Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ROA Comments on Center for a New American Security Study

The Center for a New American Security issued a report, “An Indispensable Force: Investing in America’s National Guard and Reserves," which will be presented by panelists at an event this week. The report can be downloaded here: http://www.cnas.org/node/4997

The Reserve Officers Association agrees with the report that on balance, the government has come a long way in developing a ready, capable and available operational Guard and Reserves, and that policymakers deserve praise for their improvements toward that goal. Of the areas mentioned in the report that need addressing, ROA supports many of the things said, with a few caveats: 

We must figure out a way to use federal Reservists efficiently during federal homeland responses. There is simply no good reason that the President should not have access to the 400,000 members of the federal Reserve during a homeland emergency.

Funding for Reserve manpower must be baselined in a separate Congressional appropriation instead of through war supplementals if the Reserve and Guard are to continue to be a factor in the Operational Force.

While the comments made in the report about equipment issues are broad brush, the Congress has consistently funded the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation. Having said that, a disproportionate amount of these funds is directed to the National Guard versus the Reserve, exacerbating the equipment disparity between the Active Components and the Reserve. ROA feels the federal Reserve components should get a greater share of NGREA.

While the emotional issues afflicting troops from these two wars is an ever present concern, the numbers are not huge trend indicators. Great strides have been made toward recognizing and treating mental health wounds of war. Having said that, more needs to be done to ensure a Reservist or Guardsman is able to get follow-on treatment after they've returned and fully reintegrated into their civilian life, particularly with facilitating putting them in some kind of military status for follow-up appointments so they can have time off of their civilian job. Just as there is a capital investment for equipment during reset after a deployment, so too must there be an investment for human capital for a couple of years after deployment.

While no great strides of outward progress have been released on the continuum of service concept, ROA is aware of the background operations and plans occurring in the Pentagon and is impressed with the level of effort that is occurring. This particular issue will take a significant amount of time to complete, if it is ever completed. One thing to highlight is the Navy's marked improvement in the amount of time it takes to go from full time Active Duty to Reserve status.

The comment in the report regarding the fact that Active Duty do not understand the Reserve Components and this leads to disparities for things like professional military education is relevant. ROA is actively lobbying to ensure joint PME is credited properly for the Reserve Components and is visiting the House Armed Services Committee this Friday to discuss this very issue. ROA highly endorses giving full JPME II credit to distance learning school students of the various war colleges similar to what their active component counterparts get who attend the residence course. We further suggest that Active Component members be able to attend the Advanced JPME, which currently only admits Reserve Component members.

Regarding the citation in the report about the QDR requiring an assessment of the future roles and missions of the Guard and Reserve: this report is being prepared by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. LtGen Charles Stenner, Chief of the Air Force Reserve, issued his own white paper as input to this larger, joint report calling for a rebalance of roles and missions among the Air Components, which has merit.

While there is some confusion over the method for comparing the relative costs of full-time active duty and reserve personnel, it is not questioned that the Reserve and Guard are a less expensive alternative when balanced correctly within the total force. Each of the Reserve components is a little bit different than the other and they must be compared within each service correctly. According to Lt. Gen. Stenner the Reserve, on average, can buy 2.7 people for the cost of one active component Airman. With some missions, the ratio gets better, others worse. These rates, he said, are inclusive of all costs associated with a Reservist: from basic pay and training to retirement and health care costs.

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