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.
Two of those steps, specifically targeted at Reserve and National Guard members, were to "end the 'stop-loss' program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments" and to "limit lengthy deployments to one year for every six years."
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, which is when the final units with such troops are slated to come home from Iraq and Afghanistan.
As for the ratio of on-duty to downtime, Obama promised 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.
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."
Other senior military officials have cited the goal as well.
In a June 11, 2009, statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Dennis M. McCarthy, then the nominee for Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, said the "1-to-5" goal was feasible.
"I believe the 1-to-5 dwell-time ratio is achievable and progress is being made toward that goal," McCarthy said in his statement. "We must ensure that continuing efforts to rebalance active and reserve component units in high demand/low supply capabilities are completed."
As Gates indicated, not all services have reached this goal. 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.
In an Oct. 20, 2009, Army news release, Army Secretary John McHugh acknowledged that these goals "will not happen overnight. And like any plan ... it is subject to change and the issues of supply and demand. The plan will be affected by the situation in Iraq and, possibly, Afghanistan. ... If progress in Iraq continues, the command there can draw down forces faster. If President Barack Obama decides to add forces to Afghanistan, this also affects the dwell-time calculus."
But McHugh added that the "operational and personnel tempo of the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly were unacceptable."
In a May 14, 2009, appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gates said of the dwell ratios that "we're not there and probably (are) not going to get there in the short term." But achieving its goals on stop-loss and 1 to 5 is clearly something the administration is working on, so we rate the promise In the Works.