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Employers' Support Vital to Reserve Contingency Operations
Prepared Remarks of Deborah R. Lee, assistant secretary of defense for Reserve affairs, National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Leesburg, Va, Friday, July 26, 1996

Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 81-- Employers' Support Vital to Reserve Contingency Operations The National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve plays an important role in ensuring guardsmen and reservists and their families are ready for opportunities and challenges ahead.

 

Volume 11, Number 81

Employers' Support Vital to Reserve Contingency Operations

Prepared remarks by Deborah R. Lee, assistant secretary of defense for Reserve affairs, at the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Leesburg, Va., July 26, 1996.

There are three things I would like to discuss with you today.

First, I would like to share with you where we've been during the last three years in defense and where we hope to go -- we feel we've had some solid accomplishments, but clearly challenges remain on the horizon.

Second, I'd like to review some of the new ways in which this post-Cold War world involves the reserve components in the day-to-day work of today's total force -- this, of course, represents the core of my work.

And third, I'd like to give you my perspective both on what this all means for members of the reserves, their families and their civilian employers and on how the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve has [played] -- and will continue to play -- an important role in what we are doing in the Department of Defense to ensure that the reserve components are ready for the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Looking back on where we've been and where we've placed our efforts:

 

  • First and foremost, war has been avoided -- in places like Iraq, Korea, Haiti and Bosnia. It's been a blend of diplomacy and threat to use force -- a combination of "if I may and make my day." And it's involved the reserve components. In the past year alone, there have been two presidential Selected Reserve call-ups for Haiti and Bosnia. I'll talk later about the role the reserves have played in supporting these operations.

     

  • Second, we conducted a Bottom-up Review, which by 1999 will give us a force structure capable of fighting and winning two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts and capable of conducting a wide range of other military operations. This zero-based review of the forces needed to accomplish the task had three major conclusions:

     

    • First, that we needed less active and reserve component forces, fewer military bases and fewer forces stationed overseas than we did during the Cold War;

       

    • Second, that we needed to have solid levels of readiness in the forces we keep; and

       

    • Third, that selected enhancements including new technology, increased lift capacity and smarter use of National Guard and Reserve forces can make a big difference in the effectiveness of our force in the future.

       

     

  • Third, we downsized smartly. Unlike the other two major drawdowns that have occurred during this century, this one was done right -- without hollowing out the force. Today's military is smart, well-trained and well-equipped. This is precisely because we chose to heavily fund readiness accounts -- like training dollars -- over the last several years at the expense of certain other accounts like procurement. The good news is that most -- although not all -- of the downsizing of both active and reserve forces is behind us -- about 80 percent in the reserve components as a whole.

     

  • Fourth, we've placed quality of life at the top of our agenda. Providing a good quality of life for service members and their families is both the right thing to do and crucial to sustaining the readiness of U.S. forces. In the context of relieving the stress of frequent deployments on active duty personnel, which is a big quality of life issue, we're using the reserves in new and expanded ways to help accomplish the work of the total force.

     

  • Fifth -- a major challenge -- we need to modernize. Modernization is a key component of tomorrow's readiness. Over the last several years, we've experienced a "pause" in modernization, which has allowed us to fully fund today's key readiness activities. Now we need to begin recapitalizing to provide for the readiness of our forces in the next century. A key way to do this is through

     

  • Sixth -- another challenge -- acquisition reform and outsourcing. Overhauling the defense acquisition system and looking for more contracting out opportunities is very much about saving money to free resources up for modernization. It's also about getting access to the commercial marketplace to get the technology military commanders need, and it's about being able to target our resources more specifically at key warfighting and support roles. We've gotten off to a good start on both areas, but we still have a long way to go.

There's no doubt about it -- our plate is full. The challenge is large, and change is all around us -- on the world scene and right here at home -- in government and in the military.

And nowhere has change has been more evident than in the National Guard and Reserve. The idea of citizen-soldiers is as old as the nation itself, but it was only 25 years ago that the role of the reserves began to change as the concept of a fully integrated total force -- active, Guard and Reserve -- was introduced in the aftermath of Vietnam by then-Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird. The idea was to ensure that America would never again go to war without the Guard and Reserve and without the political will that calling the Guard and Reserve requires.

