Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel Holds Hearing on FY2004 Defense Authorization for National Guard and Reserves
Good afternoon. The subcommittee will come to order.
The subcommittee meets today to receive testimony on the military and civilian personnel programs of the National Guard and Reserve in review of the defense authorization request for fiscal 2004.
And I will tell you that, as all of you know, we've just come off a vote and my colleagues are going to be joining us here from time to time and we're going to proceed without Senator Nelson being here, but we may get interrupted. When he comes, your testimony may get interrupted if he wants to make a statement at time, or we'll allow him to make it whenever.
Our subcommittee hearing last week provided important insights into the legislative agenda and priorities of the Department of Defense. The DOD and military coalition witnesses gave us a broad overview of active duty and Reserve component, military and civilian personnel programs and offered various suggestions for legislation.
Secretary Hall, you were present with undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Dr. David Chu, at that hearing. And he provided very helpful testimony. Thank you for returning today to assist the subcommittee on focusing more directly on issues affecting the National Guard and Reserve.
It is well understood that this nation's reliance on the Guard and Reserve to ensure successful achievement of our national security mission has never been greater. The Reserve components comprise 1.2 million service members, approximately 47 percent of the nation's total military force. While they are integrated into the total military force, these service members are citizen soldiers who play a dual role as both professional military personnel and responsible citizen in their communities.
And I will say that I am extremely proud of the fact that the 116th Air Control Wing, based at Robbins Air Force base in my former congressional district and in my state, is a program and a unit of which I am personally proud. The blended unitthe integrated unit between the Guard and the active force is working extremely well. And theyit was a very seamless integration and accepted by both sides for exactly what it is and that is to provide a greater benefit for the men and women of every branch of our armed forces who need the services of the Joint Stars program.
More than 90,000 reservists have supported Operation Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom, alone. They continue to be involved in many ongoing contingency operations worldwide and represent critical elements in our homeland defense efforts. In fact, the contribution of the Reserve has increased dramatically since the mid-1980s, from approximately one million man days of mission support to nearly 13 million man days, in recent years.
Several key issues are associated with activation of increasing numbers of reservists. These include potential earning reduction, family support issues and access to health care.
I would like to commend the Department of Defense for rapid implementation of policy changes for Reserve members and their families that simplify access to health care through the TRICARE program. Our hearing today will enable us to further examine departmental policy regarding the mobilization of reservists and the nature of duties they are performing. Additionally, it will allow us to focus on the unique problems being experienced by Reserve component soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines and their families as they answered, once again, the nation's call to action.
I anticipate we will learn a lotwe will learn more about the support being provided to Guard and Reserve personnel by their service and by their employers.
I want to emphasize again today our country has the best military force in the world. And that force includes members who, in addition to their regular careers and family obligations, have agreed when called upon to set their lives aside and serve their country. The numbers of mobilized Reservists, Guardsmen is staggering. From my state of Georgia, the 221st Military Intelligence Battalion from Atlanta, the 94th Airlift Wing from Dobbins and the 4th Supply Battalion from Albany are just a representative few of the many components that having called upon to support this contingency. We truly appreciate the services of the men and women.
It is our obligation and responsibility to ensure that the transition to and from military service is as least disruptive as possible. We must provide the support and quality of life programs that show our Guard and Reserve members that we will take care of them and their families.
I look forward to hearing the testimony today.
We have three panels before thebefore us this afternoon. First we will hear from Mr. Tom Hall, assistant secretary for Reserve affairs, and Mr. Bob Hollingsworth, executive director of National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.
Mr. Hall, we welcome you back this afternoon. And let me assure you that your presence before the subcommittee is not going to be required every week. We will give you a break every now and then.
But we also welcome you, Mr. Hollingsworth.
And weour second panel will be the chiefs of the Guard. And our third panel is the Reserve components.
As I said, if Senator Nelson comes in during the middle of your testimony, we will interrupt or wait, depending on what he desires to do.
So, gentlemen, thank you for being here today and since this hearing is getting started a little late, we would appreciate you keeping your remarks brief as possible. But we look forward to hearing from you.
Has a Navy man ever been that short?
That's pretty good, Secretary.
Well, thank you very much. And, again, we appreciate both of you being here.
