Over-extension, overuse, and inadequate priority to the men and women of our armed forces threaten the U.S. all-volunteer Army. In order to conduct combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and to meet other U.S. commitments around the globe, the Pentagon has been forced to violate the policies that have been established over the past 30 years to maintain the quality and readiness of the Army. If the administration and Congress do not move quickly to address the problems facing our Army and soldiers, they risk breaking the all-volunteer force at a time when it is most critically needed.
1. Increase the size of the total Army by at least 86,000 troops through: adding two division-sized peacekeeping or stabilization units; doubling the size of the active-duty Special Forces; and adding 10,000 military police, civil affairs experts, engineers, and medical personnel to the active-duty force.
2. Amend the “back door draft” policies by reducing the duration of the military service obligation. And reduce the length of the military service obligation—which by law lasts eight years from the date of initial enlistment—to six years after enlistment or four years of active duty, whichever comes first. Change stop-loss policy implementation. Furthermore, enlisted people who are affected by stop-loss or whose tours in Iraq or Afghanistan are extended beyond one year should receive a bonus of $2,000 per month for the duration of their extra service. The president should issue an executive order that directs the secretary of defense not to recall a selected reserve unit to active duty for more than one year out of every five unless the president has declared a national emergency.
3. Maintain homeland security capability by enlarging critical billets to include emergency responders. The president should direct the secretary of defense to add first responders, such as police and firefighters, to the list of people with critical jobs who are currently prohibited from joining or remaining in the selected reserve. The president should direct the secretary of homeland security to work with the 50 governors to establish in each state a non-deployable homeland security corps of volunteer citizens with skills that are central to responding to a terrorist attack as well as to natural disasters. The Congress should increase the Department of Homeland Security’s budget by $1 billion for the plan.
4. Repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The Congress should repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that prohibits openly gay men and women from remaining in the armed services. Nearly 10,000 people have been discharged because of it over the past ten years. The areas of expertise of a significant number of those who were discharged are the same as those in which the military has had personnel shortfalls and been forced to activate individuals from the Individual Ready Reserve.
5. Enable reservists and their families to enroll in TRICARE. Direct the secretary of defense to maintain quality of life benefits such as special pay, commissaries, and schools on military bases. The administration should also allow imminent danger and family separation allowances to maintain their real value by placing sufficient funds in the defense budget, and should call a moratorium on studies about closing commissaries and schools on military bases, at least as long as the U.S. military is trying to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan.
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