Military Update: Lawmakers grill DOD on involuntary recall
July 10, 2004
The intensity of violence in Iraq, with insurgents attacking roads and bridges and interrupting supply lines, is behind the rare involuntary recall of more than 5,600 soldiers who had completed active-duty obligations, says Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army’s vice chief of staff.
Cody told the House Armed Services Committee that the recall alert Tuesday for 5,674 Individual Ready Reservists — former soldiers living as civilians and awaiting expiration of service obligations — resulted from “worst case” deployment plans after a rise in violence in Iraq.
Most of the IRR members to be recalled are combat support troops, including truck drivers, heavy construction equipment operators and engineers with skills to repair bombed roads and buildings. The Army is having trouble getting civilians to fill such assignments, Cody said.
Committee members, disturbed by the surprise IRR call-up, pressed Cody and David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, for an explanation on Wednesday.
IRR service, said Chu, “is part of the obligation that each entrant in the military assumes. The fact that it is rare that we call up the Individual Ready Reservist does not, of course, mean that it is inappropriate.”
Recalling IRR members, said Chu, “allows us to fill holes” in activated reserve or National Guard units. Some IRR members were activated for the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War, Chu said.
But Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., said this involuntary recall has “gotten the attention of the American people.” Why, Snyder asked, didn’t the Army anticipate skill needs a year ago and tap active or drilling reserve personnel?
Cody blamed a surprising level of violence in Iraq that forced changes in deployment requirements several times over the last year.
Force planners track troop rotations with designators such as OIF-1 for the first major rotation in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. OIF-2 is winding down, to be replaced by OIF-3 units starting this summer.
“We executed the worst-case plan for OIF-2, and we are executing what ended up being the worst-case plan, in terms of numbers of formations, for OIF-3,” Cody said. “That put stress on the combat service support troops.”
Although 5,674 IRR soldiers received alert notices, the Army likely will recall only 4,000. They will serve 18 to 24 months. Other skills involved are in logistics and vehicle mechanics. They also are cooks, carpenters, masonry specialists, petroleum supply specialists and cable system installers.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., committee chairman, said Iraq and Afghanistan have stressed U.S. ground forces enough to raise doubts about “elasticity,” the ability to “recover sufficiently from one commitment before committing to another.”
The committee divided bitterly, by party, over who to blame for the undersized force. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., cited constrained defense budgets during the Clinton administration. He also suggested Democrats are behind false Internet rumors of a Bush plan to return to a military draft next year.
Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., countered that U.S. forces are strained to the “breaking point” by Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq.
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