And, Senator Nelson, we went ahead and started since we were running behind anyway.
But I would like, at this time, to call on my good friend and my colleague, Senator Ben Nelson, from Nebraska whowith whom we have already been working very closely to make sure that we do what's necessary, from a Personnel Subcommittee standpoint, see that our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are looked after.
And, Ben, any comments you'd like to of the make at this time?
Secretary Hall, you have indicated in your statement filed with the committee that the department is studying pay and compensation for Reservists. But I would like to get your thoughts today on the importance of the Selective Reserve Montgomery GI Bill and the need for improvements in that rate of payment.
How important do you think the Selective Reserve Montgomery GI Bill benefit is in recruiting individuals for service in the Reserve? And do youdo you agree that the current rate of payment needs to be increased?
Well, the Montgomery GI Bill has always been one of our most important tools. We owe a lot to Mr. ReserveSenator Montgomery, as we call him, who introduced this. Throughout the time it's been in effect, it's been an important recruiting and retention tool. The department has always supported modifications to this bill. We applauded the extension of the eligibility period that happened last year from 10 to 14 years.
The Reserve portion of the bill, as you know, is different from the active duty. And it's been tied to a slightly different indexthe consumer price index. Thus, as we proceeded through the economy, there was a gap which has developed. And a couple of years ago it was about 47 percent of the active dutythe Reserve bill. That has reduced to about 30 percent now because of the CPItying it to that.
And Senator Collins has introduced or is going to introduce a bill which might move that percentage back to 50 percent. We agree that we need to take a look at that percentage and that gap and we are committed, in the department, to examining it because we think this bill is one of our finest pieces of legislation throughout the years to support the Guard and Reserve. So we are committed to looking at itseeing if the gap is right and working with you, if it's not, to make it right.
Mr. Hollingsworth, in your written statement, you describe the efforts of the military member support and Ombudsmen's Services Directorate and the informal mediation service that it provides. I know that the volume of calls you receivedover 500 calls a week since January of 2003 -- what are the problems between employers and Reservist employees that typically lead to requests for informal mediation? And how are we doing generally with that particular aspect of this bill?
Sir, I've got good news to report. As this thing has unfolded, the closer we get to the war effort here, the more positive the calls have become. In the last week or so, they have become, "What can we do to help?"
And that's athat's a great news from what our employers think of our Guard and Reserve out there today and just the incredible job that they're doing out there.
But just to kind of give you a synopsis of what happens on a day- to-day basis as we get calls that do create come controversy out there, most of them are simple misunderstandings of the law, either on one side or the other. And our job is to mediate those. And we've got 4,200 incredible volunteers, you know, throughout the country and in Europe that do our mediation for us. You know, we run them through our Ombudsmen course. A lot of them have some really good personal attorney training. But beyond that, these guys are really dedicated Americans that care about the young men and young women and they care about the fact that the employers tremendously support our Guard and Reserve.
And as we go through the process, when they call our office, we refer these young men and young women to theor their employers, back to the states so it can be handled on a local level, because that's where we want to develop those personal relationships between our ESGR membership and the employers that support our Guard and Reserve.
So then as they resolve the issueswhich in over 95 percent of the cases, they dothen they can resolve it at the local level. If there is something that becomes so nontenable that there istherethat there is a situation where nothing can be resolved by mediation, then we take that, send it to the Department of Labor and let those folks do the litigation part of that.
But we're happy to report that those cases are such a small percentage and the wonderful employers supporting the Guard and Reserve guys (ph) out there are doing an incredible job of mediating these situations.
Secretary Hall, in your written testimony, you discuss the ongoing examination within DOD of the Reserve component to better organize and equip it to contribute to the national defense. You've had an extensive background with the Naval Reserve and I would like to know your views on the Navy's request to reduce the selective Reserve end strength by 1,900, as well as your views on necessary organizational changes.
What do you think is the justification for the 1,900 reduction? What are your personal views about changes needed in the organization and manning of the Naval Reserve to better augment the active force, achieve the correct skills balance and best contribute to missions assigned to the Navy?
