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Non-deployable rate could reach 16 percent by 2012

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Nov. 04, 2010) -- By the time the Army meets its goal to have Soldiers home for twice the time they're deployed, the service could face the problem of having nearly one in five Soldiers unable to deploy.

Today, nearly 14.5 percent of Soldiers in a brigade combat team are unable to deploy by the unit's latest arrival date in theater, or LAD. That number is up from a little over 10 percent in 2007. By 2012, it's expected the number will be as high as 16 percent, said Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the Army's deputy chief of staff, G-1.

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"We don't want it to grow, but the reality is, we're tracking what's happening with our Soldiers and we're making our best assumptions and assessment of what's going to happen in the future," Bostick said.

The general spoke Oct. 26 during the Association of the United States Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C., as part of a presentation on Army personnel. He said medical issues are a prime factor in the increase of non-deployable Soldiers.

"Some of it is temporary medical, where we fix the Soldiers and they are not ready to go at the deployment time," Bostick said. He also said about 68 percent of those injuries are musculoskeletal issues, including knees, backs or muscles, for instance.

The Army's leadership asked the secretary of defense for a temporary end-strength increase in 2009 to help alleviate problems associated with non-deployable Soldiers. As a result, about 22,000 additional Soldiers were approved above and beyond the Army's congressional mandate of 547,400.

The Army added about 5,000 of those additional Soldiers in 2009, and another 10,000 in 2010 -- using up to 15,000 of the 22,000 extra slots authorized. Bostick said he expects the Army to take advantage of the remaining 7,000 temporary authorizations and will ultimately achieve an Army force size of more than 569,000.

Also adding to the roster of non-deployable Soldiers is the elimination of stop-loss. That policy allowed the Army to extend Soldiers' enlistment beyond their end-of-service date, so they could deploy with their unit. Without stop-loss, some Soldiers stay behind when their unit deploys.

"We have to make up for those losses," Bostick said. "They are on our books and we have an end strength, so we can't recruit against them. So you have to find a way to have three-to-one, about 12,000 Soldiers, to make up for 4,000 that might be stop-lossed."

Non-deployable Soldiers are a "huge issue we are working across the Army that we have got to fix," Bostick said.

The need for additional Soldiers can also be attributed to the service's wounded warrior program, Bostick said. The number of Soldiers in that program is increasing.

"We thought that number was going to actually start coming down, but with what is happening in Afghanistan, the number is going the other direction," he said.

Today, there's about 9,000 Soldiers in the wounded warrior program from both the Active Duty and Reserve Components, Bostick said.

The general said the temporary end-strength increase is not forever. By September 2011, the Army will have to drawdown again to 547,000, the end strength prescribed in law. Bostick said a challenge with such a temporary increase is balancing the need to grow to what is needed, but at the same time dealing with the fact of cutting back at the end and having to tell people that want to stay that they can't.

"From a personnel point of view, you have to care for Soldiers and their families and treat them with dignity and respect," he said.

Maj. Gen. Donald M. Campbell, commander, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said the Army is working to fill gaps and targeting recruiting efforts to find the kind of Soldiers the service needs. He said the Army is focusing on making sure recruiting is supporting the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model.

"A lot of it is from a precision standpoint, to make sure we give the Army those officers and those young Soldiers that they require at a certain time," he said. "If the world were perfect, the theater commander could say: I need a Farsi speaker of this caliber, of this quality, with this education, and we could deliver that young man or woman to the theater commander in a timely manner."

The Army's recruiting community has developed a new model, "Pinnacle," that spreads out the workload of bringing in new Soldiers and that ultimately allows uniformed recruiters to spend less time doing paperwork and more time talking to potential warfighters, he said.

"(It's) a new concept we're implementing where we will actually have recruiters who do nothing but talking and doing the Army interview and doing their business of recruiting and they pass the young man or woman off to an Army civilian in that station who then processes that young man or woman," Campbell said.

Campbell said the Army's recruiting mission for fiscal year 2011 is 67,000 new Soldiers, and that already there are some 33,276 in the entry pool. Nearly half the mission is already complete, he said.

Sam Retherford, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for military personnel, said that against predictions, the all-volunteer force has worked well during protracted war. Competitive compensation is among the reasons he cited for that.

"The targeted pay raises of 2001-2007 brought the military compensation to the 70th percentile, which was recommended by the 9th (Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation)," he said. "Today, along with increases in basic allowance for sustenance and other pays, total military compensation is roughly at the 80th percentile, and much higher than that for our junior Soldiers."

Retherford also said the 11th QRMC is looking at compensation for service in a combat zone or in a hostile area, and is also looking at Reserve and Guard compensation and benefits, as well as compensation to wounded warriors, caregivers and critical fields like mental health professionals and linguists, for instance.

Reform of the G.I. Bill also played a role in the success of the all-volunteer force, he said, including the 36 months of tuition, the cost-of-living stipend, and benefit transferability to a family member.

"Transferability has proven just to be a significant level in retention where members stay on longer for that transferability option," he said.

Joseph M. McDade Jr., assistant deputy chief of staff, G-1, discussed advancements with the civilian workforce as well. He said that 56 percent of the Army's generating force is civilians, and that of those, 60 percent do not have a career path, something that Soldiers do have.

"They are basically told they are on their own," he said. Of new hires in the Army, one third will leave the Army in five years, McDade said. The second most-likely reason for their departure is lack of a plan for career advancement.

"When you take a look at the generating force as primarily comprised now of knowledge workers, if you look at losing up to a third within five years, you've got a real significant challenge on your hands," he said.

One of the solutions for that challenge is Under Secretary of the Army Joseph W. Westphal's new efforts to provide career paths for Army civilians. The secretary spoke of career paths for civilians Oct. 28 while visiting civilian employees at Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas.

"I want to be able to put everybody that is a federal employee who works for the Department of the Army on a career pathway," he said. "We have many of those, but we have a lot of people who are not on a career pathway, (but) who have generalized descriptions. They have a job and they are doing well, but if they want to move up the pyramid, there is no pathway. I want to create professional development and leadership education for our workforce just like the military [has]."

The secretary said that when employees need to leave a position to pursue education in order to move forward in their careers, the Army's civilian workforce must be poised to backfill that slot with another employee who is capable, or more capable, of doing that job.

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