Now I have to admit for more than a decade the total force was rather theoretical -- a paper plan that had never been used much, and, as a result, when I began my career, many wondered whether the reserves would actually come if called. But then came the Gulf War and the mobilization of 228,000 ready reservists from all seven reserve components in response to the Iraqi aggression in Kuwait.

In my judgment, that was the true coming of age for the reserves, and today no one wonders whether or not they'll come when they're called! Ever since the Gulf War, the reserves have been involved in humanitarian missions, peace enforcement missions and joint exercises all around the globe.

I've already told you about what our reserves are doing in Africa. Now let me give you several other examples of what the Guard and Reserve are doing day in and day out as part of their regular training or as extra volunteer duty. Some of these missions have been ongoing for some time; others are direct outgrowths of the new post-Cold War world.

In Central and South America, since the mid-1980s, members of the reserve components have supported a wide range of operations at U.S. Southern Command, including realistic annual training exercises in construction, engineering and medical activities, which also are of direct benefit to the nations of Latin America.

In Europe, the Army's reserve components have been engaged in a program called RETROEUR in which excess equipment is repaired and prepared for shipment and redistribution at seven different sites around the United States.

In the Middle East, the Army Guard and Reserve did a six-month rotation last spring and summer in the Sinai, standing watch in the Gulf of Aqaba as members of the multinational force to observe, report and verify the compliance of Israel and Egypt with the Camp David accords of 1981.

In the Western Pacific and South Atlantic, Naval Reserve force ships are relieving some of the stress on our active forces by deploying for four to six months in these areas of operation. In 1995 alone, naval reservists contributed over 1.5 million workdays of support to the active components.

In the newly independent states of the former Soviet Bloc, the National Guard and Reserve are playing an increasing role in our nation's relationships with the nations of Eastern and Central Europe. The secretary of defense calls what they are doing "preventive defense." Quite simply, that means a focus on preventing the conditions for conflict and creating the conditions for peace. From the earliest military liaison teams in the Baltic nations and the establishment of the state partnership programs with former Soviet Republics to the increasing presence of our reserve forces in mainstream Partnership for Peace exercises and other multilateral and bilateral exercises, guardsmen and reservists are serving as role models, making a compelling case in words and deeds for the ideals of democracy, professionalism and deference to civilian authority.

And right here at home in the U.S., the National Guard continues to be our first line of defense for natural disasters, the most recent example being the response to hurricane and tropical storm Bertha. Up and down the East Coast, in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the National Guard has reinforced local law enforcement personnel, assisted in debris removal operations and assisted in emergency transportation operations.

On top of all the missions I've just described, there have been two presidential call-ups of the Guard and Reserve in the past year.

First, Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti: Virtually all the RC [reserve components] were represented, directly or indirectly -- we sent 3,500 reservists, including linguists, international police monitors, equipment maintenance personnel, special forces, civil affairs, PSYOPS [psychological operations] and engineering support troops.

And, of course, Bosnia, where just over 5,600 National Guard and Reserve members have been mobilized. These reserve component personnel are providing support in functions such as civil affairs, PSYOPS, public affairs, medical, communications, water purification and legal affairs.

The mobilization for Operation Joint Endeavor also involved a "mobilization" of sorts, of volunteers from the NCESGR [National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve] organization, and just like the Guard and Reserve members who mobilized, the state committee volunteers have done an extraordinary job at the mobilization sites! I know, because I saw some of them in action myself at Fort Dix [N.J.] several weeks ago, briefing members of the reserves on USERRA [Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act], assisting family support personnel, assisting in nominations of employers for "my boss is a patriot" awards and assisting in whatever other ways they could. It's a terrific contribution, and we can't thank you enough!

So all in all, we're asking a lot of our people, and I'll warn you now, we're likely to keep doing so. What does all of this mean for reservists, employers and reserve families across America? It means big change. It means that the traditional one weekend per month and two weeks training per year may no longer be applicable in all cases. There will be times when we in DoD will ask reservists to come on active duty for longer periods of time and we may -- in select cases -- try to apply the traditional 39 days per year of training in new and creative ways. We are likely to use the call-up authority more frequently, especially for key support capabilities that reside chiefly in the reserve components; though we will take care to avoid calling the same units and individuals over and over. And reservists will clearly be more involved than ever in real world missions and joint exercises which have training value, rather than training simply for the sake of training.

Most reservists I have talked to say they relish the prospect of more opportunity to contribute in meaningful ways. At the same time, we know that it takes supportive families and employers to meet these commitments.