Well, as you know, I commanded the Naval Reserve for four yearsfrom '92 to '96 -- and during that time, participated in ain a downsizing from about 132,000 to 96,000 when I left. It'snow rests at 86,000. I have spoken with the CNO, Admiral Clark, about his views. And what I can tell you is that his commitment and I think the Navy's commitment is to ensure that the Naval Reserve is structured correctly, is fully integrated on the active side and meets the mission demands of the Navy. And in some cases, that willthat will involve change. It will be different than when I commanded it, six years ago.
I think the ideas that have been proposed that I know about, which the Navy could speak to better than me, involve better integration of the selected Reservists within unitssome cases blended units, very much like the Air Force has had and very successfully, where you blend the units together, flying the same kind of equipment with the same training standards.
And I believe it is a commitment on the part of the Navy that that particular end strength that they have asked for best supports both the active and Reserve side, better integrates the Reserve to meet the mission and commitment to the Navy.
Does it have anything to do with the lesser number of ships that we're floating in the Navy now?
You would, I think, have to ask Admiral Clark that, but not in my view. What it is is a attempt, I think, to better use and better integrate the Guard and Reserve, but nothing that I know of to do with less ships.
Mr. Hollingsworth, I'm sure you'll agree that it's troubling that some Reservists who are college and are mobilized may be losing credits and tuition. This has been a constant problem that we've had to face. I'm glad to see that some states have taken action to prevent abuse, but more action may be necessary.
Please share with us your view of the extent of this problem. And how responsive have colleges and universities been to requests for relief for students? What's the Committee on Employer Support to the Guard and Reserve doing to address this problem?
Yes, sir. I will not deny that there is a problem with that, but I would be happy to report, sir, that it's not as serious as we think because we don't get all of those calls on that because, you know, the people think of us as employer support.
But we try to get the word out to the young men and young women that if you do have a problem in that area, we are going to take that on for you because as we did our strategic planning last year, we looked at where we were as an organization and how we were supposed to support all of those people out there. And we found that about one- third of these young men and young women are involved in some type of higher educational process.
We had no programs to support that, so we really jumped ourselves into high gear to really start looking at that.
And, Senator Nelson, you'd be happy to know that one of the things I'm trying to do is develop these personal relationships with the college and university president. I've spoke to the University of Nebraska president there in Lincoln. And he has really been supportive.
And what we're trying to do, sir, is beyond just not getting the folks back theretheir tuition and their room and board and the other things that apply thereone of the most valuable things we have, as human beings, is our time. And if you take a young man or young woman that spends a certain amount of the semester in college trying to earn college credits and suddenly pull him away from there, he's lost that time. Well we can give the money back, but, you know, that doesn't solve the whole problem.
We think that we should go farther than that and we havewe have the capability from an information technology perspective that we can continue their education through distance learning. And those are the things we're approaching.
And we've got a model program that's been established that we're going to develop more fully and take it to all the states and all the universities. And so far, anyone that I have talked to at the college president level are extremely supportive of this.
And, now, you know, but the devil is always in the details. And the people that will really make this work or not work are the professors, you know, because they are the ones that were going to have to do the extra work to develop the curriculum that goes into an IT perspective so we can kind of push this out.
Now, this won't work in all of the cases because, you know, if you're taking a chemistry lab, of course, you can't do that with IT. But certainly if a young man or young woman is taking some of the humanities courses, economics, English, geographythese things lend themselves very well to the continuation of their education while they're on active duty.
Now, not all of the peoplebecause some of them are in, you know, pretty severe combat conditionscan take advantage of that. But if it's someone that's doing things in the Sinaiif they're in Kosovo, you know, they have access to these things and they canthey can continue their education.
And that's where we are pursing from the Employers for the Guard and Reserve perspective. You know we want to be proactive. We don't want to wait until there's problems that come along and have to deal with problems. We want to take care of these before they become an issue with thewith the student and with the colleges and universities.
So I can rest assuredyou can rest assured, sir, that we arewe are going to attack this problem. We're not going to just sit by and wait for something to developthat we're going to be really out on the front of this thing. And it needs to be done because these folks need that kind of protection.
Mr. Chairman, I might say there is another element to attack this problem and it's called the Serviceman's Opportunity College. I don't know whether you have heard about that, but it's a consortium of about 1,350 peoplecolleges that have signed up throughout the country. And the Serviceman's Opportunity Collegeit's a strange name for itprobably ought to be named something different, but it's a group of 1,350 colleges and representatives that have signed up to be willing to arbitrate any of the problems with tuition.
