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WASHINGTON — Soldiers in the National Guard and Reserve can expect shorter combat tours, a top U.S. general said Tuesday.

From now on, Reserve component troops can expect to spend between seven and 10 months on the ground during deployments, said Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, who handles Army resources issues.

Typically, troops in the Guard and Reserves are mobilized for between 18 and 20 months, six months of which are usually spent training prior to deploying.

But the Defense Department has limited future Reserve component mobilizations to 12 months — although the department also lifted a 24-cumulative-month cap on such mobilizations.

Predeployment training will now take up at least some of Reserve component troops’ 12-month mobilizations, but Army officials are unsure how much, Speakes told reporters on Tuesday.

“We’re saying that you will only get between seven and 10 months boots on the ground because we have to spend some of your [post-mobilization] time training you before we deploy you,” Speakes said. “How much of that we don’t know.”

Despite the move, active-duty troops should not expect shorter combat tours, at least until the Army increases its ranks, Speakes said. The Defense Department plans to increase the Army’s troop strength to from roughly 507,000 to 547,000 soldiers over the next five years.

Speakes noted that active-duty troops are spending less and less time at home between deployments, and he does not expect that to change until the Army gets more active-duty combat brigades.

“We’ll stay where we are because we have no choice,” he said.

Also Tuesday, Speakes said the majority of Army units are not prepared for a “high intensity” conflict,” such as a conventional war.

“If you take a look at the forces that are not deployed to combat, they have — whether they’re active, Guard or Reserve — they have substantial equipping shortfalls and also some issues with training and manning,” he said. “What that means is they are not optimized to be ready to fight a high-intensity conflict.”

Meanwhile, Army units going to Iraq have been trained almost exclusively for “low-intensity” conflicts, such as counterinsurgency operations and urban conflict, Speakes said. For example, artillerymen in Iraq are now serving as truck drivers, he said.

“We’re not focusing right now on producing units for a high-intensity conflict, we simply don’t have that capability,” Speakes said. “Now what we’ve testified then is that what America needs to do is realize that we could fulfill the national strategy, but we’ll do that with — it’ll take more time, and it will also take us increased casualties to do the job.”


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