their medical and dental care needs.
Since most of their health care is not provided through the military health care system, we are developing strategies to incorporate all health care information, medical and dental, in each member's health record. The addition of the Selected Reserve dental insurance program will assist National Guard and Reserve members in maintaining their dental readiness. Implementation of the dental insurance program is scheduled for Oct. 1, 1996. It provides for voluntary enrollment and premium sharing between the Department of Defense and the member. A separate contract is being awarded to support this insurance.
Distance-learning initiatives can improve training effectiveness, efficiency and access for both individuals and units. A team was formed within DoD by my office to review the status of distance-learning usage and potential RC requirements. Our next step is to expand the analysis to total force requirements. DoD is also a principal player in a group which promotes sharing of distance-learning resources -- the Government Alliance for Training and Education -- an organization of agencies across the federal government.
Implementing my RC equipping strategy is a key step in meeting the equipment and logistics needs of the RC. The goal is to have reservists equipped with modern, compatible equipment to enable them to do their job side by side with the active components and coalition partners. The strategy calls for identifying all RC equipment requirements, using smart business practices whenever possible to solve equipment shortfalls and procuring new equipment only when necessary. The strategy seeks to ensure that RC units are equipped to respond to two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts and peacetime engagement.
As part of the RC equipping strategy:
- I am taking an in-depth look at the services' policies and practices for distributing new and used equipment to the RC. I chair semiannual RC equipment execution reviews to assess progress on service plans to provide equipment to the RC and to identify how each service is providing the resources to properly accomplish planned distribution and redistribution.
- Equally important, I have established the Equipment Working Group, which I chair, to provide a DoD focus semiannually on the management initiatives directed at reducing ongoing RC equipping issues and to begin to address new ones.
Supporting critical RC real property maintenance needs requires adequate Real Property Maintenance Activity funding. Unfortunately, funds for replacing RC infrastructure are decreasing at the same time the average age of our facilities (and hence repair and maintenance costs) is increasing.
This strains our limited RPMA funds and our ability to fully operate safe facilities. The reserve components backlog of maintenance and repair has grown steadily each year -- despite the relief you provided us in FY 96 -- and is currently over $1.2 billion. Although FY 97 RPMA funding is constrained, we are committed to fund requirements driven by urgent situations, health and safety, and environmental laws and regulations.
Investing in reserve component military construction continues to be affected by many factors. These factors -- downsizing of the reserve force; realignment among active, Reserve and Guard components; leasing buyout programs; BRAC-created opportunities for reserve enclaves and joint reserve bases; and privatization and outsourcing efforts -- make it very difficult to see the future.
Facilities investment this year focuses near term on projects that address critical mission needs and/or enhance readiness. Joint use of reserve bases can pool resources, and I intend to promote this concept not only to save money but also to promote integration and jointness of the reserve components into the total force.
DoD is committed to meeting environmental challenges at sites used by the RC as well as by the active forces. We have identified 3,704 sites currently used by the RC that require cleanup. The services have estimated the cost of cleanup at about $1.3 billion and plan to achieve full compliance at these sites in 10 years. To keep costs down, the RCs have developed one of the best, most comprehensive environmental training and awareness programs in the department. The many environmental awards that the Guard and Reserve received in the last year speak to the excellence of these programs.
The Army's Reserve Component Automation System has been restructured to meet fiscal constraints and changed requirements. I want to thank you for your continued strong support of RCAS. I believe the restructured program will meet the long-standing need for a modern, yet affordable system able to exchange data with DoD and Army systems as well as support day-to-day decision-making needs required to have Army National Guard and Reserve ready to mobilize. The chief of the National Guard Bureau, with the Army's support, is currently seeking Milestone III approval to begin fielding the new RCAS architecture later this fall.
To make full use of the reserve components, we must increase the RCs' capability to perform successfully in a joint environment as fully integrated partners in the total force. This means anticipating and acting on opportunities to increase the reserve components' experience and capability to work effectively with their active force counterparts in a joint environment.
To accomplish this, we will be looking into the benefits of maximizing joint use of facilities. We will also be exploring ways to best employ RC units in long-term peacetime missions, expand opportunities for joint training and promote new opportunities for RC integration with the CinCs.
As reserve component officers occupy an increasing number of positions in joint organizations and are called upon ever more frequently to support operational missions, the time has come to develop a personnel management policy that will put them on a more equal footing with their active component counterparts.
