Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ROA comments on Obama's campaign promises

By David Small
ROA Director of Communications and Air Force Affairs

The Reserve Officers Association was asked by the St. Petersburg Times to comment on promises President Obama made while campaigning in 2008 for their Pulitzer Prize winning Politifact.com web site. There, the paper is tracking his statements and the progress the administration is making toward fulfilling them. To view President Obama’s statements on the military and Politifact’s research of them, click here.

ROA provided an expert assessment on a few of the administration’s activities. Each campaign promise is numbered on Politifact's web site.

No. 145: Ensure the Guard and Reserves can meet their homeland security missions: "The poor readiness of America's Guard and Reserve forces threatens our ability to respond to natural disasters or terrorist attacks at home. We saw this, sadly, after both Hurricane Katrina and the tornadoes in Kansas. Because of the depletion of its resources in Iraq, the National Guard is less ready today than it was on 9/11. Nearly 90 percent of units have serious equipment shortages; many have less than 1/3 of the equipment they require. A particular focus of Obama's plan will be to reverse the trend of "cross-leveling," the cannibalizing of soldiers and machines from units back home for missions abroad."

No. 148: Fully and properly equip troops "Fully Equip Our Troops for the Missions They Face: We must listen to our ground commanders when they tell us what kinds of technology and skills they need to fight most effectively. We cannot repeat the failure to swiftly deploy up-armored vehicles in response to insurgent tactics. We must prioritize getting vitally needed equipment to our Soldiers and Marines before lives are lost."

The Reserve Officers Association's response to these promises stated that while the ROA is pleased with the recent $950 million National Guard and Reserve Equipment appropriation, they were disappointed in the compromise that fell short of the Senate's proposal of $1.5 billion. This was, however, an increase from the 2009 budget of $750 million.

The breakdown is as follows:

Army National Guard $575 million
Air National Guard $135 million
Army Reserve $85 million
Navy Reserve $55 million
Air Force Reserve $55 million
Marine Corps Reserve $45 million
TOTAL $950 million

The White House's 2010 budget did not include any money the National Guard and Reserve Appropriation. As President Obama prepares his budget request for next year, we hope he will consider the fact the Guard and Reserve cannot purchase some of their bigger ticket necessities without greater funding of this account.

Examples of such defined requirements according to ROA testimony includes:

      • Army: Seven C-12 Huran Cargo Transport airplanes
      • Army: An incredible backlog of trucks (FMTV/LMTV Cargo Trucks, HMMWVs, HTV 8x8 Heavy Trucks and Tactical Trailers
      • Air Force Reserve: two KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft tankers
      • Cyber systems defense
      • Navy Reserve: One C-40A Intra-theater airlift airplane
      • Navy Reserve: KC-130J tankers
      • Marine Forces Reserve: Training allowance shortfalls
      • Additionally, there are over 300 items needed by all the services for individual combat clothing and equipment including protective vests, ponchos, liners, gloves, cold weather clothing, environmental test sets, tool kits, tents, camouflage netting, communications systems, engineering equipment, combat and logistics vehicles and weapons.

We have also seen the administration's pay-as-you-go proposal with $100 billion for equipment folded into the annual budget instead of through war supplementals. ROA's concern, however, is that such a proposal will not come with an increase in the bottom line affecting personnel costs such as health care and reenlistment bonuses that have helped Reserve retention during the war.

Many people are encouraged the administration is looking into the concept of using the Reserve for homeland security and National Disaster response. Currently under law, only the National Guard can be mobilized to respond at home, while federal troops are limited by their status in what they can do for Homeland Security. President Obama, while still protecting federal Reservists chain of authority, is seeking a good compromise to make them available at home in a time of need.

No. 142: Limit Guard and Reserve deployments to one year for every six years. Restore the Deployment Policies Under Which the Reserve and Guard Enlisted: America should recommit to the broken promises made to the men and women who serve in the Guard and Reserves. An Obama administration will:

      • Limit lengthy deployments to one year for every six years
      • Restore the 24-month limit on cumulative deployment time
      • End the "Stop-Loss" program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments.

Regarding stop-loss, DoD announced a phased out ending of the program for the Army and is providing special compensation for those who were affected.

Regarding Reserve deployments, it is a trend (at least as publicly stated by the Air Force Reserve) that for every year the Department reduces a Reservist's dwell time at home, they lose about 10 percent of the force to attrition. The Department of Defense's stated goal of maintaining a one-to-five dwell time seems sufficient; however they are not meeting that goal across the board.

ROA's primary concern is that there not be a blanket policy limiting the use of Reserves in such a way that the Reserve Components are not full partners in the total force. The Reserve has been in a surge capacity since America began fighting in 2001, to the point that the current rotation is now the new normal. In many cases, the capabilities that exist primarily in the Reserve, such as civil affairs in the Army, are the exact things a counterinsurgency requires, making lower dwell times difficult and progress toward the stated goal lacking.

The administration should focus on the services and career fields that are not currently meeting the one-to-five dwell time by ensuring there are enough people and resources available in critical capabilities. Achieving that requires a dedication to properly funding the personnel account and remembering any changes to the end-strength and equipment for the active component require a commensurate and equitable change in the end-strength or equipment beddown in the Reserve Components. Currently, that is not happening in some services and with some equipment. There are too many critically manned career fields in multiple services to achieve the one-to-five goal right now.

Even after the current deployment requirements go away when Afghanistan winds down, Reserve Component units should continue to maintain a one to five rotation, and be used to backfill active duty units in deployed locations. This will preserve a ready, operational Reserve rather than returning them to empty drill halls with insufficient training as in the past. ROA has seen no statements that support such a position from the Administration.

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