Army Reserve Chief Sees Larger Role in Future For Part-time Soldiers
“Within the Army, the Army Reserve is actually in the best shape,” Army Reserve Chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, told Washington, D.C.-area defense reporters. “We’re sitting pretty good both financially and [regarding] end strength. Our op[erational] tempo is expected to stay the same. We don’t see any big changes coming.”
The active-duty Army is expected to be reduced by 82,000 troops over the next five years, but the Reserve ranks only will be cut by 1,000, Talley said. That will not have a noticeable impact on a Reserve force of 205,000 personnel, he said.
The Reserves are a good deal for taxpayers and for the Defense Department, which could see a decline in funding of $1 trillion over the next decade if automatic budget cuts are allowed to take place in January, Talley said. It consumes a mere 6 percent of the Army’s total budget but provides 20 percent of the overall force. Unlike the National Guard, which Talley called a “miniature version of the Big Army,” the Reserve provides specialists like engineers and doctors.
“Most of the skill sets we have within the Army Reserve come from the civilian sector,” Talley said, adding that civilian employers provide the majority of reservists technical training in their military specialties. “It’s a complimentary force. It’s enablers. There’s not a whole lot the Army can do without the Reserve.”
Moreover, “if you reduce the size of the Reserve, you don’t save any money,” he added.
About 25,000 Reserve troops are on active duty globally. That level of deployment will likely continue for the foreseeable future, Talley said. As the Army has begun its drawdown, leaders have focused on preserving Brigade Combat Teams and maneuver units to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the technical and support personnel have been pushed into the Reserve, Talley said.
“We don’t see any decrease in the demand signal for the Army Reserve,” because of that trend, he said.
In fact, the demand for Reserve specialists could grow after the Afghanistan war is over and the U.S. military shifts its focus elsewhere in the world, Talley said. Partly because missions are expected to shift from combat operations to international support and partnerships and partly out of a need to preserve lessons learned over a decade of war, the Reserve should remain active, Talley said.
He sees a larger role for reservists in Africa, South America and in the Asia-Pacific region. “Enablers” like logisticians, engineers and construction support units are suited to the sorts of “shaping” missions needed in developing countries in Africa and the Pacific, he said.
While Big Army leaders scramble to carve out a role in the Defense Departments “pivot to the Pacific,” Talley said the Reserve is already heavily engaged in that region. About 3,500 reservists are continually deployed to the region. That number could go up, but Talley does not expect a major realignment.
In order to capitalize on the proficiency reservists have gained during 10 years of activation and high operational tempo, Talley said the Army should lean on Reserve units whenever they become available. The force is funded for 39 days of annual training per soldier. Talley said that level of military training won’t allow troops to retain the learning they’ve gained during wartime. That will require an expansion of training exercises that incorporate active, Reserve and National Guard units, he said.
Photo Credit: Army
Topics: Defense Department