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SEN. NELSON: These votes always seem to get in the way of our other business, you know, so thank you for waiting.
Senator Graham will be back shortly and we'll have some of the others return as well.
On our second panel we have the chiefs of the Reserve components. This includes Lieutenant General Clyde A. Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard; Lieutenant General Harry M. Wyatt III, director of the Air National Guard; Lieutenant General Jack C. Stultz, commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve Command; Vice Admiral Dirk J. Debbick, chief of Naval Reserve and commander, Navy Reserve Force; Lieutenant General John W. Bergman, commander, Marine Forces Reserve and commander, Marine Forces North; Lieutenant General Charles E. Stenner, chief of Air Force Reserve and commander, Air Force Reserve Command. And we extend a very special to Rear Admiral Daniel R. May, director of reserve and training, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve.
It's not often that we have the Coast Guard here, so we -- since, as you know, the Coast Guard falls under the secretary of Homeland Defense, when it's not operating it's a service of the Navy. But the Coast Guard is a vital part of the total military force and, in fact, operates under many of the same statutory authorities as the other services.
And so we welcome you here as well. We welcome all of you and we look forward to hearing about the state of the United States Coast Guard Reserve and the other reserve components, and so gentlemen, thank you so much.
We'll start with Lieutenant General Vaughn, if you would, please.
GEN. VAUGHN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would ask that my statement be entered into the record, and I'll be real brief because since there's seven of us here.
Thanks for the great support of this committee and your leadership. We had an interesting discussion a while ago about operational forces and operational reserves. This is the strongest Army National Guard of all time. We are indeed an operational force. But I've got to remind everybody, it's all about people on the bottom end -- you've got to have all the people and you've got to have them all trained in the right -- and racked and stacked in the right formations, and then you've got to have the equipment and full-time support that supports that.
That's an operational reserve, and if the nation asked it to do something or the state asked it to do something, then it can go do it. You just throw the money you want to for training to it, but you don't have to reorganize and cross-level and do all this stuff that we had to do some time back.
So I want to thank you for everything. As you know, we're over our end strength right now. We have every plan to bring it back down to an authorized level. We don't have the resources to pay for this. But I assure you that we're going to grow readiness. We've got a plan to do that at the same time that we're lowering end strength back down.
Look forward to your questions. Thanks for your leadership, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you, General.
GEN. WYATT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
An honor and privilege to be here before you and the committee today, and thanks again for all the hard work the committee has done for your Air National Guard.
I'm privileged to be in the chamber this afternoon with the senior enlisted adviser of the Air National Guard. The Air National Guard Command Chief, Master Sergeant Dick Smith from Ohio, who's backing me up here, responsible, as I am, for the over 94, 000 enlisted members of the Air National Guard.
As we meet today, Mr. Chairman, your Air National Guard is protecting our skies over the United States of America at 16 of 18 air sovereignty alert sites. They're ready to respond to disasters like hurricanes, tornados and fires and currently responding to floods in North Dakota and Minnesota, and snowstorms in Montana.
We do all this while at the same time volunteering at unprecedented rates to support the worldwide contingencies, and we cannot forget the backbone of our force -- our traditional Guard members who are providing not only day-to-day AEF rotation capabilities but that critical surge capability for our Air Force that makes the Guard such a vital component of the entire Air Force.
In the personnel domain, talking about four major themes today and then I'll pass the mike. Our primary priority this year is targeted and precision recruiting. As you're aware, we are over our end strength for the first time since 2002. We will be focusing our recruiting efforts on getting the right folks in the right place and doing the right jobs. Incentives and bonuses are key to that.
We also seek to leverage the inherent ANG efficiencies and take on additional Air Force missions as appropriate when asked by the United States Air Force and when resourced by the Air Force, and we attempt to maximize the use of association, the association constructs, where we work with the active-duty Air Force Reserve brothers and sisters in forming these new constructs and look to community basing to better support the Air Force mission.
Thank you very much. It's an honor and privilege to be here and I look forward to your questions, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you, General.
GEN. STULTZ: Mr. Chairman, Senator Burris and others, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you to represent the over 204,000 Army Reserve soldiers who are serving this nation.
Thank you for what you've done, for you and for the staffers there, for all the support you've given us for our soldiers, the things that talked in the previous with Secretary Hall, some of the TRICARE, some of the retirement, some of the other benefits and all that we're able to take back to those soldiers and say thank you for what you're doing for this nation; this is what Congress is doing for you.
Today I can report to you that your Army Reserve is in excellent shape. We're at 204,000-plus, that's up 7,000 this fiscal year on top of 7,000 last year. We're growing at a tremendous pace, so recruiting is good, retention is good.
The theme that we're using in the statement that I submitted for the record is "a positive investment for America." The Army Reserve is giving this nation a great return on investment. The dollars that we're given in our budget are used wisely, and we're returning back to America not only in terms of the military capability but the civilian capability.
I brought with me today, since 2009 is the year of the NCO for the Army, three great NCOs that I'd ask just to stand up to be recognized, and I use them as an example of when I talk about a return on investment.
Sergeant Jason Ford that you see in front of you, he's a drill sergeant in the Army Reserve. When he is on duty with the Army Reserve, he's training soldiers -- not Army Reserve soldiers, active- duty soldiers at our basic training centers like Fort Leonard Wood. He also trained Iraqi soldiers for a year in Iraq, working under General Petraeus with the MNSTC-I mission, where he was wounded while on a combat patrol leading 25 Iraqi soldiers by himself and received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Back here in America, in Brockton, Massachusetts, he's a law enforcement officer. So he comes back and continues to serve in uniform this nation, both in reserve status and as a civilian.
I also have Sergeant Henry Favre (ph), who was over there deployed, and his son while over there was also deployed with 3/2 Stryker from Fort Lewis, wounded in action while he was there, but Sergeant Favre (ph) could not get to his son but instead said, "Continue the mission; I've got a mission over here with my unit."
Sergeant Larry Lamon (ph), a 1st sergeant over there for a unit that was providing combat patrols, hit by an IED while over there leading the unit but continued the mission.
All these gentlemen served their country proudly in uniform, but they come back and serve in civilian capacities or are working for the government back here. So we do have a positive return on investment, because we give back not only in defense, we give back in the civilian committee.
So thanks for your support. For all the staffers there, thank you for what you've done for us.
I look forward to your questions, sir. Thank you.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you, General.
And thank you all. Let's give them a round of applause. (Applause.)
ADM. DEBBINK: Chairman Nelson, Senator Burris, thanks for the opportunity to appear before the committee this afternoon.
This is my first opportunity to appear before this committee and I want to begin by thanking you for your terrific support for the 67,217 Navy Reserve sailors and their families that make up your Navy Reserve component.
This afternoon as I testify, Navy Reserve sailors are of course operating in every corner of the world, and you'll see these sailors in the news but you won't see a caption that reads "reserve," because we are party of Navy's total force, and we operate that way around the world.