Toward that end, we have developed an initiative to identify ways to promote reserve component officer readiness for those assigned joint responsibilities. With other defense agencies, the Joint Staff and the services, we plan to develop policies and the framework for a reserve component joint officer management program in FY 97.
The primary quality of life issues for reservists and their families are centered around four areas: protection against economic loss, quality of participation, family readiness and support, and employer support.
In the area of providing protection against economic loss, I want to thank you for two recent changes to the law that provide support mechanisms to protect and assist reserve component members: the enactment of the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, and the Ready Reserve Income Insurance Program. Both of these legislative actions help provide the economic safety net that is critical to the men and women of the Guard and Reserve.
An important part of quality participation is ensuring our members are provided with adequate incentives for their service in the reserve forces. This not only includes adequate pay and allowances, but also other incentive programs.
Last year, we issued a DoD directive providing for the first time policy guidance on reserve component incentives. An accompanying DoD instruction that provides implementation procedures will be issued soon. These two DoD publications, in conjunction with the DoD financial management regulation, will combine to provide comprehensive guidance on all reserve component incentives and will form the framework for the effective utilization of these incentives.
Another important incentive tool is the Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve. During FY 95, more than 97,000 individuals participated in the Selected Reserve Educational Assistance Program. Since the program started, there have been 378,000 National Guardsmen and reservists who have applied for educational assistance. This high level of overall participation is evidence of its effectiveness as a recruiting and retention incentive for the reserve components. Nearly 38 percent of all members eligible for educational assistance through the end of FY 95 had actually applied for educational benefits.
Furthermore, studies conducted by the Sixth Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation and the Rand Corporation indicate that the Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve continues to be one of the most important recruiting and retention incentives for the reserve components, especially for the first six years of a reservist's military affiliation.
Finally, the Reserve Officer Personnel Management Act will provide a comprehensive management system for approximately one-quarter million officers not on the active duty list. It will also give the reserve components the needed flexibility to manage their reserve officer force while simultaneously providing visible career progression opportunities to the individual reserve officer. We are now in the process of incorporating the ROPMA provisions into DoD publications, which will serve as the basis for full implementation of ROPMA by Oct. 1, 1996.
Our efforts in family readiness and support are designed to ensure mechanisms are in place to support reserve families across the spectrum of reserve service, from week-end training to mobilization. Our DoD instruction on family readiness in the National Guard and reserve components has formalized service policies and procedures to ensure National Guard and Reserve members, and their families are prepared and adequately served by the family care systems and organizations of the services for the uncertainties and stresses incident to military service. Additionally, we are studying the feasibility of conducting a test of weekend child care for drilling reserve members and have requested authority to run a regionalized test of unlimited commissary benefits for reserve members.
We are committed to providing assistance to reservists and their employers through the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. NCESGR operates a volunteer outreach program to generate nationwide employer support for the nation's reserve forces on behalf of the secretary of defense.
NCESGR's strategy of "Strength in Partnership" stresses the importance of the interrelationship among employers, their reservist employees and the military chain of command. It builds on the success of past outreach programs in concert with new programs to increase understanding of, and appreciation for, the needs and concerns of all involved in the partnership.
Programs such as the Employer Action Council build on this strategy. The EAC brings together business leaders and key members of the state committees to discuss employers' concerns about reserve military service. These concerns are forwarded to DoD so that individuals who formulate and implement reserve policies are sensitive to the current corporate environment and needs of employers.
Now, more than ever, as the nation's reliance on the reserve components continues to increase, NCESGR's aggressive programs are an invaluable asset to the reserve forces. We believe NCESGR's positive approach will prevent potential problems and build strong relationships among employers, reservists and DoD so that all understand and support each other.
Let me assure you that this administration views a mission-ready National Guard and Reserve as an essential part of our post-Cold War strategy. As a result, reservists will play an expanded role in war and also be more engaged in these turbulent times of peace. While we ask our people to do more, we must never lose sight of the need to balance a reservist's commitment to country with his or her commitment to family and their civilian employer.
We have covered much ground in the last few years, and the future promises to be equally challenging. I commit to you that I will do all in my power to support and protect reserve component people and their families, and to work hard to ensure that the National Guard and Reserve is a well trained, mission-ready and accessible force capable of taking on missions overseas and here at home.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of the finest National Guard and Reserve military forces in the world.
