Rumsfeld Plan Will Cripple the Reserve Component
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    Cool Rumsfeld Plan Will Cripple the Reserve Component


    Rumsfeld Plan Will Cripple the Reserve Component

    By Paul Connors

    Angered by what he believes is an “over-reliance” on the reserve components for critical military specialties essential for the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has ordered senior service chiefs to submit, by the end of July, plans to create a new “balance” in U.S. military forces.

    Translation: Rumsfeld wants to drastically alter – if not destroy altogether – the “Total Force” concept that has defined the U.S. military force structure for more than 30 years. Unveiled by then-Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird in the waning years of the Vietnam War, Total Force placed many “high value” critical military specialties in the National Guard and Reserves both to save operating costs and to better integrate the active and reserve components .

    From recent statements and interviews, Rumsfeld obviously believes that far too much of America's key military capabilities reside in the reserve components. His order for a short-fuse “review” of the current force mix appears to be nothing but a prelude to a fait accompli – stripping them out of the reserve component and returning them to the active-duty force.

    Although Rumsfeld’s plan appears on surface to address the need for reducing the severe strains on the reserve component since 9/11, in the long run it will actually destroy both morale and combat capabilities, as I will explain.

    In a July 9 memo to the secretaries of the military departments, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the under secretaries of Defense, Rumsfeld issued his marching orders for military transformation as they relate to the active/reserve component mix. The U.S. military, it begins, “needs to promote judicious and prudent use of the Reserve components with force rebalancing initiatives that reduce strain through the efficient application of manpower and technological solutions based on disciplined force requirement process.”

    Rumsfeld added that he seeks to achieve three primary objectives. First, the restructuring of active and reserve forces will reduce the need for involuntary mobilization of the Guard and reserve except in truly extraordinary emergencies. Second, the new design should eliminate the need for an involuntary mobilization during the first 15 days of a rapid response operation. Finally U.S. military forces should be restructured to limit involuntary reserve or Guard unit mobilization to not more than once in every six years.

    The secretary also charged his service planners with “establishing more comprehensive and rigorous processes for reviewing joint requirements, thereby ensuring that total force structure is designed appropriately and which validates requests for forces in time to provide timely notice of mobilization.”

    He required that the mobilization and demobilization processes be made more efficient. Reserve component members should be retained on active duty only as long as absolutely necessary.

    Rumsfeld concluded that he considers the matter to be of the utmost urgency, and gave his subordinates and the senior military leaders just three weeks to come up with plans that, if carried out, would be one of the most radical reorganizations in U.S. military history of the relationships between the active and reserve components.

    What is particularly ominous about Rumsfeld’s order is that it appears to ignore soliciting any input on the proposed changes from those most directly affected – the chief of the National Guard Bureau or the senior leadership of the reserve components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard.

    The other critical area that Rumsfeld’s plan would upend is literally, the relationship between the U.S. military and the American people, manifested in the “citizen soldiers” of the Guard and reserves who constitute a vital link between the two communities.

    Recall, the Vietnam War was waged by a predominantly draftee Army, and President Lyndon Johnson deliberately declined to activate the Guard and reserves for that conflict as a ploy to minimize public attention to the fighting. In the aftermath of the war, senior military officers, working in concert with the Nixon and Ford administrations, concluded that the best way to prevent another quagmire such as Vietnam was to require the American people themselves to invest heavily in the decision-making process – through the need for mobilized Guard and reserve units as an integral part of any future U.S. military action.

    Subsequent administrations reaffirmed support of the Total Force and the Congress has long viewed it as the easiest way to prevent overseas adventurism.

    Not only does Rumsfeld want to completely reverse three decades of national security policy that has served the nation well, but he also wants to pay for the shift of units and capabilities to the active force on the backs of the reserve components.

    If Rumsfeld gets his way, most combat mission areas will become the purview of the regular components. For example, fighter aircraft now assigned to Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units will return to the active Air Force. The reserve components will assume responsibilities for hauling freight and aerial refueling mission.

    And Rumsfeld will seriously weaken the reserve component’s overall effectiveness. The plan would ensure that no Guard or reserve units would be subject to (or available for) early mobilization during the first 15 days of an expedition or emergency. His plans for the Army and Air National Guard organizations include converting them to service support, disaster relief and homeland defense duties that would remove them from their time-honored traditional role as the first line of combat reserves available to augment regular troops in time of war.

    That is not a move to redress the strains of overdeployment – it is a strategy for sidelining the reserve component from national defense.

    While these ideas may look good on paper, they ignore the possibility that in the future, the United States might again face a capable, large-scale enemy threat – one where the nation would of necessity, require a rapid mobilization of organized reserve units with fully trained individuals ready to go when called. (China, with its own major military modernization well underway, comes immediately to mind.)

    The corporate executive mindset that Rumsfeld brought to the Defense Department continues to define his leadership. He proposes to go further than even the Clinton administration did in destroying once-viable combat capabilities available around the nation in local Guard and reserve units. His demand for continued efficiencies and cost savings will, one day come home to roost, when the United States no longer has an available military force in reserve.

    For a senior administration official known for his toughness and independence, one wonders why Rumsfeld refuses to craft the option that most military observers know is necessary: In a world of terrorism and rapidly-morphing threats, the United States needs both quality and quantity in its military. We need a larger military equipped with superior weapons, and we need a highly-trained reserve component capable of rapid mobilization to fight alongside their active-duty comrades.

    Paul Connors is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at © 2003 Paul Connors



  2. #2

    Some will misused the "National Guard and Air National Guard".
    If we were ever to go to a draft again.
    That why the concept now is used was put in place.
    I say again;

    Semper Fidelis

  3. #3
    Marine Free Member GunsUp's Avatar
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    Jun 2002
    Igloo on an ice flow in the Bering Sea
    I'm with you there on it being a big mistake. What will most likely happen is that the people in those critical MOSs with leave the service and never look back, whether it be reserve or guard. Also, they would lose a lot in the recruiting field for the reserves if those MOSs were strictly for active duty folks. With the burden Rumsfeld is proposing, such as an indeterminate time of activation for reservists and guardsmen, a lot of quality techies and support personnel would be lost to the civilian world and most employers would no longer support their employees that serve in those organizations.

    My two cents...

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