From certifying strike groups before they deploy overseas to our sailors in naval special warfare groups in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world, our sailors truly are making a significant contribution across the full spectrum of both naval and joint operations.
Following a strength reduction of nearly 25 percent since 2003, a central focus of our manpower strategy now is the establishment of a true continuum of service culture. This offers our sailors the opportunity to truly be sailors for life, providing that life-work balance that accommodates individual circumstances while at the same time sustaining the inventory of skilled and experienced professionals that we need to fill our total force commitments.
I believe that we have proven ourselves to be a ready, responsive and very adaptable operational force while maintaining the strategic depth that Secretary Hall talked about earlier today. This is a very important and I think very meaningful time for any one of us to be serving in our nation's defense, and I would assert particularly so as a reservist.
So I thank you for your continued support and look forward to answering your questions, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you.
GEN. BERGMAN: Good afternoon, Chairman Nelson, Senator Burris. It's an honor to be here. Thank you for all the support you've given your Marine Corps Reserve, because without it we wouldn't be the ready and relevant fighting force that we are today.
We heard the term operational reserve put out a little bit earlier. No matter what you call it, operational reserve, strategic reserve, all I know is that our Marines and our sailors who are attached to us and their families and their employers are standing up and continuing to stand up to sustain the level of operations worldwide that the Marine Corps Reserve is involved in.
As we contemplated what do we call this deployable reserve, we called it an operational reserve and put it into what we call a force generation model, which drives us towards the most important word that I think we can use here for our preparation of forces, which is predictability.
When you let someone know in advance, well in advance, what they're going to be doing, where they're going to be going, so the employers, the families and everybody know what the mission is, know what the time frame is, we have found that it is in -- it has helped us minimize the amount of cross-leveling that has occurred amongst our units.
So we are very, very deep into the maturation of the force generation model that will allow us in that five-year dwell time to trying to meet the 1 to 5 criteria for the reserve component to man, equip, train and get our units ready to go.
Of course, all that is tied to budgeting. If we get this right, we will provide not only a ready and relevant force but a force that was done with a relatively wise use of all the dollars available. Suggest to you there's nothing more adaptable than a Marine in the fight, and as we've been adapting to growing the Marine Corps to 202,000 here over the past few years -- we're two years ahead of schedule -- now it'll allow us to refocus some of our manpower planning and policies to shape this operational reserve and our large units so that we're ready to go for the long term.
I look forward to your questions, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you, General.
SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D-IL): Thank you, General.
SEN. NELSON: General Stenner?
GEN. STENNER: Chairman Nelson, Senators, I truly appreciate being here as the chief of the Air Force Reserve.
I'm also honored to have with me Chief Master Sergeant Troy McIntosh, who is my command chief master sergeant and the highest- ranking enlisted member of our MAJCOM and takes great pride in doing the job that he's doing and taking care -- helping me take care of that enlisted force, which truly is that backbone of our Air Force and our Air Force Reserve.
So Troy, thank you very much for what you've done.
And thank you all here for what you have done as well for our Air Force and our Air Force Reserve.
And I say that as a proud member of a three-component Air Force. The Air Force Reserve is a part of how we do business on a daily basis. We are funded, and we appreciate that, to a tier-one level so that our forces are prepared and ready to go on 72 hours' notice and we are interchangeable and deploy as such, with all of our Air National Guard partners and our active-duty partners as well.
That, in my mind, is the most efficient way to do business and continuing to do business that way as a strategic reserve that we leverage to do that operational force to me makes great sense for the nation, and the 14 percent of the manpower that we have as an Air Force Reserve for about 5 percent of the budget again remains a very effective and efficient way to deliver that capability to the war fighter and to the combatant commander.
That reservist that we're talking about is in fact the most precious commodity that we have. That in fact is an individual who has that civilian job, who also has that employer to be concerned with, as we are as well, and they are just as much a part of delivering that capability that we are doing around the world with their support for our citizen airmen that are out there doing the job in the military fashion as well as making sure that the families are taken care of along the way.
So that reserve triad is very precious, I know, not only to the Air Force Reserve or the Guard, but all of our components sitting right here at this table.
Finally, we've got brand new missionaries that we're out there growing and on behalf of the 67,400 Air Force reservists, we are growing to deliver that capability in unmanned aerial systems, intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance, the cyberspace arena that we are all growing into, that will be not only the force of today but the force of tomorrow.
So I'm a proud commander in chief of the Air Force Reserve and look forward to your questions.
SEN. NELSON: Admiral May.
ADM. MAY: Chairman Nelson, Senator Hagan, Senator Burris, it's an honor and pleasure to be here this afternoon representing the Coast Guard Reserve and I want to especially thank you for that warm welcome.
Here with me this afternoon is my deputy, Captain Andrea Contratto and also Master Chief Jeff Smith, the reserve forces master chief.
And first of all, I'd really like to thank you and Senator Graham for your commitment and for tackling the tough issues that face our military personnel and all the progress that you've made in supporting our military men and women.
The Coast Guard is one of our five armed forces and it has a long history of distinguished history and service to our home, both here and abroad, as a military, maritime and multimission service, always ready for all threats and all hazards.
And because of this mix of military and civil law enforcement authorities, the Coast Guard is really uniquely positioned to serve as a lead federal agency for our maritime homeland security while also acting as a supporting agency to the Department of Defense. In fact, over 80 percent of our 8,100 Selected Reserve force is directly assigned to our Coast Guard shore units. The remainder of our force is spread out and dedicated to supporting defense ops. These forces are assigned to our eight individual port security units which are staffed by reservists full time as well as support personnel. Currently today, PSU 311 is serving in theater.
The integration of our active and reserve components began in the 1990s and enabled us to respond quickly when and where operational reserve forces are needed. It's aided in part also by the unique authority held by the Homeland Security secretary by using Title 14 of the U.S. Code. Under Title 14, the secretary may recall Coast Guard reservists for up to 30 days at a time for domestic contingencies, including natural and man-made disasters as well as any terrorist attacks.
This unique authority helped facilitate a rapid response for the Coast Guard in response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, where approximately 700 mobilized Coast Guard reservists performed nearly 20,000 person days in support of our rescue and recover operations in the Gulf region.
Now, after the tragic events of September 11th and in the wake of our largest mobilization, nearly 50 percent of our reserve force was mobilized and this continues today where we have nearly 800 Coast Guard reservists on active duty. They are actively participating in a number of missions across the entire Coast Guard.
We thank you again for the commission for all that they've done. The Coast Guard has been an active participant in the commission on the Guard and Reserve, and as you pointed out, Mr. Chairman, many of those recommendations and any laws that may come from them will apply to the Coast Guard as one of our military services.
So thank you again. It's an honor to be here on behalf of the Coast Guard men and women. Look forward to any questions you may have.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you very much, Admiral.
