February 1, 2009  

Force in transition

A plan to ease the Guard and Reserve’s move to an operational force

Since the 9/11 attacks, the Army reserve components (RC) deployed approximately 540,000 soldiers in support of the war on terror. Today, they continue to meet traditional missions while transforming into a force that provides both operational flexibility and strategic depth. Sustaining this capability on a long-term basis will depend on the success of a task force initiative created to manage the transition.

Throughout the Cold War, the role of RC units seemed clear. before 9/11, the collective RC (Army National Guard and Army Reserve) functioned as a strategic reserve to support active component operations. It was resourced and used as a support or contingency force, supplementing operations with resources and critical skills to confront domestic crises and meet global requirements. Strategically, it was assumed that the active component would be large enough to sustain the fight with forward-deployed forces and pre-positioned stocks, thus providing time for the RC to man, train and equip its forces before deployment. However, the multiple deployments of the 1990s, 9/11 and subsequent war on terror have redefined the role of the RC. These requirements and evolving 21st century security threats have exceeded the active component’s capabilities, necessitating the transformation of the RC into an operational force consistent with the active component.

The Army chief of staff directed the RC transition as one of his primary strategic initiatives in 2007. The need for transition was further reinforced by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve, or Punaro Commission, report issued on Jan. 11, 2008. Deemed Army Initiative 4 (AI4), the endeavor is being supported by agencies across the Army. The AI4 task force was established in February to manage the cumulative reserve component transformation effort.

The AI4 task force mission is to plan, organize, recommend policies, priorities, resource requirements and synchronize the Army’s efforts to transition the RC to an operational force. This includes participation in senior-level Department of the Army forums and initiatives such as the Army Campaign Plan, identification of operational and strategic issues affecting AI4, and the creation of metrics to measure the progress of the RC transformation. Overall, it is the process manager and facilitator for AI4, ensuring the assimilation of Army initiatives affecting AI4 and Army staff visibility of AI4 progress.

Mandated to be a “Total Army” initiative, the task force comprises 10 Active Guard Reserve and mobilized RC officers and noncommissioned officers and one civilian employee. Led by Maj. Gen. David N. Blackledge and Col. Terrell E. Parker II, the task force is structured to synchronize efforts across all strategic levels, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Department of the Army staff and Army Forces Command.

Strategically, the AI4 task force defines its effort as one that provides a current operational picture on transforming the RC to an operational force, and moves out on operationalizing the RC where appropriate, feasible and affordable. However, the pivotal task to this is the requirement to produce and publish the AI4 Army implementation plan.

According to Blackledge, “the implementation plan is absolutely critical for accomplishing AI4. It scopes the effort and sets the framework and timeline for execution. The ultimate challenge that the implementation plan needs to meet is developing an operational RC that is sustainable over the long war and preserves the all-volunteer force.”

The plan will provide a strategic blueprint to achieve AI4. It will focus on completing six essential tasks critical to achieving AI4. These focus on adapting pre- and post-mobilization training cycles; generating force processes; incentives to retain RC soldiers, families and employers; pre-mobilization equipping strategies; continuum of service for soldiers by expanding cross-component service options; and adapting the necessary statutes, policies and processes to institutionalize an operational RC. Additionally, the task force will integrate the Punaro Commission recommendations, where appropriate, to address strategic questions. The plan is expected to provide a picture of what an operational RC will look like, and delineate a force model consistent with the chief of staff’s vision of an operational RC.

defining “operational”

The task force strategy incorporates lessons learned from pilot programs and ensures AI4 products are consistent with Army Force Generation, or ARFORGEN, which synchronizes manning, training and equipping to enable a continuous cycle of operations-ready units.

The task force must confront challenges to achieve AI4. One is to ensure that the definition of “operational” applies to both the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard, based on their traditional missions and methods to achieve operational readiness.

For example, the Guard has focused on operational readiness to respond to domestic crises and support overseas requirements. The Reserve has provided critical skills and force numbers necessary to ensure the Army possesses the capabilities to maintain operations. The citizen-soldier is omnipresent in each. Thus, initiatives to achieve AI4 must account for these missions while complementing their current readiness generating processes such as ARFORGEN and modular force conversion. This cohesive basis is vital to ensuring the strategic depth and enhanced readiness that is the purpose of AI4.

Another challenge is how we not only define operational, but also determine the most cost-effective way to reach that definition. Resources are limited so competing component priorities must be analyzed and strategic choices must be made based upon their perceived benefits. Thus, cost-benefit analyses are continuous.

A third challenge has been the shift in the perceived role of the RC and identifying the second- and third-order effects of this shift across the Army.

“The RC was considered a strategic reserve that could be called upon in the event that the Cold War suddenly went hot. It was a cost-effective way of generating a trained and ready force that could be called upon in a total war. However, today, the use of the RC is no longer reserved for a total war, but is an essential partner in every conflict. This has required an essential adjustment in thinking throughout the entire Army,” Parker said.

Indeed, operationalization has also presented the Guard and Reserve with their own unique challenges. For example, Chief of Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz said the most difficult challenge for the Reserve was “determining the right mix of capabilities needed … to array the force across the ARFORGEN cycle. We have arrayed the Army Reserve force across a five-year cycle that would provide one year of mobilization and four years of dwell. This is critical to being able to sustain the force by providing adequate dwell time for the soldier to maintain their civilian career and provide predictability for soldiers, families and employers.”

Guard spokesman Col. Douglas Curell said the most difficult challenge for operationalizing the Guard has been the amount of cross-leveling required to mobilize Guard units. The adoption of a new 12-month mobilization policy and creation of a trainees, transients, holdees and students account is helping to address this.

Other achievements include:

å Establishment of a core metrics working group to develop measures of success across the Army. These metrics will measure the achievements of strategic depth, cyclical readiness and costs versus benefits of RC capabilities.

å Coordination and compilation of 19 implementation plans.

å Analysis and input concerning AI4 into the chairman’s new administration transition team for the presidential transition.

å Analysis and input for the Government Accountability Office study on AI4.

å Compilation and analysis of unit status reporting and climate surveys for currently deployed RC units to determine readiness sentiments and progress.

å Incorporation of Army enterprise work-group activities into AI4.

While progress has been significant, completion of the RC transformation to an operational force is not expected until 2019. Thus, the nature, method and requirements of AI4 will continue to evolve as conditions and priorities change. The ultimate degree of RC transformation will depend on the scope of the Army’s global requirements, and the support of strategic leaders, elected officials and the American public. In the meantime, Guard and Reserve leaders believe that RC transformation will perhaps continue indefinitely.

As Stultz said, “with the current security environment, I think we will need an operational Reserve capability for the enduring future. Even if we draw down force requirements in the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, new requirements for engagements in other parts of the world will emerge which will require the use of Army Reserve capabilities.”

In the meantime, AI4 participants and stakeholders must remain flexible while moving forward, and the task force is charged to ensure this effort.

LT. COL. MARK QUARTULLO served as the Army Reserve G-1 liaison officer with duty in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007-2008. He is assigned as the personnel operations branch chief, AI4 task force in Washington, D.C. The views expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Army or Defense Department.