Addendum to prepared statement:
Reserve Forces Revitalization Act of 1995, H.R. 1646
I appreciate the opportunity to submit my comments for the record on the Feb. 13, 1996, version of HR [House of Representatives] 1646. The following comments address the issues identified by the Military Personnel Subcommittee.
General. It is difficult to establish a comprehensive department position on a bill that has undergone so many changes in such a short period of time. Pending modifications to important provisions of the bill were provided for the department's review last week. Given the frequency and extent of informal modifications to the original HR 1646, it is important that the department be provided an opportunity to thoroughly assess the implications of the various provisions, once revised legislation is actually introduced.
The fact that this bill focuses on the organization, management and sustainment of the reserve components at a time when increased reliance on reserve forces for peacetime operational support is becoming an essential part of department planning makes this an important piece of pending legislation. There are clearly provisions that are intended to enhance the status of the reserve components within the total force and the ability of the reserve leadership to more effectively represent the needs and capabilities of their reserve forces. At the same time, there are provisions of the bill that could potentially create barriers to more effective integration of reserve and active forces. These provisions require modification before the department could accept the bill in its entirety.
Organizational (Sections 201-208)
Issue: Evaluate the rationale for the statutory establishment of a separate Army, Navy, Air Force and U.S. Marine Corps Reserve commands.
DoD supports the modifications outlined in the official DoD general counsel response to Congress, dated Feb. 27.
These modifications are intended to provide greater flexibility in the proposed legislation and to ensure consistency with existing statutory authorities. The statutory establishment of separate Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Reserve commands supports the increased role and importance of reserve forces within the total force. It would institutionalize the reserve chief's direct control over most reserve forces until they are mobilized. In actual effect, we would see little direct change to the way we are doing business today.
Issue: Evaluate the requirement that the commander of each of the services' separate reserve commands report directly to the service's chief, as well as the rationale for and implications of the assignment of some or all (depending on the service) non-mobilized reserve forces to the service's reserve command.
As the chief of the reserve force, the chief of each of the reserve components already reports directly to the respective service chief. This bill would not change that relationship.
It should be noted that the commander of the Army Reserve does not report directly to the chief of staff of the Army. I would support the Joint Staff concerns that the provisions of the draft bill regarding the assignment of forces be consistent with department efforts to clarify command authority for reserve component forces.
I would agree that it is essential for combatant commanders to be directly involved in establishing training standards and in evaluating the readiness of reserve forces, and that reserve component forces currently assigned to combatant commands remain so assigned. I would also note that reserve component units face some unique challenges not faced by active forces, such as limited training times, geographical dispersion and civilian employer-employee conflicts.
Peacetime management by reserve commanders who understand these unique challenges is as important as training and readiness oversight by combatant commanders who need visibility and influence over reserve forces that will be operating in their areas of responsibility.
Issue: Assess the proposed increases in numbers and rank/grade of general and flag officers required for the headquarters of the separate reserve commands and for the headquarters, National Guard Bureau. In addition, assess the rationale for the increase in the number of U.S. Marine Corps reserve general officers from 10 to 16.
- Although it is difficult to support proposed grade increases during a downsizing of the force, I believe that the numbers and grades of general and flag officers supporting the reserve command establishment may need to be reviewed on the basis of the relative size of the reserve force within the total force and the increased responsibilities inherent in the missions being assigned to that force. Reserve forces are no longer follow-on forces. They are now an integral element in nearly all military operations -- peacetime, wartime, contingency operations and operations other than war.
- The provision to increase the number of Marine Corps Reserve general officer billets from 10 to 16 reflects the growing emphasis on more effective joint planning and joint operations. I am advised that the need to provide reserve expertise and perspectives on the capabilities, roles and missions of reserve forces in the joint arena has led to an increase in the requirements for reserve general and flag officers to serve on the staffs of combatant commanders.
Issue: Review the justification for and implications of the proposed exemption of general/flag officer positions from statutory active duty grade ceilings.
In its 1992 evaluation of reserve general and flag officer positions, the Hay Group concluded that counting reserve general and flag officers against the active duty ceilings imposed by Sections 525 and 526 of Title 10 U.S. Code has the potential to set up a competition between the active force and the reserve force for the limited general and flag officer authorizations.
Hay concluded that a separate ceiling or separate management of the full-time reserve general and flag officer billets within the active duty allocation would provide for a better management process and would ensure proper emphasis of management on the key issue of delivering a ready reserve. The department chose to make no recommendations at the time that it submitted the Hay Study to Congress, nor has any subsequent action been taken to implement any of the study's findings.
