Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crisis and Opportunity: ROA's Role for the Future of the Reserve Component

On November 1, Major General Andrew B. Davis, USMC (Ret.) will take the reins as ROA's next executive director. Maj. Gen. Davis' leadership comes at a unique time for the Reserve Officers Association. Amidst a shifting defense landscape and nearly unprecedented austerity, General Davis outlines how ROA will meet these challenges head on, undaunted in its commitment to serving those who serve.

In the Chinese language, two characters comprise the word “challenge”: crisis and opportunity.

That is precisely the strategic inflection point facing our nation’s defense. The crisis is clear. The current administration has called for a $350 billion reduction in defense spending in the next 10 years ($178.3 billion in the next five). The brutal reality is that figure will not come near contributing to the deficit-reduction supercommittee’s target  plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Failure to find other federal budget cuts will trigger an automatic $600 billion reduction in Pentagon spending.  An analysis released last Friday by the Armed Services Committee staff predicts that the cuts “could leave the Pentagon with its lowest share of the federal budget since before World War II, shrinking the Army and Marine Corps by some 150,000 troops and leaving fewer warships and combat aircraft to project U.S. power around the world.” The crisis looms ― a hollow force unable to meet national security needs. The implications for our nation in a dangerous world are grim indeed. In the words of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, “Perceived weakness is provocative.”

One obvious solution is to migrate Active Component (AC) missions, structure and equipment to the less costly (and more cost-effective) Reserve Component (RC).  The follow-on report to the FY2010 Quadrennial Defense Review drafted by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs recognized this course of action. “The United States cannot continue to remain engaged globally given DOD’s current force structure without employing the Guard and Reserve,” the report stated. Implied in the anticipated shrunken AC is expansion of employment of the Guard and Reserve by first defining the roles for which the Guard and Reserve are best suited (or are the force of first choice), then rebalancing the mix of AC and RC components to meet the demands of the combatant commanders.   This imperative makes the operational reserve “a necessity” that has “no reasonable alternative considering the threats that the United States faces at home and abroad”, in the words of the report of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve.

Assuming that is the case, the challenge to the Defense establishment and the RC is to sustain the readiness and capability of the Reserve Force built over a decade of war, deployment and blood-sacrifice. The historic precedent is not encouraging. Following the high-water mark of Reserve commitment in the Korean War, the RC was put back on its Cold War shelf and allowed to atrophy. Budget cuts to training allotments in the 1970s saw RC readiness plummet. It took the Defense budget build-up of the Reagan years and post-Desert Storm commitment to higher readiness to reverse the trend, validated by the performance in combat of RC forces post-9/11.

Herein lies the opportunity for the Reserve Officers Association. The future relevance of the association hinges on linking its vision to two foundational concepts—Reserve Strength and Reserve Life.

Reserve Strength
Through its public policy advocacy, influence within the services, and community connection, the association can take the unchallenged lead in promoting a strong Reserve for a strong national defense. That strength is predicated on assuring the necessary resources— funding for personnel and training, equipment reconstitution, and horizontal fielding of new technology to the RC, coupled with defining roles and missions to achieve a strategic/operational Reserve balance.

Reserve Life
ROA has the capability to commit to and, through its programs, the influence to achieve career-long support for the Reservist and his/her family, encompassing :
•    Employer support;
•    Career development (e.g. the Joint Officer Professional Development Seminar as “must-attend” career enhancer);
•    Seamless health care transition to/from military and VA systems to the hometown;
•    Family support prior to, during and after deployment;
•    Ensuring a sound Reserve retirement benefit structure.

Achieving that vision mitigates the coming Defense cuts, sustains the operational RC, assures a stronger, more relevant ROA to members and strengthens the connection of serving Reservists to their communities.

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