ARLINGTON, Va. (Aug. 26, 2013) – The National Guard and Reserves should remain strong operational forces, senior leaders of the seven reserve components said recently.
“We need to continue to engage in the operational missions of our services,” Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a reserve chiefs panel discussion at the Reserve Officers Association 2013 National Security Symposium.
“We have to look like the Army and the Air Force, and we have to have missions that get us into the fight so we can continue to grow leaders that can be ready at a moment’s notice anywhere in the world,” Grass said.
Marine Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, commander, Marine Forces Reserve, said active duty and Reserve forces should train, operate and deploy together to maintain readiness.
The chiefs discussed the appropriate mix of active duty and reserve-component forces as the Defense Department faces cuts in money because of an ongoing sequester. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also has ordered a Strategic Choices and Management Review — the SCMR, dubbed the “skimmer” in policy circles — to study the size of the force.
And defense leaders are shaping the Components Program Objective Memorandum, or POM, for the 2015 fiscal year. The final product of the Defense Department programming process, the POM outlines the military departments’ resource allocation decisions, which in turn are based on Strategic Planning Guidance and Joint Programming Guidance, according to Pentagon librarians.
“All the key decisions about the size of our military, the weapons, the active-component/ reserve-component mix, these things are being decided,” explained retired Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, who facilitated the discussion. “They’re being decided in a world of increasing threats and decreasing resources.”
Among options under consideration: a smaller, well-equipped, well-trained force.
If active-duty force reductions are associated with increased risk, then Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson, representing the Army Reserve on behalf of its chief, suggested one solution lies in the Reserve components.
“By increasing your capabilities within the Reserve components, you mitigate that risk significantly,” Anderson said.
“Why pay for something every day, 24/7, when you can put it in the Reserve component and have it only when you need it?” said Air Force Lt. Gen. James Jackson, chief of the Air Force Reserve.
“One of the best things the Army ever did was adopt the ARFORGEN model,” Grass said, as the panelists discussed a solution that might look like a combination of varying stages of readiness within the reserve components rather than an entirely operational reserve.
The Army Force Generation model, referred to as ARFORGEN, envisions all Army units in one of three pools: Reset, Ready or Available.
“Everyone is in a cycle,” Grass said. “People do need a break.”
“There needs to be room in the Reserves for people who can only give 38 days a year,” said Navy Vice Adm. Robin Braun, chief of the Navy Reserve.
“You’re going to have some people who are going to have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice,” Anderson said.
An operational Reserve force helps to ensure that active duty units get the so-called dwell time — time home in garrison — to reset, Mills said.
And with a smaller active duty force, he said, “You’ve got to have a Reserve that’s ready, enabled and trained to go out the door fairly quickly.”
Jackson said he doesn’t even like the terms “operational” and “strategic” when applied to the reserves.
“There’s too much baggage with them,” he said, preferring to think of reserve forces as a mixture of operational capacity, surge capacity and strategic depth.
“This is not and should not be an ‘us versus them,'” Punaro said, referring to the active duty and Reserve components. “This should be a hand-in-glove situation. We’re all in this together. … The Guard and Reserves bring tremendous capacity to the active components. … This capacity is not at their expense.”
Cuts should be made strategically rather than across-the-board, Reserve leaders said.
“This is a perfect time to look to see what mission areas we can move into the Reserve components and then, as we draw down on the active component side, take advantage of those great Sailors who are leaving the active component and move them into the Reserve component,” Braun said. “Let’s keep them in a part-time status and take advantage of all that great training and experience that they’ve had over the past five or 10 years.”
Retaining good active duty service members by welcoming them into the Guard and Reserves makes financial sense, Reserve leaders said.
“If you keep a citizen-Airman for life, whether in the Guard or Reserve, you retain that half-a-million-dollar investment for the first six or seven years of that training,” Jackson said. “Why throw that all away?”
But, Jackson added, “You can’t bring them in if you don’t have the positions to do it.”
“We have the best military and the best Reserve components we have ever had in our history,” Grass said. “These young men and women expect to deploy. They joined since 9/11. They know what they’re getting into. They want predictability, as much as possible, but they do want an opportunity to deploy.”
And they have proven themselves since Sept. 11, 2001, said Mills, who came to his present assignment from the active-duty side.
“I come to the Reserve components with the greatest respect because of what I saw on the battlefield, both in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “I was privileged to have Reserve forces — both organic units and individual augmentees — under me in Afghanistan, and they just did a magnificent, magnificent job.”