Marcus Aurelius: These Days, Reservists Are Just Soldiers Who Get Laid Off Between Deployments

Corruption, Military
Marcus Aurelius

(1)  Little to disagree with here; (2) I remember author's name from my first years in current job; (3)  there seem to be multiple reserve studies/actions ongoing now; (4) there is a major effort ongoing to reduce the number of Reserve/National Guard soldiers brought on active duty for “Active Duty of Operational Support.”

Phi Beta Iota:  The article below is well-intentioned but ignorant.  The infantry, 4% of the force, takes 80% of the casualties and gets 1% of the budget.  There is plenty of money for a properly sized well-equipped, trained, and organized force including a National Guard optimized for domestic disorder and disaster and once in a lifetime deployment.  What General Flynn is about to discover is that DIA and USDI civilians expect him to drink the kool-aid and “go along” with pathologically dysfunctional intelligence, policy, acquisition, and operations processes that are not just inadequate and ineffective, but also unaffordable.   The “design” potential of intelligence with integrity has been absent from the US Intelligence Community for over 50 years now.  The time has come to restore that potential….in an election year, this might be exactly what is needed, not just for DoD, but across Whole of Government.  Afterthought:  18 veteran suicides a day – day after day after day.  Has this been analyzed (e.g. breakdown by MOS and NG vs Active vs Reserve)?

The Best Defense (
August 31, 2012

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These Days, Reservists Are Just Soldiers Who Get Laid Off Between Deployments

By Maj. Gen. Michael Symanski (US Army, ret.), Best Defense department of reserve affairs

The Army will add more time to the National Guard and Reserve training year, so let's be candid about what the “operational” reserve military forces really are: A method to avoid the cost of a full-time military of adequate size. The reserve force, which was our strategic capital banked for a once-in-a-career national military emergency, has been cashed in because our expensive regular force has been too small to wage a protracted war. We no longer have citizen soldiers; we have professional soldiers who are laid off between deployments overseas.

It is no longer economically or politically feasible to expand our military with a draft, and a modern, effective standing force is very expensive to hire and sustain. Citizens and their employers accepted and supported the concept of voluntarily giving and allowing the time necessary to economically sustain a reserve with which to expand the army for the common defense for a short, unwanted war. Our laws regulating the mobilization of reservists (the term includes the National Guard) and their post-war re-employment are still based on that concept of finite and rare service.

America met the sudden demand for soldiers for the War on Terrorism by calling up our reserves involuntarily for a year, and by offering short-term employment to volunteers who are available to serve. The war goes on, but Congress will not fund a regular force of adequate size and, instead, allows the cheaper reservists to be involuntarily called up every five years or to voluntarily extend their active duty. Unemployed reservists welcome the opportunity for active duty and under-employed reservists can do an important job for better pay commensurate with their actual abilities. Employers are obligated to re-employ a returning reservist, even if the soldier has, in truth, volunteered for active duty. Since the reservist cannot refuse the government's periodic call-ups, the government is his or her primary employer who regularly lays him off. A civilian employer needs the revenue generated by each employee, and sharing him or her is a very expensive expression of patriotism. Consequently, the reservist finds it very difficult to find career civilian employment.

The Chief of Staff of the Army has announced that reservists will spend more time training in the future, and be on a schedule of periodic active duty (Army Force Generation). The availability of each individual reservist for training or duty varies according to his or her current circumstances, and it would be good management for the military to use all that available time. All soldiers' contracts with the government, however, are subject to the unpredictable needs of the nation and have been difficult to always honor despite all good faith. The old one weekend a month two weeks a year for training model was always a burden for the civilian employers, and will get worse as long as the government remains the soldier's primary employer with increased demands for time. We cannot sustain an exceptional national military policy, forever.

Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Symanski served on the U.S. Army Staff (G-3/5/7) as the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs, 2005-2007, and represented the Army Staff on the Army Reserve Policy Committee and the joint Reserve Forces Policy Board. He commanded Army Reserve and National Guard units at all levels through two-star.

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