In this increasingly busy and complicated post-Cold War world, never has it been more important that there be an organization like NCESGR and its network of volunteers across the country. Together, we're getting the message through to the bosses of America that DoD is committed to understanding their concerns and working with them to solve their problems, and you are one of our best assets in getting this done!

You play a particularly important role in communicating with employers -- hearing their concerns and providing them with information about changes in the law, new directives and other new developments.

 

  • New programs like "breakfast with the boss" and existing programs like "boss lifts" have been particularly effective in providing convenient forums for sharing information and concerns and showcasing the work of the Guard and Reserve to employers.

     

  • The speakers program, the recent media tour and the Ad Council campaign are generating additional media coverage that we hope will reach even more employers around the country.

     

  • The new video -- produced with the extraordinary help of Judi Victor -- is also an important tool to help the public understand how much this administration values the team effort of reservists and their employers in getting the job done!

     

Not only do you and your colleagues give countless hours of your time to answering questions and providing information to reservists and their employers -- helping everyone to better understand the new provisions of the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment [Rights] Act -- but there is another important function you serve: You are our eyes and ears in the field -- not only through the state committee structure, but now also through the new Employer Action Council. And through the Employer Action Council we believe that military commanders already have a better understanding of the importance of a good relationship between employers and reservists and help to minimize the stress on it.

Believe me, your feedback is critical to the work we are doing here in Washington! Let me give you several recent examples of where your feedback has helped to focus and reinforce our efforts on behalf of the reserve community:

You raised the issue of tuition reimbursement problems for reservist college students, who, as you know, represent 30 percent of our reserve personnel and who do not have legal protections against loss of tuition and credits when called up. We have focused a great deal of management attention on working with colleges and universities to make sure that our reservists get a fair deal. For example, Dr. [Defense Secretary William] Perry recently wrote to all governors asking for their assistance in working with their states' colleges and universities on this matter. Feedback from the nation's governors has been positive this far, and we will continue to work with them to promote voluntary efforts to meet the needs of student/reservists.

You told us what you heard from employers about excessive volunteerism and short notice to employers when members of the reserves need to perform their military duty. That's a management issue that is now the focus of much greater attention -- not only do the provisions of USERRA clarify the reservist's responsibility for advance notification to employers, but we are working with the leadership of the services to make sure that advance notice to employers is a priority and that assignments are rotated fairly to prevent excessive volunteerism.

You reinforced what we were hearing about the need for an economic safety net for members of the reserves called to active duty, and I am pleased to report that our proposal for a mobilization insurance program became law with the president's signature on the Defense Authorization Act of 1996. We are currently working on implementation of this self-funded income continuation insurance program, which is scheduled to take effect in October of 1996.

You have told us how important it is to have good, accessible information for members of the reserves at the field level. We agreed, and we now have DoD guidance to the services that there should be a single point of contact at the field level in reserve commands to respond to employer questions and concerns about the scheduling of training and duty requirements. This should also reinforce the work of NCESGR volunteers who are part of the Mission 1 program at training sites throughout the country.

You told us that one of the best ways to reward employers is by saying "thanks." You're absolutely right, and through NCESGER we are trying to do just that, say "thanks" to employers who go above and beyond the call of duty in supporting their reservists. For employers of reservists called to Operation Joint Endeavor, Dr. Perry did just that -- with the help of NCESGR in getting employer information -- Dr. Perry wrote to each and every employer and told them how much their support was appreciated. In that connection, I had the pleasure this past year of participating with some of you in the presentation of several of these awards to outstanding employers in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Minnesota and New York. I also look forward, along with Secretary Perry, to participating in the new employer awards program in November.

You have also supported the notion of a tax credit for employers of mobilized reservists as an additional way of acknowledging employer support. I'm a little disappointed we did not have success this year on Capitol Hill on a tax credit for employers of mobilized reservists, but we'll keep trying. This is an uphill battle, but one that we believe is well worth the effort.

So there you have it -- an overview of what life in the post-Cold War world means to the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve, and what it also means for the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve We truly live in extraordinary times, and I have great confidence that the groundwork has been laid for the National Guard and the Reserves to play an increasingly important role in the U.S. military strategy of the future.

You're a very important part of our strategy. We couldn't do it without you. Look forward to the cruise.

Thank you very much.

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.