US running short of reserve troops: report
AFP/September 16, 2004
The United States military may run out of national guard and reserve troops for the war on terrorism because of existing limits on involuntary mobilisations, a congressional watchdog agency warned in a report released overnight (AEST).
Government Accountability Office (GAO) said the US Government has considered changing the policy to make members of the 1.2 million-strong guard and reserve subject to repeated involuntary mobilisation, so long as no single mobilisation exceeds 24 consecutive months.
In commenting on the report, the Department of Defence (DOD) says it plans to keep its current approach.
"Under DOD's current implementation of the authority, reserve component members can be involuntarily mobilised more than once, but involuntary mobilisations are limited to a cumulative total of 24 months," the report said.
"If DOD's implementation of the partial mobilisation authority restricts the cumulative time that reserve component forces can be mobilised, then it is possible that DOD will run out of forces."
The guard and reserve are crucial to the US war effort because they include specialised units such as military police, intelligence and civil affairs that are in high demand but in short supply in the active duty force.
The Pentagon also has turned to the guard and reserve to ease the strain on active duty infantry divisions that have had to deploy repeatedly to Iraq.
More than 47,600 members of the guard and reserve were serving in Iraq as of last month, about a third of the 140,000-member US force currently deployed.
When those deployed in Afghanistan and rear areas are added, the total is in excess of 66,000, according to Pentagon figures.
Since September 11, 2003, more than 335,000 guard and reserves have been involuntarily mobilised for active duty - 234,000 from the army alone.