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Posted by on Jan 5, 2005 in At TMV | 0 comments

General: The Reserve Is Becoming “A Broken Force”

In yet another sign of strain on the military, the Army Reserve’s head has sent a call to arms to the Pentagon warning them that his 20,000 soldiers are becoming "a broken force."

In addition to outlining mobilization and management problems, three star-general Lt. Gen. James R. "Ron" Helmly warns that the Army Reserve is  "in grave danger of being unable to meet" its operational responsibilities if another national emergency takes place.

According to the Washington Post:

In the memo, dated Dec. 20, Lt. Gen. James R. "Ron" Helmly lashed out at what he said were outdated and "dysfunctional" policies on mobilizing and managing the force. He complained that his repeated requests to adjust the policies to current realities have been rebuffed by Pentagon authorities.

The three-star general, who has a reputation for speaking bluntly, said the situation has reached a point at which the Army Reserve is "in grave danger of being unable to meet" its operational requirements if other national emergencies arise. Insistence on restrictive policies, he continued, "threatens to unhinge an already precariously balanced situation in which we are losing as many soldiers through no use as we are through the fear of overuse."

His pointed remarks represent the latest in a chorus of warnings from military officers and civilian defense specialists that the strains of overseas missions are badly fraying the U.S. Army. The distress has appeared most evident in reservist ranks. Both the Army Reserve and the National Guard last month disclosed significant recruiting slumps.

Helmly’s memo was addressed to Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, and was sent up the command chain through the office of Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who oversees the Army Forces Command. It surfaced yesterday in the Baltimore Sun.

The Army’s response to this is that these concerns aren’t new. Perhaps.

But a concern ignored or postponed remains that — a lingering, potentially detrimental, concern.

And at the very least that is what Helmley’s message suggests. And it’s likely to fuel the debate in Congress over not just the impact of the war on the military but how military bigwigs in the Pentagon are managing the impact:

Several lawmakers predicted that the general’s blunt comments would fuel an already charged debate over whether the United States has enough forces in Iraq and enough in the Army generally.

"By consistently underestimating the number of troops necessary for the successful occupation of Iraq, the administration has placed a tremendous burden on the Army Reserve and created this crisis," Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

"The memo presents more questions than answers," said Rep. Victor F. Snyder (D-Ark.), who deals with reservist issues in the House. "I think he’s really making a plea to the Pentagon to change some of their practices or let him do some things he wants to do."