New Reserve Forces Policy Board Report: Reserve Component Use, Balance, Cost & Savings

The Reserve Forces Policy Board (RFPB) issued a report last week commissioned by former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta entitled Reserve Component Use, Balance, Cost and Savings.

Panetta was interested in determining the best ways to use the reserve components in support of the Defense Strategic Guidance; the right balance or mix of active and reserve component forces; the cost to maintain a strong reserve; and how the DoD could achieve cost savings in relation to the reserve components.

More Operational Utilization of the Reserve Component
In its executive summary, the RFPB report states that the best way to use the reserve component (RC) is to actually use it, employing the RC operationally and avoiding the inclination to place it “on the shelf.” The board laid out concerns that the DoD has not “seriously considered the question of how much force structure it truly needs, and what mix it can afford.”

Currently, the RC accounts for 40 percent of the total force structure at 9 percent of the budget, having increased tenfold in operational use since Desert Shield/Storm.

The board recommends that RC forces can and should help meet the steady state peacetime engagements and contingency requirements both at home and overseas.

Benefits of this increased use include:

  • Maintaining experience, skills and readiness;
  • Freeing up AC forces to ensure their availability to respond to no-notice contingency war fighting requirements; and
  • Reducing AC deployment tempo and aids in the preservation of an all-volunteer force.

However, this means that the Pentagon must more effectively and routinely utilize funding streams, such as Title 10 Section 12304B, which allows DoD to involuntarily mobilize an RC unit to augment active forces for a preplanned mission in support of a combatant command. However, the military has been resistant to using this option as it requires the services to specifically identify and include for RC units in the budget.

Better Integration 
The RFPB’s report also highlights the need for better integration and understanding of the RC by senior leaders who “are unaware of the differences between the National Guard and the Reserves; the strength of the RC; the capabilities resident in the RC; the cost to maintain use of RC; or limitations on their use. Senior leaders lack a Total Force perspective, focusing on the AC as the only solution."

Therefore, the board recommends that the RC be a key player in strategic reviews, which now tend to ignore the roles and missions of the RC and do not incorporate proper analysis on the operational effectiveness of the RC. The DoD should look to charter an independent and impartial study to assess the operational effectiveness of the RC.

The Right Balance
Most importantly, “the RC should be used to preserve the nation’s capability and overall capacity to deter and defeat aggression, while simultaneously strengthening the DoD’s capacity to defend the homeland and provide support to civil authorities.”

Though the board does not recommend definitive force mixes, as each service has distinct and separate requirements, the report does show:

  • RC end strength has remained relatively flat since 2001 (while active totals have risen);
  • DoD should avoid force reductions which are simplistic “fair-share” cuts across all components; and
  • DoD should preserve RC end strength and force structure to mitigate risk associated with increased AC reductions and to preserve surge capacity.

The board highlights that currently a Total Force policy does not exist at the Pentagon, and that the Total Force is not fully integrated. Thus, it is recommended that DoD look to incentivize RC service, break down cultural barriers, sustain hard-fought RC readiness, and create a more flexible manning model which recognizes unique capabilities and availability of the RC.

Additional Recommendations
The board also explored issues surrounding RC headquarters structure and staffing, RC overhead costs, full-time support, RC general/flag officer make up, and RC infrastructure and equipment.

In terms of RC equipment, requirements have increased by $28 billion since 2009, reporting 803 major equipment items (a portion of which is listed as critical dual-use necessary to accomplice federal and state missions).

The RC has seen significant investment through three congressional appropriations:

  1. The services equipment procurement (PR-1R)
  2. Supplemental funding (National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account - NGREA)
  3. Direct congressional adds 

However, despite this investment, the RC remains around $51 billion or about 21 percent short of the total equipment requirements. The lack of modernized equipment degrades the training readiness and the interoperability of the RC with the AC. As one solution, the board recommends cross-component equipment sharing and co-locating to reduce equipment procurement and maintenance costs.

This newest RFPB report is one of many highlighting that the RC has demonstrated a record of sustained accessibility, readiness and reliability, calling for operationally usage and continued integration between the active component and the reserve component across all 10 core missions of the Defense Department.

Ultimately, the DoD should recognize the decade investment in the RC, creating a battle tested Guard and Reserve. This investment should be effectively utilized, maintained and depended upon as capable and cost-effective force.

RFPB Report
RFPB Slides

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