General Vaughn, General Stultz and to the members of the panel, a couple of years ago during the Christmas holidays, 48 members of the 110th Medical Battalion based in Lincoln, Nebraska, found themselves stranded at Fort Lewis, Washington, when training was suspended and the base was shut down for the holidays.
Now, military rules prohibited using funds to pay for their travel back to Nebraska until training resumed. In a joint explanatory statement that accompanied the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, we urged the services to be mindful of training suspensions and minimal staffing periods when devising training schedules for the reserve components -- a drafted legislation which Senator Graham and I will soon introduce that will correct this deficiency and would authorize travel if a Reserve or Guard member is more than 300 miles from home and is placed on leave for five days or more because of training suspensions or staffing issues.
Now, it's our understanding that this is not a unique experience among guardsmen and reservists. Because of a lack of planning on the part of the military unit, service members are sent away from home, in some cases thousands of miles, for training missions and then the training is suddenly suspended.
In these cases, isn't it the military's responsibility to either plan appropriately and not to waste the time of our service members, or unnecessarily keep them away from their families, or if the military doesn't plan, should we pay to send them home?
Let me say that we got those members home but we raised money from private sources in order to do it, which means that there were a number of generous folks who helped do it, but it isn't necessarily the responsibility of the private citizen to pay for that public cost.
So my question is, what are your policies for assigning training duty during the holiday season, especially as most posts go to reduced manning and suspend training during that period?
We'll start with you, General Vaughn.
GEN. VAUGHN: Senator Nelson, a great issue, inflammatory issue that we're 100 percent on your side.
You know, we went through this thing for several years, dating all the way back to the 39th Infantry Brigade, and Wal-Mart and a couple of other folks paid for that, and we've got no business passing that on. And we made our concerns known and I will tell you that Jack Stultz and I don't have anything to do with scheduling, you know, when they mobilize and report to the training centers.
It's absolutely something that we needed the kind of emotion and fervor on behind it to get that straightened out. This year, our big formations, everything is after the holiday period. Now, that's not to say there might not be something in there someplace that we don't know anything about, but the other piece of that is that we ought to pay for them coming back home.
So the Army National Guard agrees 100 percent with your line of reasoning on this.
GEN. STULTZ: Yes, sir, and I'll echo what Clyde said.
Sir, 1990, Desert Storm, I reported to my unit, Fort Eustis, Virginia, in November, right after Thanksgiving. Now, I deployed with an advanced party into Saudi Arabia ahead of them, but the rest of my unit sat at Fort Eustis during the Christmas holidays and I saw what it did to morale and I said this is crazy, that we've got soldiers sitting around.
The past three years as I've traveled around Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Horn of Africa, whatever, and I talk to soldiers about what makes you feel good and what do you not feel good about, one of the number one subjects they said is wasted time. "I sat at a mobilization station and did nothing and it was wasted time -- I could have been with my families."
It's a morale issue. It's a morale issue for holidays. It's a morale issue any time where we have them sitting in a mobilization station and there's nothing going on. And so we have made the commitment to wherever possible stop that from happening.
As Clyde said, look at the training and say, hey, listen, if you're not going to be there for training, my soldiers aren't going to be there. Working together with Forces Command and 1st Army, we are now much better than we used to be of laying out -- we don't do like we used to, where it used to be a pre-"mobe" plan which I had responsibility for but once they got mobilized I handed them to Forces Command and they took over and I lost control.
Now we have one training plan, and we say this is all we're going to do in the pre-mobilization time period and this is what we're going to do in the post-mobilization time period, and we're going to make sure that every day they're at a mobe station they're occupied with some valuable training or either they're deployed.
In the past two years we've cut the time down -- the time at a mobe station from 90 days down to 40 days, where our target is 30 days. Our unit doesn't need to be in a mobe station longer than 30 days, and they can get going.
And so to that point we said listen, if you're not going to be there, we're not going to be there. If we are there and they suspend training, I agree wholeheartedly we ought to send the soldier home for the holidays. It's a morale issue.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you.
Would anyone else like to make any comments? I think they said it very well, but if there are any other comments we'd certainly like to accept them.
Appreciate that very much. It is a morale issue, and we will seek to have this legislation introduced shortly. I hope this year we'll be able to get it passed, and so if those unintended consequences occur in the future, you know, we'll be able to deal with it appropriately. Thank you.
One other question here -- prior to this hearing our committee sent out a data call on suicide rates in our Guard and Reserve forces, and we've received the information and we've done some analysis on the numbers and we thank you for your responses.
The information we received, however, did identify what I think are some troubling trends. The Army and Air Force were able to provide complete data for suicide rates both while reserves are activated and on drill status. The data you provided consistently showed that the number of suicides that occurred while on drill status was more than those that occurred while deployed.
This correlates to the qualitative data we received at the hearing last week of our committee, which showed that service members tend to exhibit more mental health issues when they're away from the support structure of the military. Obviously, your quantitative data proves to us that we need to make certain that our Guard and Reserve forces have access to support structures and medical services even when they're not activated.
In your responses to the data call, some of the services stated that they do not have the authority to investigate the death of members while the member is in a non-military status. Now, our Guard and Reserves are an operational force and so they need to be ready at all times to meet the mission requirements.
How does each of your services track the suicide of a member who's on drill status? What mechanisms do you need in place, and/or what can we do to help to ensure that you have the capability to track medical records for members while they're on drill status?
Why don't we start at this end and work back?
Admiral May, this may be a new issue. I don't know how much you've been involved. We did have the other services; we didn't include the Coast Guard, not because we intended to exclude you, we just didn't include you.
ADM. MAY: Yes, sir. Chairman, we've been very fortunate in the small numbers of Coast Guard men and women that have deployed. We have not suffered any suicides whatsoever of our reserve forces, so that's been a blessing for us.
We do keep track of our folks as they come back and they typically return to a drilling status. We make sure that they go through a de-mobe process. We monitor their progress. There are certainly programs that are available to them should they need any medical assistance whatsoever. And then once they go back to a drilling status obviously we have visibility of their health and well- being, and if there's anything that's identified, we immediately get them to any care that they may need.
SEN. NELSON: General?
GEN. STENNER: Mr. Chairman, the data research that we've done was a pretty difficult dig to go find some of these things, particularly because we don't have access to their civilian medical records and where and when these things happened, unless they were filing an insurance claim, sometimes we never knew that there was a cause of death that would have been noted as suicide.
However, the '03 to '08 time frame where we did research it, we had 42 "completed" suicides, if you want to put it that way. None of those had occurred, for the Air Force Reserve, anyway, while the member was deployed. Sixteen of the 42 that we did find had deployed at least once prior to their death, and then of the 13 cases that we did have available for review we did have one that had deployed prior to, but it wasn't during the deployment that we had the suicide.
Now regardless, what we really have here is a microcosm of society and some of the realities that we look at. The marital difficulties and those kinds of things played as well, so actually pinning down what actually caused that individual to do what they did will be a difficult situation.