Issue: Assess the expanded responsibilities of each service's chief/commander of the reserve, including the new responsibility to make preparation, justification and execution of the reserve procurement program a principal duty.
The budget and appropriations management responsibilities as specified in this bill are for the most part inherent in the duties and functions of the reserve chiefs and do not represent an expansion of those responsibilities. The proposed language would serve to formalize these responsibilities in law.
One exception to the above comments and an area of concern is the assignment of responsibility to the chiefs of the reserve components for preparation, justification and execution of procurement appropriation budgets. There are currently no separate reserve component investment/procurement appropriations.
The creation of a separate reserve component procurement responsibility would duplicate current efforts, create additional staff overhead and result in higher procurement costs. The additional administrative burden would not ensure additional procurement funding. In fact, it could jeopardize existing processes which allow reserve component modernization requirements to be managed as a part of larger service initiatives, making it easier to accommodate small pricing adjustments.
The proposal, if adopted, does not include the two National Guard components, which would create serious inconsistencies in procurement appropriations. I am concerned that this provision would result in a less efficient procurement process and one that is less effective in considering procurement decisions as an investment in the total force.
Mission and Accessibility (Section 301)
Issue: Review the need for the proposed new authority and procedures permitting the president to involuntarily recall reserve component units and individuals to respond to natural disasters.
The National Guard continues to provide the first line of defense to support local authorities responding to domestic emergencies. The regional compacts being ratified by state legislatures facilitate emergency response by Guard assets across state lines.
We are also improving the process for using reserves in support of domestic emergencies. In FY 1995, over 400 Army Reserve soldiers supported seven domestic disaster operations contributing more than 12,000 man-days. In recent years, reservists [have] been used in various natural disasters, to include Hurricanes Andrew and Iniki, the Midwest floods and the Northwest fires.
Reserve officers serve as emergency preparedness liaison officers to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Administration]. Automated data bases can identify reserve units located in the vicinity of local disasters. Regulations provide for loaning reserve equipment to Guard forces for disaster relief. The activation of reserve forces in support of disaster relief is already provided for in law, either as volunteers or, if necessary, under a declaration of national emergency. What is needed is not so much a change to the law, but an improved process that ensures more effective state support and, when needed, adequate and timely federal assistance. This has been the core of our effort over the last several years and will continue to be the focus for the future.
Issue: Assess the proposed change in reserve activation authority that restricts the president's partial mobilization authority to involuntarily recall reserve units and personnel to situations when the president determines that augmentation of the active forces is necessary. Current law permits the president to invoke partial mobilization "in time of national emergency declared by the president," without regard to a determination of a need to augment the active forces.
We have worked very hard to ensure the full understanding and acceptance of reserve component capabilities and the premise that reserve components are now fully accessible. Reliance on the President's Selected Reserve Call-up authority, under Section 12304 of Title 10 U.S. Code, has evolved into an essential element in the planning for virtually any operational contingency.
I am concerned that the new reporting requirements and limitations on reserve activation could prove administratively burdensome and could potentially hinder flexible decision-making. This could have the unintended effect, either real or perceived, of limiting reserve component accessibility.
I can understand the intent but am concerned about legislating requirements such as 48-hour notification before activating reserves, limitations on activating reserves more than once in any 24-month period and mandatory deactivation of reserve personnel whenever active personnel are available to perform the mission.
The department recognizes the need to protect our reservists from burnout and overuse. The services have made a concerted effort not to call the same members or units repeatedly for either peacetime support or contingency operations. For example, the reserve units that were called up for Bosnia were not the same units that were called for Haiti.
Issue: Evaluate the implications of the proposed requirement that the president provide Congress 48 hours' prior notice of the proposed exercise of the reserve recall authority, a description of the anticipated use of the reserves and the anticipated length of service.
We need to ensure that we do not legislate requirements that would tend to limit the use of reserve component forces due to additional reporting, monitoring, timing or other restrictive requirements. Limitations or restrictions on the president's use of his authority to call up reserves would have the effect of making those forces appear to be a less viable and responsive asset.
Similarly, I can see little benefit from imposing additional reporting requirements beyond those required in law today. The creation of added administrative tasks or burdens could adversely influence the willingness of force planners and operators to rely on reserve forces.