And we have used that. We used it in the Gulf Warin the post-Gulf War and we're using it now. And we refer cases to them. And we've been very effect locally because they see the professor, they talk to the college. And about 90 percent plus have been arbitrated in favor of the students, in fact, near 100 percent. And we're using that mechanism and it's a consortium ofhave signed up -- 1,350, which blankets the country.
Secretary Hall, the youth ChalleNGe program in my state is one of the most important programs I think has ever been implemented. And I commend the National Guard on a regular basis for putting that program in place.
And I've spoken to one of the graduation classes. And my favorite story about them is the day that I happened to be there on a Friday afternoon when they were allowing the kids to go home. A gentleman came up to me after I spoke to the whole group with parents in attention who were waiting on their kids to take them home for the weekenda gentleman in overalls came up to me with tears in his eyes. And he said, "Congressman," he said, "I just want you to know were it not for this program, my son would be dead." And boy, you talk about something getting to youthat was about as powerful as it gets. And he meant it and I knew he meant it. And that's how important that program is.
Secretary Hall, active duty physicians, nurses and other health care providers receive significant compensation through series of special medical pays. Many of these special pays require a service commitment, therefore, Guard and Reserve health care professionals are not eligible for these pays. I understand that one of the categories of reservists with the greatest income loss when activated are the health care professionals.
Is the department considering any type of medical special pay authorities to address the significant gap between active and Reserve health care providers?
We are going to be examining that question in thein the pay and compensation study that the department is undertaking. We hope to complete that by August. And weit's going to be a very broad look.
And one of the things that we have to examine in recruiting, retention and use of our medical professionals, where we have many shortages, or to factorare bonuses or incentive pay and others appropriate? And we're going to look at that also, vis-a-vis from the Reserve to the active. And that will be examined in that overall pay and compensation study for Guard and Reserve. Hope to complete that by August and report the results to you and others.
Medical and dental readiness is the key to having deployable personnel. And a significant problem arose during the Gulf War when active service members were not dental ready. This cause delays in the service members' deployment until dental issues were resolvedcostly alternatives for DOD to provide the appropriate dental response and often dramatic measures to correct problems that, under other circumstances, could have been handled with less severe treatment.
Mr. Secretary, based on the experience gained during the Gulf War, what steps have been taken to ensure that dental readiness is not a problem this time? And what steps still remain to be resolved?
You hit upon itdental readiness is much bigger than thejust the medical end, although it's all medical. And based upon the Gulf War, a lot of attention has been given to the issue, but it still probably remains the number one.
And one of the issues that we have looked at is when are the Guardsmen and Reservists available to get dental care? And one of the initiatives is to provide a low-cost dental insurance for our Guardsmen and Reservists. It's a self-pay, but I think it'sif we're not right, we'll get back to you -- $8.35 a month. And through this dental plan, it affords them the opportunity to buy that insurance to get themselves dentally ready.
Now that's only a portion of it. The second is how can we work on those young men and women during timescan it only be when they're on active duty? And we're examining the rules about being able toas I've often saidnot to make light of itdrill them while they're on drill? So when they're drilling, can we provide our dentists to work on them? Andbecause that would be very helpful.
So we're examining a number of those alternatives, all with the goal of recognizing it's our, probably, number one problem in seeing how we are better in this mobilization than we were. But I don't think the better is quite good enough. And those initiatives we'll look at to continue attacking the problem.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
And to both of your sergeant majors, thank you all very much for being here and for the great work you all do for our country. We know that just like with the active force, you're the heart and soul of the Guard and Reserve and we thank you for your service to our country.
And, gentlemen, I'll have to tell you, I was in Bosnia a couple of years ago when the Georgia National Guard was over there doing their tour of duty. And I have been to Guantanamo several times and we have several Guard units on active duty down there from all over the country. And, obviously, I was particularly interested in what was happening with our Georgia folks. And morale has always been high. They do a great job. They are there to do a job which they know they hired on to do. And you're doing a great job in preparing those young men and women to serve their country when they are called on.