But we are very, very cognizant of the fact that we need to be trained and ready and have that suicide prevention kinds of things going on that our folks watch each other, they understand each other, and we do have those Yellow Ribbon, and the reintegration efforts help us get more eyes on.
And more completely, we're going to put some folks into place both at the command level and regionally to track the incidents and to keep track of the folks who have these issues. It will be something that we have as a high priority for quite some time to ensure that our folks are taken care of.
SEN. NELSON: I realize it's a lot easier in terms of tracking when somebody's activated or somebody is active and on active duty, but it also occurs when they're not. And I think that while some might think that there would be a greater opportunity for someone to commit suicide while deployed, it apparently is not the case. We understand some of the reasons are the breakdown of romantic or marital relationship or economic difficulties.
And we also are aware that sometimes the breakdown in the romantic or the marital difficult and/or the economic circumstances might be affected because of the deployment or the number of deployments that create the separation.
So we still think it's important to track it the best way that we possibly can.
GEN. STENNER: Yes, sir, and we agree and we were going to keep on doing what we're doing.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you.
GEN. BERGMAN: Yes, sir.
While absolutely we agree that we need to track it, currently in the Marine Corps Reserve we do not have the database available to do that. However, because we're about an 80 to 85 percent unit-based force, the ability to contact people who don't show up for drill, just like you would contact someone who didn't necessarily show up for school -- "what's going on, are you sick?" type of thing.
We had a little bit of an advantage as we focus our efforts in that direction. The challenge comes when you have a very small percentage of young, usually new marines, obligors, who decide maybe that the decision to become a Marine wasn't part of their life's plan and now they just quit coming to drill. And we deal with that on a daily basis, and sometimes it might be six, eight, 10 or longer months before we can get good location and data on them, on their whereabouts.
So we recognize the need and we will do everything we can to ensure that we get everybody on the roster.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you.
ADM. DEBBINK: Chairman Nelson, although not required under any instructions to do so, we've been actually tracking any Navy reservist who commits suicide. Since July of last year I'm sad to report that we had four such suicides that occurred not on active duty, not in a drilling status. But as General Bergman has just said, we too have a unit structure and when someone doesn't show up for drill or work or whatever, you know, you know you're missing somebody. So we are changing Navy instructions now to make sure that we include all sailors -- active component, reserve component, no matter what status they're in.
I'd also like to report that we had a couple of good-news stories, and that is with the money that's come through the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, we've stood up our Returning Warrior workshops and we've also stood up psychological health outreach coordinators.
In one of our Returning Warrior workshops, somebody with a suicide ideation was identified by another sailor and referred and we believe prevented that from happening. And additionally, we had a psychological health outreach coordinator visiting a NOSC, a Navy Operations Support Center, once, and identified another sailor, and I'm proud to say both those sailors are alive yet today.
So thank you for your support of that very important program.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you.
GEN. STULTZ: Yes, sir. We in the Army take suicides very, very seriously. We have in the Army Reserve been tracking all suicides whether they're on or off active duty or drilling status, because any soldier I lose is a loss, whether he was in an active or non-drilling status.
As you probably know, the Army is in the midst of a stand-down where we've taken the stand-down approach of doing suicide prevention training across the force. We're doing that throughout the Army Reserve.
The challenge we've got is what you just mentioned. I see my soldiers two days out of the month. The other 28 days out of the month, they're with their families. What we're trying to train is awareness, what to look for, the signs that somebody's having problems, reduce the stigma, that it's okay to ask for help, and what are the resources to reach out to.
We're doing a good job training the soldiers. We've got to train the families, because they're the ones that are with that soldier the other 28 days that we don't see them. And what we've seen -- we do a psychological autopsy on every suicide that we have and try to dig in as much as possible to try to understand and see is there anything we could have done different? Is there anything we could have done to prevent it?
As Dirk just mentioned, during the training that we've been conducting, we've already had several cases where individuals stepped up and said, "I need help." We had one case where a soldier took an overdose of pills but then changed -- you know, realized after he'd taken the overdose of pills "I don't have to do this" and called one of his other buddies and said, "I need help, I just did this." And we were able to save him.
But we've also had a couple of incidents where soldiers took their own lives after leaving a weekend drill or a period like that, and in doing the psychological autopsy what we find out is we're a support structure to them. They take great pride in being in the Army Reserve. They feel like we care. "When I'm with my unit, they care about me, they take care of me. But when I go back home, there's nothing there." And that's when it's happened. And so we've got to really reach out and figure out how do we get in touch and stay in touch to provide that support network that other 28 days of the month that we're not with that soldier and to be able to educate the families and the support structure around them, what to do when something occurs, when something's not right.
We can take care of them the two days we have them. It's the other 28 days, and as has been reported, the majority of our suicides occur off-duty. It's not related to a deployment, it's not related to the Army specific, it's something that's going on in their life elsewhere that's failing and we just don't know about it.
SEN. NELSON: General Wyatt?
GEN. WYATT: Mr. Chairman, the Air National Guard has been tracking suicide data actively since September of '04, and we had 46 completed suicides from September of '04 through December of '08.
To lend substance to your observation that most of these take place outside of the supervision of the military, no (sic) of our suicides have occurred while the members have been deployed. Of the 46 members who have had a suicide history, 41 percent have had a history of deployment while 59 had no history of deployment. Of the ones who have had deployment history, 32 percent had one deployment, 9 percent two deployments, and zero percent had more than two deployments.
We share the same concerns that the Air Force Reserve does in the inability, because of resourcing and legal authorities, to investigate deaths that occur when a member is not on status. But like the Army Reserve, we take each one seriously and do our best to track through our contacts with local law enforcement to ascertain the cause of death.
But just to lend support to your observation, most of our problems seem to occur when the member is not under our command and control.
SEN. NELSON: Okay.
GEN. VAUGHN: Mr. Chairman, I would echo what General Stultz and General Wyatt have had to say. We have tracked them very closely. You know, we're probably as tight-knit an organization as there can be. Same thing, most of them -- the great bulk of them are not on active duty. They occur back here on this side.
This is a significant issue for the Army National Guard right now. We've averaged, over the last few years -- you've got the data -- about 60, you know, in both statuses, and at the rate we're going, if we hold with the same rate, we may see as many as 90, you know, based on what's happened so far.
Our adjutants general are all over this. I get good, accurate reporting. Whether they're on duty or not, it comes in, we assign it properly. We also -- as you well know, it's pending right up until you get a coroner's report.
Now, we've asked our JAG, you know, for our commanders to be able to do a 15-6 investigation, a cursory look at this to say yes, this is what it is, and because we need that, we need the other pieces of this.
We are into it, we are on the Army plan. Jack and I are both right there with Pete Chiarelli, and the better part of that, the adjutants general, have really got this thing in their sights.
