US may run out of guard and reserve troops for war on terrorism: report
WASHINGTON (AFP) Sep 15, 2004
The US military may run out of national guard and reserve troops for the war on terrorism because of existing limits on involuntary mobilizations, a congressional watchdog agency warned in a report released Wednesday.
Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the government has considered changing the policy to make members of the 1.2 million-strong guard and reserve subject to repeated involuntary mobilization so long as no single mobilization exceeds 24 consecutive months.
In commenting on the report, however, the Department of Defense (DOD) said it planned to keep its current approach.
"Under DOD's current implementation of the authority, reserve component members can be involuntarily mobilized more than once, but involuntary mobilizations are limited to a cumulative total of 24 months," the report said.
"If DOD's implementation of the partial mobilization authority restricts the cumulative time that reserve component forces can be mobilized, then it is possible that DOD will run out of forces," the report said.
The guard and reserves are crucial to the US war effort because they include specialized units such as military police, intelligence and civil affairs that are in high demand but short supply in the active duty force.
The Pentagon also has turned to guard and reserve to ease the strain on active duty infantry divisions that have had to deploy repeatedly to Iraq.
More than 47,600 members of the guard and reserve were serving in Iraq as of August 1, about a third of the 140,000-member US force there. When those who are deployed in Afghanistan and rear areas are added, the total is in excess of 66,000, according to Pentagon figures.
Since September 11, 2003, more than 335,000 guard and reserves have been involuntarily mobilized for active duty -- 234,000 from the army alone, according to the report.
"The Department of Defense cannot currently meet its global commitments without sizeable participation from its national guard and reserve members," the GAO said in a cover letter to the report.
The GAO said the Pentagon has projected it will continuously have about 100,000 to 150,000 reserve members mobilized over the next three to five years.
The Pentagon considered increasing the pool of available guard and reserve troops by changing its mobilization policy.
"Under such a revised implementation, DOD could have mobilized its reserve component forces for less than 24 consecutive months, sent them home for an unspecified period and then remobilized them, repeating this cycle indefinitely and providing an essentially unlimited flow of forces," the report said.
Piecemeal policy changes already undertaken to increase the pool of available guard and reserve troops have created uncertainties among reservists that could affect retention, recruitment and the long-term viability of the reserves, the report noted.
"There are already indications that some portions of the force are being stressed," it said.
The army national guard, for instance, has failed to meet recruiting goals in 14 of 20 months from October 2002 through May 2004, the report said. It was 7,800 soldiers below its recruiting goal at the end of fiscal 2003.All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.