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New Call Up Of Marines No Longer On Active Duty Issued

File photo: A US Marine in Iraq. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Aug 23, 2006
The Marine Corps announcement that it plans to involuntarily recall at least 1,200 Marines no longer on active duty highlights the growing strain on military personnel after five years of back-to-back combat deployments.

The Marines being called back, part of the Individual Ready Reserve, are not specialists with esoteric skills. They are at least two battalions worth of infantry and artillerymen, military police, intelligence analysts, communication system operators and combat engineers, all of which are within the standard capability of a combat unit.

"The bottom line is there is not enough active manpower (in the Marine Corps) and as the reserve pool dries up, we're now having to search elsewhere," a senior Corps official told UPI Wednesday.

There is a limit on how often regular reserve units can be tapped for deployment, and most have hit that limit, the official said.

"We're straining at the seams to fill all the Military Transition Teams, staff augments to various staffs ... so we're running out of folks," the official said. "We can do it (activate the IRR) year after year, but it's a Band-Aid measure."

The IRR consists primarily of young Marines who, having completed their active duty contracts of four or five years, still have three or four years to go on their eight-year minimum service obligation, which they fulfill by being technically available for activation if they are needed.

They are required to report at least annually to a Marine base but do not drill or draw pay. Some are in the IRR but are not available for activation because of health, family or financial issues. The Marine Corps is not tapping those who have been out of the military for less than a year to prevent IRR Marines from having back-to-back deployments -- one on active duty, the next as a reserve.

The U.S. Army tapped some 5,000 IRR members beginning in 2004 because of difficulty in filling all the slots needed for the Iraq and Afghan wars.

That the Marine Corps and the Army do not have sufficient numbers to handle the combat deployments is not in dispute: the services and Congress have worked out an annual scheme to bolster their numbers to absorb the workloads that come with the war on terrorism. The regular budget pays for the first 173,000 Marines; the cost of additional Marines is covered in the annual "emergency supplemental."

But the supplemental is purposefully limited by Congress and the Pentagon in scope. To prevent the end strength increases from becoming permanent, the supplemental does not pay for things like new barracks to house the additional Marines or pay for extra gear to permanently outfit a larger force.

When the wars are over, or are less demanding of personnel, the services are meant to revert to their standard numbers -- about 175,000 for the Marines and 482,000 for the Army.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld opposes a permanent increase in manpower, largely for budgetary reasons. Every additional 10,000 troops cost about $1 billion a year to feed, house, pay, insure and provide health care. He is also intent on leveraging technology to reduce the number of troops needed, by automating ships, for instance.

The Marine's activation of the IRR, however, may bolster the Marine Corps' argument that it needs a permanent increase to at least 181,000. In fact, if all the slots that need Marines are tallied, the Corps could employ about 190,000, a service official told UPI. Getting to that level is unrealistic, however: Attracting new recruits is manpower intensive and would divert too many of the best non-commissioned officers from combat slots and training toward recruiting, officials said.

"We can probably go up to 181,000 (permanently) and keep the quality," the official said.

Source: United Press International

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Amid national debate about whether or not to stay the course in Iraq, President Bush today firmly placed himself in the "stay" category. It's imperative America continues to support the new Iraqi government in its struggle against an insurgency that seeks to divide and topple it, Bush told White House reporters here.

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