We'll do all we can, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm going to have to run again. I apologize. This is a budget markup. It's one of those days where everybody meets at the same time. (Laughter.)
General Vaughn, about the dental readiness -- are these numbers right, 52 percent? In first quarter FY 2009, more than half the Army Guard and Reserves, 52 percent were reported as non-deployable due to Class 3 or a Class 4 dental readiness status? Is that correct?
GEN. VAUGHN: Senator, that's probably correct because of the screening mechanism. In other words, you know how this goes -- if you go down to the Marines, you get screened, you come back already and you can't drill for 30, 60, 90, you're getting pretty close to being out of sorts already. Okay? Now, what is a big deal is that when we started into the mobilization stations and we were running about 50 or 60 percent dental readiness, today we're running 90 to 92 percent. We have made overwhelming progress.
Now, the screening piece, you know, we've got to get better on the screening piece. But just because they're not screened out and they're out of tolerance, you know, on the screening doesn't mean they're not deployable, and that's what we're finding.
SEN. GRAHAM: I got you, I got you. Is there anything we can do to help you there? Resources or --
GEN. VAUGHN: We'll check and see what plays out resource-wise here --
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, if there's any way we can --
GEN. VAUGHN: -- pretty quick, and I think that, you know, everybody here is pretty candid; we're going to come up and tell you. And you've helped a great deal, and let us ponder that just a little bit and we'll get something to you.
SEN. GRAHAM: Sure. Outstanding. One last question: This idea of the 20- to 30-year retention, you know, that military Guard, reservist who has hit 20, usually units, particularly in the Guard, people stay as long as they can. But I've seen, just anecdotally, from, you know, being a reservist myself and being around the Guard a lot that at 20, they're pretty worn out and they're punching out. Is that generally a problem?
Let's start with the Coast Guard and work our way backwards.
ADM. MAY: Senator Graham, we actually are blessed in that folks want to stay. In fact, I had a Coast Guard reservist who wanted to stay beyond 60. Sixty is usually the retirement date.
SEN. GRAHAM: But you're not losing -- your numbers haven't declined.
ADM. MAY: No, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay, what about the Air Force?
GEN. STENNER: No, sir, we're -- they want to stay.
SEN. NELSON: Okay.
GEN. BERGMAN: They want to stay, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. Navy?
ADM. DEBBINK: Yes, sir, they're staying.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay.
GEN. STULTZ: Sorry -- no, sir, it's an issue for us.
SEN. NELSON: Okay. Well, the Army is taking the brunt of this.
GEN. STULTZ: Yes, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: The Army and the Marine Corps.
GEN. STULTZ: And you know, if you go back to Vietnam, we lost the NCO corps in Vietnam, all right, if you talk to a lot of the commanders that were there during that time frame, because one deployment, got it, second deployment -- by about the third deployment, family and everybody else says, "You've got your 20 and you can get out," and the active Army lost their NCO corps. Took them 10 years to rebuild it.
I'm concerned we're doing the same thing in the Reserve.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, I am, too.
GEN. STULTZ: Right now, I'm short --
SEN. GRAHAM: But the Marines, you're okay.
GEN. BERGMAN: At senior levels, at the -- where we, sir, have room to go and grow, and we've identified this, is they're not even near the 20-year level. It's how do we take those corporals and sergeants in the reserve component and get them over that hump to make them want to become E6s and then populate that senior enlisted leader level.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah, yeah, got you, okay.
Well, so it is a problem in the Army. So I want to get with Senator Nelson, find a way to incentivize people to stay past 20.
Air Force, again, not a problem, right?
GEN. WYATT: No, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Okay. Well, thank you.
General Vaughn, do you agree with that? We need to get ahead of this in the Army?
GEN. VAUGHN: I agree with what Jack says, but it's mid-level. It's mid-level stuff. If they've made the commitment as a colonel, a master sergeant and whatnot, you know, fives, sixes and sevens that have been kind of stagnated a little bit and you know what they're after is the early retirement piece -- the piece that may get them to -- you know, when you come with, you know, the 90-day and one-year perk, all of a sudden we see people's eyes going wide open.
SEN. GRAHAM: What I've been thinking about doing is inserting selected areas, critical-need areas, if you'll stay to 22 you can retire maybe, you know, 59 and just walk your way down to 55 as an incentive to stay on.
Well, thank you all for your service. All I can tell you is that this war has been an incredibly difficult challenge for the active- duty component. For the Guard and Reserve it has been a phenomenal challenge. The communities that stood up and stepped up; the employers are the unsung heroes of this war, as far as I'm concerned, along with the Guard and Reserve families, and we're going to win this thing and you could not possibly fight this war without the Guard and Reserve.
And Mr. Chairman, we talked about this yesterday -- from a national point of view we have the most war-ready, combat-ready Guard and Reserve in the history of the nation, and they're being well led. So God bless.
MR. : Thank you, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you, Senator.
When it comes to retaining and incentivizing that group, there are a lot of good reasons to do it, not the least of which is those are a very expensively trained and prepared personnel. And when we lose them prematurely, we lose part of the investment, if not all the investment, that we've made beyond what we've received in the way of service.
So we obviously have every reason in the world to want to retain the members at that level, if we possibly can. So we will look for ways to be able, and before we drop them in we'll run them by you, because we want to make sure that they really -- the incentives do, in fact, make sense.
When we worked on the new GI bill, the first effort at it was comparable to the draft military. And that was taking care of people who were leaving, so the first effort at the GI bill, I looked at it and I said now we're going to create incentives for people to leave as opposed for incentives for people to stay.
And I think that's clearly what we want to do here, make certain that we know exactly what it is that we'll get from any kind of solution we come up with.
Senator Burris, any other questions?
SEN. ROLAND W. BURRIS (D-IL): Mr. Chairman, thank you, I do have one question.
To all the commanders, mine deal with the family question, in particular, the requirement for supporting the family members of our deployed or frequently deployed reservist components of the Coast Guard, the Army, the sailors, the Marines, and the airmen. If not properly prepared and supported, the family members' negative experience are transferred to the service members who are thousands of miles away.
So my question is, under this RAND study, which addresses the deployment experience (as a ?) Guard and reservist, found that family readiness was a critical aspect of preparing a service member for active-duty service.
Also in the RAND study, emotional and mental problems were mentioned most frequently; 39 percent of the spouses and 26 percent of service members mentioned such problems.
So Commanders, can you each tell us what steps are we taking to deal with the deployment related to the problems with the family members that are experiencing the absenteeism and the constant uncertainty in their deployments?
So how -- we want to start with the Coast Guard to start?
ADM. MAY: Yes, sir.
SEN. BURRIS: Okay.
ADM. MAY: Sir, I think General Stultz mentioned this earlier, but absolutely what we can do for the families of our reservists is absolutely the best thing we can do to ensure their wellness and that they're ready to fight and be as ready as they can for us.
