The Reserve Officers Association eagerly awaits the release of the President’s budget for Fiscal Year 2013, next Monday. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s new defense strategy promises a continued reliance on the Reserve Component as an operational force. With the more than 825,000 Reservists and Guardsmen mobilized since 9/11 returning home, the United States is creating a new generation of combat veterans. The President’s budget will provide the needed details on how these men and women in the Reserve Component can expect to operate, especially against the backdrop of an evolving national security environment and sustained economic uncertainty.
Secretary Panetta has recognized not only the strategic value, but the operational necessity of maintaining a strong Reserve Component. In his speech on the coming defense budget on January 27, 2012, he remarked, “[P]art of ensuring the ability to mobilize quickly will be retaining a capable, ready and operational Reserve Component, leveraging 10 years of experience in war.”
Unfortunately, last week the Air Force announced the planned cut of nearly 10,000 airmen. This would mean a reduction of 9,900 airmen -- 3,900 Active duty, 5,100 Air Guardsmen and 900 Air Force Reservists. While Secretary Panetta promised parity cuts in the force for active, National Guard, and Reserve components, planned cuts are based on reducing airframes and the related missions.The Air Force will cut 286 aircraft over the future year’s defense plan including 123 fighters, 133 mobility aircraft and 30 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, the Air Force secretary said. It appears that the deepest cuts will be made to Air National Guard units.
Rather than reducing capability, ROA supports retaining mission proficiency in reserve.The Reserve Component gives DoD reversibility. “Reversibility refers to our ability to make course corrections in response to strategic, economic or technological change,” Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy said at the Reserve Officers Association’s Annual National Security Symposium in Washington D.C.
The Reserve and National Guard should retain that capacity against an unknown future permitting a timely response, rather than lose needed combat skills and weapons systems.Members of the Reserve Component bring with them a wealth of knowledge, experience and skills beneficial in both their military and civilian lives. By retaining this knowledge and operational experience, the Department of Defense is able to cultivate a rapidly deployable force at nearly one third the cost per service member of their Active Duty counterparts.
In his statement on the defense budget in late January, Secretary Panetta indicated that the Department of Defense intends to maintain a strong Army Reserve and Army National Guard. He also stated that the Marine Corps Reserve will receive no end strength cuts.
The Reserve Officers Association is pleased to see the Department of Defense is making efforts to avoid reducing the size and strength of the Reserve Component. However, ROA continues to espouse the need for careful, and formally implemented study to examine the full impact of these cuts on individuals service wide.We recognize that the U.S. military is facing big changes in response to fiscal constraints—particularly at a time when security concerns remain widespread, but the Reserve Component offers a cost effective means to preserve capability. ROA has no doubtthat Reservists in all services will meet future operational responsibilities with the enthusiasm and determination that they have demonstrated over the past ten years.