"Broken force," cont.

By Geraldine Sealey

Published January 25, 2005 12:43PM (EST)

Recently, we told you about Lt. Gen. James R. "Ron" Helmly, chief of the Army Reserve, who warned senior Army officials that his command "is rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force," thanks to Pentagon policies that over-commit the reserves and fail to attract enough new recruits. Today, a Washington Post front page story shows that things could get much worse for the reserves before they get better.

"The U.S. Army expects to keep its troop strength in Iraq at the current level of about 120,000 for at least two more years, according to the Army's top operations officer," the Post reports. To maintain the current commitment for that long, the military leadership is "looking for ways to dip even deeper into reserve forces -- even as leaders of the reserves have warned that the Pentagon could be running out of such units."

Later in the story, you get more details on how overtaxed the reserves are -- and how the Pentagon can even think about tapping further into a command that is, by its own chief's admission, rapidly deteriorating. The proposal: By cutting training time and considering extending reservists' total active duty tours.

"As the Army reaches farther down in the reserve force, Lovelace said, the amount of 'pre-mobilization' time necessary to get the troops ready to send to Iraq is likely to increase. 'We're not going to send anybody into combat who is not trained and ready,' the three-star general said. But he noted that already in each rotation, the amount of pre-mobilization time required has increased."

"To continue to be able to draw on the better trained reservists, Army officials have said they are considering petitioning Rumsfeld to extend the 24-month limit on the total time a reservist could be called to active duty."

Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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