What we have done, we've got several programs that are in place to support the families of the members either while they're deployed or when they come back. We have a work-life program; we also have an EAP program that is available for members and their families, should they need that.
The other thing we're doing, and this is on behalf of Admiral Debbink and the U.S. Navy, they have reached out to the Coast Guard and offered us to participate in their reintegration program, and we're going to sign an MOA with the Navy that will allow Coast Guard men and women to take advantage of that great program that they're offering for members that have deployed and come back.
So we're with you, sir, and we're going to do everything we can to take care of our families.
SEN. BURRIS: Thank you.
GEN. STENNER: I will echo those sentiments.
I'll tell you, one of the biggest things we've done, sir, is the predictability that comes with starting well ahead of time in announcing when it is these folks will be leaving. That gives us plenty of time -- six months is the secretary of Defense's redline right now for advising soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines when they're going to be called up to go, and that gives us and our family readiness shops six months' prior time to get everybody ready to let them know what it is that they have as far as their benefits, to get them prepared with the pieces of paper that they would need in the case of wills and child care, and then our family readiness shop takes up and we use our spouses as well. We have key spouse programs -- Phoenix spouse programs, Military OneSource -- all of the kinds of things that are available to them, and we prep all those families prior to the deployment of the member.
And then we do, as was said by Admiral May, keep up with them when they come home and make sure that the things that have happened along the way that can uproot and upset families are accommodated and taken care of, and we get them in touch with the right agencies.
And the Yellow Ribbon Program, again, becomes a very useful tool to keep those families engaged.
SEN. BURRIS: How about the Marines, sir?
GEN. BERGMAN: Yes, sir. First of all, great question.
I think it's important to note that whether you're active or reserve in any service, but I'll speak about the Marine Corps here, when we deploy a Reserve Marine, we take that Marine from their home, wherever their home is in this country, and their family stays most of the time in that comfort zone of where they grew up, where they're living, so they have a natural support network, whereas an active- component Marine might have been from Chicago and gotten stationed at Camp Lejeune and that Marine deploys and the family decides to go back to Rolling Meadows or Naperville or somewhere to sit out that seven- month deployment. We have a different set of metrics for support of the families, whether it be active or reserve.
The good news is that when General Conway became commandant, one of his first statements is I'm going to put the family readiness programs on a wartime footing. He felt there was room to grow.
A myriad of changes, the largest two of which are full-time family readiness officers hired on the payroll of the Marine Corps, both active and reserve units down to the battalion level, that this is their full-time job. Second to that, once you've got the people in place, now you add the communication systems, because largely -- now, getting back to the reserve component, what our families need, if they're sitting in Chicago, they want to know what's going on with their Marine. They want to know where they are so as that Marine is activated and joins that gaining force command -- it could be a reserve command, it could be an active command -- the ability to track where they are, because we all want to know where they are, how they're doing.
So thanks to General Conway's efforts, we have made great strides in the last couple of years in coupling together the reserve and active needs through the full-time Family Readiness Program.
SEN. BURRIS: Thank you.
How about the Navy? Do they get on those ships for those six- month tours and their family don't know where they are?
ADM. DEBBINK: Yes, sir, Senator Burris.
I think, you know, one of the keys to all of this is of course we all recognize that we recruit a service member and we retain a family; you've heard that saying before.
SEN. BURRIS: Absolutely.
ADM. DEBBINK: So we need to continuously communicate with those family members, and we look for ways of doing that whether they're deployed, whether they're back here at home, or whether they're out on a ship. We have things like family days. We have a very robust ombudsman program at all of our units.
Our Navy operational support centers that are located throughout the country all know to stay in touch with these family members while the members are deployed. We've also got the program you've heard about before, Returning Warrior workshops, where we incorporate the family member when they come back. So you're communicating with them before they leave and after they come back as well.
And Military OneSource is a fantastic thing we all have available to us that's being funded, of course, by the Department of Defense. Just almost anything you could ask for, a family member can get at via Military OneSource.
And finally, I do believe the most important thing we can do for family members is ensure each and every one of our service members has real and meaningful work to do so when they're deployed, they're gone, they're out doing our work, our nation's work, they call back home, they e-mail back home, and they maybe can't tell you what they're doing but they can say hey, I'm making a huge difference.
And as long as that's the case, family members have been very, very supportive, sir.
SEN. BURRIS: Thank you.
General, how about the Army?
GEN. STULTZ: Yes, sir.
Family readiness, family support is critical for us. As Dirk mentioned, if we don't retain the family, we don't retain the soldier.
And we've seen what the operational tempo will do in terms of -- I've been there on the battlefield with a soldier who can't focus because he's got family problems back home. He becomes a liability, a liability not only to himself but to his buddies.
We have put, as Jack Bergman said, a lot of structure into the Army Reserve. We have hired family readiness support assistants, full-time people because we say we can't depend on volunteers. The volunteers are burning out, they're getting tired. So we put full- time structure in there, trying to get it down to the battalion level. We're not there yet.
We've reorganized our structure in our family readiness programs. It's become a command priority and it's become a command measurement also, because, you know, in readiness, we measure unit readiness by personnel readiness, by equipment readiness, by training readiness. We never measured family readiness. And we said we've got to put that into the equation because the unit's not ready if the family's not ready.
And the last thing I would tell you is as we've developed what we call the Army force generation cycle, the five-year rotation where we bring a unit back from theater, reset the unit, get it into training year one, two, three and then deploy it, that family readiness becomes part of that cycle, too, because when you come home you've got to reset that family readiness group, then you've got to rebuild them and then you've got to prepare them so that when the unit gets ready to deploy we can check the block and say the family readiness group is ready too and all the families are taken care of.
The last thing I'll mention, because it is a particular issue for me: We can't forget about the kids, the stress on the kids. We don't know what's going through their mind.
SEN. BURRIS: Yes -- (inaudible) --
GEN. STULTZ: My wife, Laura, and I were down at a kid's camp, these Operation Purple camps we have for kids of deployed soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen -- great camps.
We were down at one at Fort Bragg a couple years ago, talking to the counselor. And he said, "You never know what's on their mind." We're sitting there with two young kids around a campfire, and one's talking about when his dad comes back and they're going to go fishing, they're going to go whatever. And the other kid looks at him and says, "You mean they come back?
We don't know what they're thinking, and we can't forget about the kids and make sure we're taking care of them also.
SEN. BURRIS: Absolutely.
General? The Air Force.
GEN. WYATT: Yes, sir.
The Air National Guard has been deploying AEF rotations since about the mid-'90s. My particular wing in Oklahoma, for example, first deployed in 1996 and has deployed either in Operation Northern Watch, Southern Watch, OEF, OIF, nine times.
Granted, the deployments aren't as long, but they are more frequent. We have a few different challenges than perhaps the Army does with different types of employments.
We're seeing also with some of our reach-back capabilities and some of our Predator operators and some of the people who provide the information processing, that they'll go to work at an Air National Guard base one day, work eight hours, see some things that most Americans don't see, and then go home to the wife and kids. It proposes or it presents a different challenge.
