According to senior military officials, up to two-thirds of Army active duty and reserve units are not combat-ready.
Army officials emphasize that units currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and other areas are equipped, trained and ready. The problem resides with the units located in the states, who are threatened with equipment shortfalls and a shortage of deployment eligible soldiers.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker and Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, have both testified that the primary reason for their readiness concerns is equipment which has been worn out, damaged or destroyed by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much of this equipment has not been replaced. pointed to equipment worn out or destroyed by the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and never replaced as the source of their component’s readiness problems. An additional problem is equipment left behind when units rotate back to the states.
More significant, however, are involuntary deployment restrictions for members of the Guard and Reserve, according to Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of the Army Reserve.
“But more so, [it’s]personnel,” Stultz said in an interview with the Stars & Stripes.
When President Bush signed the partial mobilization order after 9/11, he imposed a 24-month involuntary mobilization limit for members of the Reserves and National Guard. Under this policy, members of the Reserves and National Guard cannot be involuntarily mobilized for longer than 24 months during a single enlistment period (usually six years).
There is no limit on the number of times a reservist can be involuntarily mobilized, but once the 24-month cumulative limit is reached, the only way to mobilize them again is if they volunteer.
The current Army policy for deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan is 12 months "boots on the ground." This means with the required pre-deployment training, which typically lasts two to three months, a single mobilization for a Reserve or National Guard members can last more than 14 months.
That makes a second involuntary deployment unfeasible, because it is costly (both in monetary terms and unit effectiveness) to send the member home in the middle of a deployment, if he/she reaches their 24-month mobilization limit.
The Army has asked the Bush Administration several times to lift the 24 month restriction, but so far the administration has chosen not to do so. However the problem is becoming more significant as the reserve forces are entering their second cycle of deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq.
More than 159,000 Army Reservists have been mobilized since Sept. 11, 2001. Of those, about 35,000 are now on their second rotations.
“The good news is that we’ve got a lot of heroes that are volunteering to go back for a second time,” Stultz said.
When a unit is notified for deployment, if they do not have enough deployment-eligible, or volunteer soldiers to meet their deployment commitment, soldiers are selected from other non-deploying units to fill the shortfalls.
The Army doesn't have the authority to change the 24 month deployment restriction on their own. The restriction was imposed by an Executive Order, and only the President of the United States can change it.