The Army Reserve and Army National Guard must remain an operational force, rather than a strategic "on-the-shelf" force, to maintain readiness and be prepared for future conflicts, senior military and civilian leaders told an audience Oct. 13 at the 2015 AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition.
In a forum titled "Total Force to Win in a Complex World," Lt. Gen. Timothy J. Kadavy, director of the Army National Guard, said the 39 traditional training days associated with the Reserve components – 15 days in the summer, and weekends throughout the year – is the absolute minimum.
"The Army chief of staff, Gen. Milley, has challenged us to take a hard look" at the number of training days to see if changes are needed, Kadavy said.
Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of the Army Reserve, agreed that 39 days a year may not be sufficient. "People tend to think of Reserve component training as a cost, but it’s really an investment in readiness," Talley said, adding that readiness cannot be built up quickly – it must be sustained over time.
The 2012 Department of Defense Force Planning Concept was completed before many new threats became apparent, said Timothy Bonds, vice president, Army Research Division, RAND Arroyo Center. "This leaves the Department of Defense with a ground force that is too small to meet the president’s commitments," he said.
For example, the current force planning concept did not anticipate the Russian annexation of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, or the operations against ISIL in the Middle East. The North Korean artillery threat and WMD program are also much larger than expected, Bonds said. He recommended that the DoD immediately halt the drawdown of both the active Army and the Reserve component.
If other missions arise, the Reserve component will be needed to sustain operations, said Dr. Michael O’Hanlon, Senior Fellow and Director of Research, Foreign Policy Studies Program, Brookings Institution.
A conflict between India and Pakistan or a peace enforcement mission in Syria "could involve tens of thousands of American forces," O’ Hanlon said.
Adding, "We can’t choose to opt out of future ground missions."