The adjutants general tell me that they recognize that there are different challenges with the services and they need to have programs that consider the equities of the services, but they would also like to integrate and leverage the capabilities, the different programs that are provided by our parent services.
And to that extent, I think we are in the process of working extremely well with the Army National Guard to lash our two programs up so that they complement one another.
We could use some help -- at least the Air National Guard could -- in our joint force headquarters manning to help facilitate that, but we have -- for example, one program, the Yellow Ribbon Program, has been mentioned before.
Reintegration, I think, might be a misnomer because I consider it more of an integration, because it's not just after the deployment, it starts actually before -- an outreach program to the families, the member, the kids, to teach them about the programs that are available to them to handle all the different challenges that they might face and to facilitate access to those programs that are out there. Strong bonds marriage seminars is another.
It's getting better. I remember back in the days when we first started deploying, we had one family support person who did all of the work for the entire wing, and it was a wait and see what developed as opposed to what it is today, which is an active outreach program to reach out and touch our families and help them through the process.
SEN. BURRIS: Thanks.
General, do you have any other comments on the Army situation, or are you --
GEN. VAUGHN: Senator Burris, I would mirror several of the comments here.
A couple of things: One is the Army National Guard, by charter, manages 325 family assistance centers throughout the United States. Now, that's air and Army, Navy, Marines, everybody walks in. That's 2.2 million inquiries. Now, that just gets at the issues that are out there.
I think one of the most powerful things that have come out of the conflicts that we're in is the power of the family readiness groups. Every deploying unit has them. Now, therein lays -- you know, when you look at the soft spot in what's wrong with our organization, we identified something here and that is that people that aren't served by that are the cross-level soldiers -- the ones that come in there in eaches, that the families are way away from those tight-knit communities.
And so when we looked at that we said, you know, the way to get at this family readiness problem and the family issue so that we've got families with their arms all the way around everybody and know everybody is to bring more unit cohesion to our organizations.
And that's why we're all about readiness, we're all about getting our strength as high as we can and train soldiers and not cross- leveling -- getting all that out of the way, because it actually empowers the family readiness groups because they can get their arms around everybody.
So that's what we've done.
Thanks for the great question.
SEN. BURRIS: Mr. Chairman, I was out at Walter Reed Hospital last Friday, and this is not a Reserve or a National Guard issue, but I was interviewing some of the warriors that were being treated at Walter Reed.
And I came into the room with this young warrior from Illinois, and he was being discharged. And I asked him, "Well, son, what are you going to do?" You know what he told me? He said, "Senator, I'm trying to figure out how the hell I can get back to my unit in Iraq."
I looked at that kid and almost broke down in tears, because he was getting out of his bed with a prosthesis, talking about he wanted to go back to be with his unit.
You guys are training those young men to defend us. God bless you.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you, Senator. Thank you.
General Wyatt, it's my understanding that under the auspice of total force integration, the Air Force is now considering transfer of priority missions that align with the traditional Guard construct to the Air National Guard, thus enabling the Air Force to reallocate those freed activity duty resources to missions requiring higher full- time manning.
And I support operationalizing the total force, and I want to make sure this is done. But I also want to preserve your ability to perform the homeland defense and civil support missions. Maybe you can get some examples of total force integration missions that have been assigned to the Air National Guard. And in the process of having those reassignments, have you receive the necessary resources to see them through so that they don't in some way diminish your other resources?
GEN. WYATT: Thank you, Senator. Great question and you're right on target.
The Air National Guard is working with General Stenner, Air Force Reserve, and the Air Force/A8 to identify those capabilities that the United States Air Force needs that would be ideal situations for associations.
You're very aware of probably one of the greatest association examples in your crypto-linguist unit there in Nebraska, but you're also aware because of that that sometimes we're not properly resourced, even though that's a great example of how a guardsman can associate with an active-duty member force structure to provide the capability that this country needs.
Each of the three components has strengths that can be leveraged to make us even stronger. We also have some weaknesses that if we can avoid through these associations, or at least minimize, we can provide more capability to the country.
We're looking at just about every mission that the United States Air Force wants to get into. We're looking at ways to associate. We're looking at the high OPSTEMPO missions that the Air Force is more suited to take because of their full-time force, but also associating guardsmen in there to provide the surge capability that that particular unit might need.
The Air Force Reserve is doing the same thing. We've got different types of associations that we're looking at, the classic association, which originally started with the Air Force owning the platform and the Reserve component going to the active duty, but we see active associations now where the force structure is coming the other way.
We sometimes get caught up, I think wrongly so, in arguing over who owns the capability and because an active-duty component may own the capability that the association should take place on an active- duty base.
I think we need to consider things like ability to recruit to that particular mission, the demographics, the type of mission it is, the particular MDS or the weapons system that we're talking about, and then take a look at the different association constructs and see which one fits a particular situation better.
We're investigating a new construct called an embedded associate that may offer opportunities to take TFI the next step, and I think you're aware that Secretary Donley has encouraged us, through his TFI -- total force integration -- II initiative, to continue working together.
And I'm proud to say that we're partnering up with my good friend Charlie Stenner, Air Force Reserve, and the active duty to do exactly that, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Are there any examples of what you could do on a total force integration mission, where if you had greater end strength or additional resources, that that could be put together?
GEN. WYATT: Yes, sir. The demand far exceeds the supply. The Air Force brought its manpower down and is in the process of bringing it back up. I think General Stenner is adding 4,000-plus to his end strength after having taken his force down as a result a few years ago. The adjutants generals' counsel to the Air Guard was don't take your manpower down a few years ago, but take your risk in a reduction of our flying hour program, and we did that.
But if you take a look at the missions that the Air National Guard has already accepted from the United States Air Force and the validated, required manpower needed to perform those missions, we are 2,228 positions short of what we need.
That doesn't count the need for air guardsmen to populate our joint force headquarters and it doesn't count all the other missions that the active-duty Air Force is asking the Guard and the Reserve to consider associating with them in.
So if the Air Force wants us to do these missions, we'll be happy to do it. Our recruiting vector is going in the direction that would allow us to recruit to those, but we need appropriate resourcing if that's the call that will be made by our senior Air Force and nation's leadership.
SEN. NELSON: Well, I certainly agree with you and I hope that as these opportunities are there and if they do in fact increase, that everyone will make us aware of the need to add the resources -- the end strength and/or the financial resources to make sure that they happen so we don't end up with a crypto-linguist situation where great idea, it's not resourced, and therefore missed opportunity.
GEN. WYATT: Well, you're exactly right, sir. At last count we had 136 total force initiatives that were still pending working with the active duty and the Reserve. The Air National Guard is involved in 94 of those, so we're extremely interested in participating in TFI. But when it drives an additional manpower requirement, we would ask to be appropriately resourced, if that's the direction the Air Force wants to go.
