Washington, D.C. – Senior government leaders and defense experts discussed the need for a larger army, a restructuring of the National Guard and Reserve in line with evolving missions, and greater support to reservists deployed overseas and within the United States.
At a conference today sponsored by the Association of the United States Army (AUSA), the Center for American Progress, and the Center for Peace and Security Studies at Georgetown University (CPASS) speakers acknowledged the stresses on reservists, who have been overused since 9/11.
“If we ask the Guard and Reserve to play a more active role in overseas missions and homeland security, we must increase benefits closer to the active force, such as health care and health tracking,” said Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The United States is relying on the National Guard and Reserve more and more heavily, as our country’s “citizen soldiers” comprise more than 40 percent of U.S. forces in Iraq alone. As Dr. Robert L. Gallucci, dean of the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University explained, “We mobilize our reserves when we need them – and lately we’ve needed them a lot. There is a cost – to communities, to employers and to families – when we call them to active duty. We need to better understand those costs and how to properly structure, equip, train and manage our reserve forces for the future.”
The demands we have placed on the National Guard and Reserve are resulting in falling levels of recruitment and retention, and the Congressional Budget Office has warned that using reservists at this capacity is “unsustainable.” As Lt. Gen. Theodore G. Stroup, Jr., Ret., vice president of education for AUSA cautioned, “[s]ustaining recruitment and retention requires structural changes that are long overdue. We must consider these changes in light of the new operational realities we are facing.”
The future of the total force also requires that we care for our reservists and their families. “The reserve component is engaged in a three-front war. It is being asked to battle insurgents in Iraq, protect critical infrastructure here at home, and be available for notional civil support missions,” said P.J. Crowley, senior fellow and director of defense and homeland security at the Center for American Progress. “To a large extent there is tension among the missions, which has a great impact on individual soldiers.”
For more information on the conference go here.