Senator seeks one month home for every month spent downrange
July 4, 2007
ARLINGTON, Va. — A lawmaker whose own Marine son has deployed to Iraq is pressing for a law guaranteeing all servicemembers one month at home for every month they are deployed.
Freshman Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., himself a former Marine, will on Monday introduce an amendment to the 2008 defense budget that proposes 1-to-1 dwell time for all U.S. military personnel, his spokeswoman, Jessica Smith, told Stars and Stripes on Monday.
The bill “is basically going to say that on the active side, however long an individual has been deployed, they have to be allowed to stay home at least that long before you send them back,” Webb said in a Friday speech on the Senate floor.
“If you’re Guard and Reserve, however long you’ve been deployed, you have to be able to have been at home at least three times that length before you’re sent back, because of the nature of the Guard and Reserve.
Webb was traveling out of the country and not available to talk with Stripes the week of July 4, Smith said.
He is introducing his bill even though Defense Secretary Robert Gates has already introduced a policy on dwell time because, Webb said, “we still are reaching the point where we’re burning out our troops.”
Webb’s proposal differs from the 12-month dwell-time policy put in place by Gates because his bill is geared towards individuals.
The Pentagon policy, however, is directed at units, according to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.
Gates’ policy requires units to spend a minimum of 12 months back home after 15-month deployments. Units that are in danger of “breaking dwell” must request a waiver from the Pentagon, Whitman said.
“We manage dwell by units,” Whitman said Tuesday, in part because of the need for units to reconstitute and train as a whole; and also because of the complexity of trying to manage dwell time all the way down to each single individual.
Managing dwell time on an individual basis is diffcult, Whitman said, because so many servicemembers return from deployments and transfer to other units, or go to professional schools and are then reassigned to units that happen to be “in the pipe” to deploy.
In order for the amendment to become law, it will have to pass the Senate, and then either survive in conference negotiations with the House or be introduced in and pass the House defense budget.
There is no version of the bill in the House, Smith said.