Top General Says Army Could 'Break' - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Washington, D.C. - 12/15/06

Top General Says Army Could 'Break'

The Army's top general said the Army "will break" under the strains of Iraq unless it gets more manpower. Gen. Peter Schoomaker told planners that the size of the regular Army should be increased, and that the Army should have the power to tap into the National Guard and Reserves more frequently than is currently allowed.

Appearing before a Guard and Reserve Advisory Panel today, Schoomaker said the Army was at a "critical point in generating Army forces for this long war." Next spring, the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves is expected to recommend policy and budget changes for reserve units.

Afterward, Schoomaker told reporters a request for a temporary troop surge into Iraq could be met, but he doesn't want a surge "without a purpose." Those comments put Schoomaker in the ranks of those who don't see the advantage of adding troops in Iraq.

According to Schoomaker, one solution is to change Department of Defense policy that requires the reserve forces to get five years off in between deployments. Cutting into that time would make more units available for future rotations in Iraq.

An Army official said Schoomaker's proposal would essentially make a reservist eligible for an unlimited number of call-ups but stipulate that no single mobilization would last more than 24 consecutive months.

Schoomaker believes the 24-month rule is too restrictive because it limits the total number of months that can be mobilized.

Schoomaker wants Guard and Reserve units to be called up together as units and not be restricted by the varying 24-month "deployment clock" of each soldier in that unit. Because every reservist has a separate deployment clock, the Army has to cobble together reservists from different units to deploy a single unit at 100 percent.

The secretary of defense would have to sign off on the 24-month reinterpretation. Revising time off between deployments would be up to the National Guard and Army Reserves.

Schoomaker told reporters that he wants to further boost the size of the Army beyond 512,000, but he wouldn't provide a range. He did say that in the past, recruiters have been able to add, 6,000 to 7,000 recruits a year.

Schoomaker also told the panel that he's amenable to a Guard proposal that mobilizations for Guardsmen last one year. Currently, Guardsmen are usually mobilized for a minimum of 18 months -- yearlong deployments plus training time for combat.

The Guard said keeping the mobilizations to a year and maintaining the five years off could generate at least 60,000 troops a year that could be available for an Iraq deployment.

Of the 330,000 soldiers in the National Guard, 185,000 aren't available for another five years because they've already been mobilized.

Another proposal favored by Schoomaker is to have the Defense Department reinterpret a law that said reserves could be mobilized for periods of 24 months. Right now, the Pentagon takes that to mean 24 cumulative months that can be spread out over multiple deployments.

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