General Schultz, as you know, Congress has taken the initiative in the last three years to provide funding and authorization for additional full-time support personnel, both officer and enlisted, in the Army National Guard and Reserve units. Consistent with an agreed- on plan within the Army, this additional manpower is intended to improve the readiness of National Guard and Reserve units. How are these additional full-time support personnel being used? How do they contribute to unit readiness?
Mr. Chairman, the voucher that I signed instructing the adjutant general on how to distribute these now new soldiers authorized basically says thisthe priority for assigning these soldiers are to deploying units. So I'm coaching an adjutant general to put the soldiers in the right places. I'm following the intent of what I believe the Congress has stated to me and that is put the soldiers in the field, and our instructions in the manpower vouchers I send to states says just exactly that.
General James, back in January, I guess it was, of 2001 -- February maybewe had an order that came from the Pentagon to move the B-1s out of the 116th wing at Robins. You heard my comments, I hope, earlier about the integration of the Guard and the active force on JSTARS. And from what I see on the ground, that is working extremely well.
Would you give me the Guard perspective on how you think that particular integration is working?
Well, certainly I agree that it is working very well, especially since it is a landmark initiative. This is the first time that the Air National Guard and the active component have combined in what we call the blended unit, as you described it earlier. And it has been successful.
We have had to coordinate anothera number of different issues because it is a first time, but, in fact, I find the morale was very high when I visited. I had a town hall meeting with them. both the active and the Guard folks are getting used to working together. They have had different working routines before, the Guard, of course, being predominantly a traditional part-time force. But the active part of the Guard's force and the active component are working very well to solve any challenges that come up.
There is one issue that remains on the table and I think you are familiar with that and that is the ability of a Guard commander, placed in command of an active duty airmen, to be able to give lawful orders and hold accountable, under the UCMJif he goes on Title 10, he can do that, but once he goes into the Title 10 status, then he loses his ability to do the same thing under the Title 32 status, which is many of his Guardsairmen are operating under. So that still needs to be addressed and it will take some change in the lawin the statute.
However, the other issues that we look at on the daily basisthe funding, who the airplanes will belong to, contracted logistical maintenance and all those issues we are working with and we solve them just one at a time, as they come up.
It is a success story and the secretary, I will tell you, is fully committed to that continuing to be successful and maybe be a blueprint for the future for some of the other organizations we are going to have to look at combining in the future.
Yes. I think without question it will be and we are working that issue on making sure that command and control is properlythe power for command and control is there.
General Rees, successful recruiting for your service I know is a key responsibility. And, as you well know, it's a mission you can't be complacent about. With a downsized active duty force, stop loss and a demanding operations tempo, this challenge is only getting harder for you all, as well as for the active force, I know.
What are your biggest concerns about your ability to successfully recruit qualified personnel? And, if you will, tell us some of your plans for advertising that you have.
There you go. And we're proud to have it at Robins, too.
Admiral Totushek, I appreciated the profiles of the individual Naval Reserve sailors that you set forth in your written statement and endorse your description of them as true heroes, because you're absolutely right. I couldn't agree with you more that the ordinary people in the Guard and Reserve certainly do extraordinary things, day in and day out.
I asked Secretary Hall this question about the justification for the proposed reduction of 1,900 sailors in the Navy's selected Reserve personnel for FY 2004. And I'd like your response to that same question. And what concerns, if any, do you have about this reduction?
Well, Senator, I am a little bit concerned that it might be the beginning of a trend that I wouldI would not like to see continue. Basically what happened, as we were doing the prime (ph) '04 deliberations, Navy had started to work with the Marine Corps on Navy-Marine Corps aviation integration. The first steps in that were to do away with a couple of Reserve squadronsa Naval Reserve squadron and a Marine Corps Reserve squadron. Part of those reductions are as aas a result of that action. The other parts come from decommissioning of several Reserve platforms that we have done over the last couple of years. There is a LST out in Hawaii that is being decommissioned and, of course, our mine countermeasurethere is a platform down indown in Engleside (ph). So those, all told, left us with a net reduction.
We don't think that is ais a trend, but we certainly are going to work hard to make sure it's not.