Resourcing (Sections 401-403)
Issue: Evaluate the proposed limitation on the secretary of defense that any funds in a reserve component appropriation may be transferred to an active component account only when specifically authorized by law.
My concern is that this provision would restrict the flexibility of the secretary of defense and the secretaries of the services to manage their resources most effectively in support of the total force. Requests to reprogram between appropriation accounts already requires congressional approval. Requiring legislation would make for a much less expedient process.
Issue: Assess the desirability of the proposed annual report to Congress that would detail reserve component resource shortfalls.
The services already conduct extensive reviews of all personnel, operations and maintenance and construction requirements and programs as part of the planning, programming and budgeting process. These programs, to include shortfalls, are addressed in current annual reports to Congress, which could be modified if necessary. Such reports include the Secretary of Defense Annual Report to Congress, the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Report to Congress, the Reserve Forces Policy Board Annual Report, the Force Readiness Assessment and the Joint Military Net Assessment, to list a few.
I think we should consider modifying current reporting requirements in lieu of establishing additional report requirements in law.
Sustainment (Sections 501-508):
Issue: Assess the desirability and cost of the several proposed sustainment initiatives including revised transient housing allowances, and a local community and military personnel mutual benefits program.
- The proposed revision to Title 37, U.S. Code, to authorize reimbursement of transient housing charges for members performing active duty for training, is already provided in a recurring provision of the annual DoD Appropriations Act. It also is consistent with long-standing service practice of providing cost-efficient accommodations for reservists who perform training outside a reasonable commuting distance. We would support making this authority permanent law.
- Although the concept of Section 506 of the bill, concerning the establishment of a local community and military personnel mutual benefits program to provide price discounts for members of the armed forces, has some interesting aspects, I have been advised by DoD general counsel about the potential for conflicts of interest. Specifically, the provisions of the draft legislation may be contrary to existing statutes governing ethics in government.
Soliciting or leveraging merchants to provide discounts for military members would create the appearance of department endorsements of merchants who agree to participate in the benefits program over those businesses that do not participate. This, in turn, could lead to the perception that the department is awarding certain government contracts on the basis of the discounts provided by businesses that choose to participate in the program -- a clear violation of procurement laws and regulations.
Issue: Evaluate the requirement for and potential cost of the proposed requirement that there be no distinction between active duty personnel and reserve component members (and their dependents) serving on active duty in pay, benefits, eligibility for medical care or any other benefit if such distinction is based simply on length of active duty service.
Today, the compensation and benefit structure for reserve component members is not strictly dependent upon the length of active duty service, nor should it be. We must continue to ensure that it is also based on duty status, mission and other factors.
The full impact of a blanket policy change, such as that effected by this bill, on the overall system of benefits is difficult to assess. Each specific change that is intended to provide greater parity of benefits needs to consider the member's contribution (e.g., support for a contingency operation), the equity provided by the change, the capability of the military system to support the change and the cost of the change.
For example: The proposed provision would presumably reverse a previous decision to eliminate entitlement to Variable Housing Allowance for Reserves on short-term reserve service. Providing an entitlement to VHA for all reserve members on active duty for less than 140 days would achieve parity with regular active duty members, but would not be consistent with the intent of VHA and could generate an annual cost of more than $200 million.
A second example: The provision would also entitle the family members of reservists called for active duty for just one day to the full range of medical and dental benefits provided by the military health care system. The cost and administration of such a change could well be unmanageable.
A third example: Parity could work to the disadvantage of the reserve components. Reserve are compensated for inactive duty training on the basis of one-thirtieth of basic pay, which serves as an incentive for qualified personnel to enter and remain in the reserve components and encourages them to maintain and improve their military skills through regular training. The parity provision of the draft legislation could result in a reserve compensation system that is less fair and less reasonable in considering the part-time nature of reserve duty.
These are only a few examples of potential problem areas.
Alternative to Section 301 (Draft dated Feb. 29, 1996)
My concern with these alternative provisions is that they may require revisiting the Army Offsite Agreement, which was an unprecedented collaborative effort by the senior leaders of the Army, active and reserve components, and supporting organizations. This overall restructuring plan has provided the basis for overall reductions, assignment of missions and force structure for the Army.
The new Section 209 may overemphasize state and domestic requirements in making force structure decisions. Any major restructuring between the National Guard and Reserve must consider full-time support, equipment and other resource implications.
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 http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.