SEN. NELSON: As you should, and so if you will keep us aware of that, that would be very helpful. We'd be more than willing to assist and take that into consideration.
To the other witnesses today, have you experienced similar issues with assignments or consideration of additional missions that you might have engaged in if you'd had the resources, either the end strength or the financial resources, to be able to do?
Let's see -- yours is a little different, Admiral May, but are you running into some things like that?
ADM. MAY: Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman.
I think that's the biggest thing we struggle with each and every day, both on the active-duty side of the Coast Guard and on the reserve side -- it's our limited capacity.
If you look at the active-duty component it's about a 41,000 force; the reserve component is about 8,100, so combined, you're looking at a total force of less than 50,000. That's about the size of the New York City Police Department, and we have a worldwide mission.
So we're really limited by our capacity, and certainly if there was an opportunity there we could certainly provide greater service to this nation if we had additional forces, yes, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Well, with the concern we have about port security and other needs to secure our borders -- ocean-front property as well as landlocked locations -- certainly it makes a lot of sense to be certain we have adequate resources for your missions.
ADM. MAY: Yes, sir.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you.
GEN. BERGMAN: The short answer, sir, is no, we haven't seen anything significant, whether it be on the potential addition of missions or the need for manpower.
But we must be very mindful of -- and General Conway has discussed this in his vision and strategy for 2025 -- the need for the sustainable reserve with the skill sets that the Marine Corps requires. And I would suggest to you that as we deploy worldwide, some of the skill sets resident in the Marine Corps Reserve can only be gotten because these Marines -- largely senior Marine reserves -- have acquired a combination of Marine leadership traits and civilian occupation skill sets which provide a very unique and very positive blend for some of the places we go.
SEN. NELSON: Admiral Debbink?
ADM. DEBBINK: Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman.
We talk of course about there being Navy capabilities, and then the question is how best to source those, either with the active component or the reserve component. And this is where the really hard work is going on.
One example is our Navy Expeditionary Combat Command down in Norfolk, which is presently 51 percent reserve components and 49 percent active component. And it seems to be working okay right now during the current overseas contingencies, but what about later on and what about post this period and what's the right mix?
And those are very difficult questions to answer that we're doing the analytics on right now, and those will drive, then, the real solution as to where those capabilities exist, active component or reserve component.
So it's hard work, but we're hard at it.
SEN. NELSON: Thank you.
GEN. STULTZ: I get asked every day by the Army -- (laughs) -- to do more. If you had asked me three years ago when our end strength was at 20,000 below what we're authorized, we would have probably said we couldn't take on any more. Today we're 500 short of what our authorized end strength should be, so we're growing at a great rate.
I think there is more we can do, yes, sir.
I just came back from a trip to European Command in Stuttgart, Germany and Africa Command at their request, specifically because they're looking at the same thing we do down in Southern Command, and that is the security cooperation partnership-type programs, where we're doing medical readiness, we're doing engineering missions, we're doing things in Africa already, building schools, building roads, drilling wells -- those kind of things that they say within the reserve components, Guard and Reserve: "You guys have the civilian skills that blend nicely with this, and it's not long-term missions in a lot of cases, it's three months or four months, whatever. Can you do more? Can you take these on? Because the active force is committed to Afghanistan and Iraq and we can't get any resourcing for these types of exercises. We could do more if we had more to work with."
Likewise when the Army was given the go-ahead to grow to 547(,000), which was an increase of 65,000 over 482,000 that they originally had, what we saw happening out there is kind of everybody thought they had a sort of a blank check.
So a lot of these Army units that were at one time multi-compo, split between reserve and active, the Army came to us and said we're just going to go active pure; we don't need the reserve anymore because we're growing, and so you go ahead and take your structure and grow something else, which we did. We grew 16,000 additional military police, transportation engineers, medical structure in the Army Reserve.
Well, now the Army is coming back to us and saying, well, just kidding -- (laughs) -- we really do need you in these multi-compo units. And we said, but we've already committed the spaces, so if you're going to ask us to fill out these active-component units now as multi-compo headquarters, you've got to give us more strength at the end.
So I think there is a lot more we can do, and as I led off with, the return on investment -- we are a great return on investment, all the reserve components. We're only limited by what the -- you know, we're limited in terms of end strength and capability.
SEN. NELSON: General Vaughn?
GEN. VAUGHN: Sir, you know, we take on every mission that's out there and we don't turn any down. And you know, it's those that we can't see that, you know, really kind of disturb us.
We are on track in our search of a great, ready organization. We need to keep the equipment thing flowing like it is and get our full- time support piece that you've helped us with, you know, and the appropriate numbers and it's probably getting there now.
The issue that we have in front of us for the Army Guard, and today we stand at 368,000 -- as you know, it's about 16,000 over the appropriated strength, but, you know, about 10,000 over the language that was in the supplemental.
And we don't have the money and we're going to have to pull back towards that 358,000, but I will tell you this: It's going to be healthy for us because we have two problems: We have a dinosaur of a Cold War-era relic in the way that we man up our force. We take individuals in that want to be soldiers that are not soldiers; we swear them in at day one. This is 60 years old, the nearest that I can see.
Okay, now those soldiers count against our spaces. On the active side, they only count those folks that are really soldiers. We're going to convert into a system just like the active Army does over the next eight months. I think we're going to get there. And then my successor is going to come back and ask for an end-strength increase, because we also need an over-strength account to take care of those that are in training, just exactly like the active Army has. And this will then have you exactly postured, you know, to where when you ask the Guard to do something you can rest assured they're not going to have to cross-level a bunch of folks to do it, and they're going to go and do it.
So we've just got to keep it on the rails that we're on right now. I think we're going to have to look at a strength increase at some point in time for this training account, or we're going to have to reduce some force structure to get the readiness we need.
SEN. NELSON: Well, I think it's important that you do that and get into that position, because it's easy to predict that we're going to be needing some help along the border, the Southern border, with the drug war. It's war nevertheless, no matter what it may consist of. And it would not be surprising if you were asked to take some role in helping quell the violence along that border and some time nearly -- almost certainly it's going to happen soon.
Well, I've asked all the questions I have, but I may not have asked all the questions I should have. (Laughter.) So I ask is there anything that I haven't asked you that I should have, or anything that we -- (laughter) -- that we've left out that you'd like to comment on? And I won't be embarrassed for not having asked something I should have, if you can add anything to it. We missed anything?
Well, we as a committee appreciate very much your involvement. Thank you for being here at this hearing today. There's a great deal of interest in these subjects and we want to get it right and we want to make sure that whatever you need, you know that there's a place to come and tell us and to ask for it, and we'll work with you to get it accomplished -- too important not to.
And God bless you, and may God bless the men and women under your command and all those who wear our uniform all over the world.
Thank you very much.
MR. : Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MR. : Thank you, sir.
SEN. NELSON: (Sounds gavel.)