I understand that the Navy and Marine Corps are undertaking a TACAIR integration effort to consolidate the Department of the Navy's F-18 squadrons and prepare the way for the Joint Strike Fighter. While I applaud the effort to create greater efficiencies and I know that JSF is going to be a great addition to both the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine Corps, I am concerned about the potential impact to the naval air station in Atlanta, particularly given the unique arrangement we have a Dobbins Air Reserve Base with both Air Force and Naval Reserve personnel and aircraft. The presence of both services allows us to take advantage of common runways, facilities and transportation corridors supporting the base.
What can you tell me about the Department of the Navyabout how the Department of the Navy is approaching the TACAIR integration effort? And what are you in the processwhere are you in the process? And are you taking into account existing efficiencies at installations that have multiple operational missions?
Yes, sir, we are looking at any place we site any of our squadrons to try and make them as joint as possible. All of our Naval Reserve installations are joint Reserve bases. And we have oftentimes all of the Reserve components represented there.
In the case of Robins, the initial reduction was to be one Naval Reserve squadron and one Marine Corps Reserve squadron. We have not yet determined which squadron that will be. We have undertaken a study, at my request, at the end game apollo (ph) four (ph) submission because I didn't feel like we had done the real analytics to get us to theto the right answer of which squadron should go, if at all, because it may beit may turn out, as we get through this process that we're doing with Navy right now, that it would make more sense for us to keep the three Reserve squadrons and do away with the active squadron, for instance.
So those negotiations are ongoing right now. We've brief the vice chief of naval operations within the month. And we'll see where we go from there. But...
What's your timetable for that, do you know?
It'll be done here very quickly because we need to put it in for apollo (ph) -- for a PR' 05 to make sure that we've got the right proposal throughout the FYDP.
General McCarthy, in your written statement you indicate that the Marine Corps Reserve is preparing to create two new security battalions that will provide a dual-use capacity consisting of eight anti-terrorism force protection platoons and augmentation unit for the Marine Corps' chemical biological incident response force.
Please explain how these Marine Corps Reservists will be augmented into these units. And what area will the Marines involved come from? And when will the capability be realized?
Senator Chambliss, the security battalions will be stand-alone Marine Corps Reserve units and the only integrated part of that will be, as you have indicated, the augmentation cell that's a part of one of the security battalions that will go to CEBER (ph). We anticipate that most of those Marines will come from the metropolitan Washington area. They will need to drill and work closely with CEBER (ph), which, as you know is down at Indianhead, Maryland. And so the recruiting drawthe best place for us to draw Marines for that detachment will be, I suspect, in the metropolitan Washington area.
But the rest of the two security battalions will be scattered all over the country. They arethey'll be in about 20 different locations, I think. And they will not be a blended or integrated unit. They'll be stand-alone Marine Corps Reserve units.
This is going to be addressed toI'd like each of you to comment on thismany of our Guard and Reserve members and their families are experiencing extended separation and in some cases hardship due to reduced earnings and other factors. The stresses that are currently at work on many active duty and Reserve personnel are severe.
We've seen some situations of domestic violence and other types of violent activity on the part of some of our personnel as a result of the heavy stress that they've all been under.
What are you doing to ensure that necessary family support services are in place to reach out to all Guard and Reserve family members? And how reliant are you on volunteers to perform these outreach efforts?
Thank you, Senator.
First of all, in the preparation for a mobilization and deployment, we go through an extensive briefing to both families, as well as the members. As some of my fellow chiefs have noted, the current mobilization tempo with regard to very short notice has not provided us the amount of time that we would have desired to conduct those activities. But that includes briefings by members of the Chaplain's Corp, which explains what happens to souse groups or to families upon separation.
We also provide them briefings before the member returns and coaching. I've sat through these myself. The chaplain members coach the family membersexpect changes in your spouse and your father and your mother, et cetera.
We are very reliant on volunteers. Probably 99 percent of our family readiness people who do the workthe heavy lifting, if you will, are volunteers. They are, themselves, family membersloved ones of members of the Army Reserve. We have about a $4 million shortfall that we should be able to make up in staffing support for family readiness.
During Desert Shield, Desert Storm we had virtually no family readiness program in place. It is extensive, it is functioning, it is working. We are concerned about the stresses that you noted. About 4,000 of our people are on a second consecutive year of mobilization. That adds to that challenge.
