During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to take several steps to ease fatigue among service members, both active and reserve, after years of frequent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One of those steps was to "establish regularity in deployments: so that active duty and Reserves know what they must expect, rather than the current trend of changing the deployment schedules after they have left home, which harms the morale of troops and their families."
This promise is being addressed by the steps we analyzed in Promise 142. In this item, we will recap those actions, which were begun under President George W. Bush and carried out by Bush and Obama.
One step is to "end the 'stop-loss' program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments."
Ending the stop-loss policy has already been set in motion. In March 2009, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the policy would be phased out by early 2011, which is the date when the final unit with such troops is slated to come home from Iraq and Afganistan.
Another step is to "limit lengthy deployments to one year for every six years."
Obama promised reservists and National Guard members what is known as "1 to 5" -- reservists would be on duty for one year for every five years of "dwell," or nonservice, time. On several occasions, senior administration members have reiterated "1 to 5" as an official policy goal. For active-duty troops, the goal in the medium term is to return to two years at home for every one year deployed.
In remarks at a National Guard leadership conference in Maryland on Nov. 19, 2009, Gates cited a temporary increase of the active-duty Army by 22,000 as something that will help reduce the need for commanders to rely on reservists and National Guard members.
"I know that predictability is extremely important to the members of the reserve component, who balance and coordinate the timing of their service with full-time jobs," Gates said. "The Air National Guard has used long-range scheduling for predictability and individual volunteerism for flexibility to reach a nearly 1-to-5 ratio in terms of dwell, with the Army National Guard close behind, approaching 1-to-4."
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 14, 2009, Gates acknowledged that "we're not there and probably not going to get there in the short term. But I would say late this year or early next, we'll begin to see an increase, perhaps to 15 months at home, a year deployed" for active-duty troops.
A key challenge will be to reach the goal in an environment that may require the deployment of additional troops, depending on the military challenges on the ground. But Army Secretary John McHugh has said that the "operational and personnel tempo of the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly were unacceptable."
Achieving its goals on stop-loss and 1 to 5 is clearly something the administration is working on, and moving toward both goals would "establish regularity in deployments," as Promise 141 states. So we rate the promise In the Works.