Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

The Obameter

End the "Stop-loss" program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments


Restore the Deployment Policies Under Which the Reserve and Guard Enlisted: America should recommit to the broken promises made to the men and women who serve in the Guard and Reserves. An Obama administration will: • Limit lengthy deployments to one year for every six years • Restore the 24-month limit on cumulative deployment time • End the "Stop-Loss" program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments.


Updates

"Stop-loss" stopped in early 2011

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to take several steps to ease fatigue among military service members, both active and reserve, after years of frequent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of those steps, specifically targeted at Reserve and National Guard members, was to "end the 'stop-loss' program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments."

Ending the stop-loss policy was initially set in motion under President George W. Bush and has been carried out by both Bush and Obama. In March 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the policy would be phased out by early 2011.

And on June 15, 2011, Gates told a Senate subcommittee that stop-loss had indeed ended.

"Nearly four and a half years ago, one of my first acts as Defense Secretary was to increase the permanent end strength of our ground forces -- the Army by 65,000 for a total of 547,000, and the Marine Corps by 27,000 to 202,000,” Gates told the subcommittee. "At the time, the increase was needed to relieve the severe stress on the force from the Iraq war as the surge was getting under way. To support the later (increase) of troops in Afghanistan, I subsequently authorized a temporary further increase in the Army of some 22,000, an increase always planned to end in fiscal year 2013.

"The objective was to reduce stress on the force, limit and eventually end the practice of stop-loss, and to increase troops' home-station dwell (or off-duty) time. This has worked. And I can tell you that those stop-lossed in the Army is now over. There are no Army soldiers  stop-lossed.”

There"s one technical caveat to Gates" testimony. A Pentagon spokesman told CNN in June that approximately 131 service members who had been "stop-lossed" were hospitalized or in rehabilitation from wounds or illnesses incurred while on duty in "a hostile fire" area.

Beyond that, though, stop-loss policy is no longer being used, Pentagon spokeswoman Eileen M. Lainez told PolitiFact.

We rate this a Promise Kept.

Sources:

Robert Gates, testimony before the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, June 15, 2011 (accessed via Nexis)

CNN, "Gates makes good on promise to end controversial 'stop loss' policy," June 15, 2011

E-mail interview with Eileen M. Lainez, Defense Department spokeswoman, Nov. 4, 2011

Gates announces plan to phase out Army's "stop loss" program

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced on March 18 that the Army will phase out the use of the controversial "stop loss" program that requires service members to extend their active duty past the scheduled end of their term of service.

According to a story from the American Forces Press Service, the Army — which is the only branch of the military using the program — has 13,000 soldiers whose active duty was extended through the program so they could deploy with their units.

"Effective this August, the U.S. Army Reserve will no longer mobilize units under stop loss," Gates said in a Pentagon news conference. "The Army National Guard will stop doing so in September, and active Army units will cease employing stop loss in January."

The goal is to nearly eliminate the number of soldiers remaining in the Army under stop loss by March 2011. "We will retain the authority to use stop loss under extraordinary circumstances," Gates said.

"We have the legal authority to do it," Gates said of the program. "But … I felt, particularly in these numbers, that it was breaking faith. It wasn't a violation of the enlistment contract. But I believe that when somebody's end date of service comes up, to hold them against their will, if you will, is just not the right thing to do."

In order to offset losses from eliminating the program, the Army will pay stop-lossed soldiers $500 a month to voluntarily extend their enlistments.

We'll see how this all shakes out over the course of the next year, but Gates' announcement certainly shows the administration's commitment to keeping this promise. And so we move it to In the Works.

Sources:

U.S. Departmment of Defense Web site, "Gates Approves Plan to End Army"s Involuntary Extensions" by Jim Garamone of the American Forces Press Service, March 18, 2009