I don't want to take up the time from my fellow chiefs, but we are addressing the very issues you cited with regard to the stresses and strains of the separation. And we prepare them on the front end through briefings, through coaching, through pamphlets. And we prepare them on the back end before the member returns home.
We didn't do a very good job of this in Desert Storm one. And we learned a lot from that. So whenafter 9/11 and it was evident that we were going to start mobilizing a lot of people, we put a lot of time and effort into establishing groups to make sure that we had the support systems in place.
A couple things I'll highlight. First of all, we do use a lot of volunteers. All of our ombudsmenand they probably should be called ombudsperson because we do have men doing it now, as well, are volunteers. They are at the unit level. They are the people that have the information or can get the information so that the family member has a point of contact at every one of our Reserve centers.
We also have followed in on the Navy system to use a Web-enable product called Family Lines that allows our people to go online and find out the question to virtually anything that they would need to know, including if you want to talk to somebody, here are some counseling lines so that you can call and get 24 hours a day support.
So I think the systems have been bolstered very, very well. I'm very proud of the effort we have taken to make sure that our folks aren't left hanging out there, especially out in the middle of the country where there isn't a base around to get that kind of support.
Senator, I'm in exactly the same situation. We are all responding to what we learned 10 -- 12 years ago. I think we responded very well. We built a key volunteer network in each unit. We require each unit to have a key volunteer network and a trained key volunteer coordinator.
We have just, in the last year or so, started to buttress that with another Marine Corps program called LYNX (ph), which is a spouse- to-spouse mentoring program. And we're pushing that out in akind of a ripple effect and have gotten that out fairly well to theto the force. We still have a lot more work to do on that.
We, like everybody else, depend tremendously on volunteerson spouses and mothers and fathersto be these key volunteers. And they have responded tremendously.
We also require that each unit have an officer and, upon mobilization, they have an officer who is on active duty to serve as the family readiness officer. And that officer becomes a link between the deployed commander and theand the families back home. And we feel that that's been a pretty effective communications tools.
And then the last thing, we were given the opportunity and jumped at it to participate in a Department of Defense sponsored and paid for effort that is called the One Source. And One Source is a 800 telephone number program like civilian employers employee assistance programs that enable family members to call in and be referred by telephone to professional around the country.
We're just getting started with that. But wethe preliminary indications are very good and I think that's going to be a huge plus for us.
So the proof, as you say, will be in the pudding when wewhen we have been in it a while longer and when people start coming back. But in terms of doing some things proactively, I'm pleased with where we are.
Senator, like the others, we didn't do very well during Storm. Since that time, we added in a bunch of full-time folks and part-time people that we can call up.
Last year we called up 29 family support people and brought them to duty, along with our full-time people, to manage some of these issues.
When the Fort Bragg incident started happening, we sent our medical folks down there to participate in some of the panels to learn what we couldwhat was the root cause of those problems. And we decided to team up with the medical, the family support and the chaplain folks to be there when the people started coming home after the major part of Afghanistan was over to try to see if we could short circuit some of those issues that might pop up.
Don't know if it's been successful, but we haven't had any major things pop up in the Air Force Reserve since that time.
We've got critical care or critical incident intervention team that we've put out there for major things that may happen with a unit. If we have a major loss of life or something overseas and try to get back to the local unit with experts that will come in from the headquarters or from other units to try to short circuit some of the things that might pop up in that regard.
Thanks very much.
And we've just had another vote call, so we are going to call this hearing to a conclusion. And I appreciate the testimony of all of our witnesses today. It's been an excellent review of critical issues that are of concern to us every day as we prepare for what is going to be an extended war.
We'll keep your comments and concerns in mind as we review the Fiscal Year 2004 Defense Authorization Request. And I look forward to working with you. And thank you for your participation today.
We do have all of the statements of the respective witnesses. They will be entered into the record. They're very informative and we'll consider those as we move forward.
I would also like to enter a GAO report titled Preliminary Observations Related to Income, Benefits and Employer Support for Reservists During Mobilizations. This GAO report was just released today, Wednesday, March 19, 2003. And we're going to insert that report, also, into the record.
Gentlemen, once again, thank you for your splendid service to our country. We appreciate you being here today and this hearing is adjourned.