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February 13, 2004

I hadn't thought of it like this before - but they're right.

From the Military Officers Association of America legislative update today. For those of you who haven't been keeping up with the name change, this used to be TROA, The Retired Officer's Association. They've always taken active duty members (that's when I joined) the changed the name to eliminate the confusion. Anyway, here is thier take on "stop-loss". I can't say that I would argue the point... and I still wonder why they have done hardly any retiree recalls. Well, I know one reason - most of us retirees are under the 'highest pay' system - and would see huge raises when we re-retired... and aren't really the kind of guys and gals they're looking for. But I could replace a few Majors or Lieutenant Colonels around here, freeing them up for other work elsewhere.

Issue 3: Stop-Loss: The New Draft

The more we think about the Defense Department's plan to meet wartime
requirements for the next few years, the more concerned we get.

The plan is to increase Army manning by 30,000 for the next few years. But
that won't be accomplished through additional recruiting, as most of us tend to
think when we hear those words. It will be accomplished mainly by barring
current members from leaving when their terms of service are up - a policy known as
"stop-loss." The plan is to keep stop-loss in place through 2005, for thousands
of active duty, Guard and Reserve troops.

It's hard to see that as anything other than a reinstitution of the draft,
imposed in the most ironic way possible. The only people being drafted are those
who have already volunteered to serve in the first place. Many have already
seen combat or hazardous duty in Africa, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and/or Iraq.
Now their end-of-tour separations are being denied so they can be forced to fill
manpower shortages and deploy again.

The Defense Department is trying to put a good face on it, saying it will meet
wartime needs through "increased retention" rather than increased recruiting.
If stop-loss is being euphemized that way, somebody's kidding himself. You
can't keep stop-loss in place for extended periods without risking negative
retention consequences for the longer term.

Don't get us wrong. Sometimes stop-loss is the only way to meet the national
defense mission. But prudent planners know it should be a short-term tool, not
an extended policy. It means that somebody didn't plan very well.

The planning deficiency didn't start with current leadership. We should have
started recruiting for a bigger force years ago, because the troops have been
overstressed for more than a decade. But the fact that it hasn't been done yet
is no excuse to keep putting it off.

Is anybody thinking about the situation this process is creating for whoever is
leading the Defense Department and the Services two years downstream? When the
stop-loss policy ends, does anyone think there won't be a disproportional wave
of "negative retention"? If we need a larger force for years to come - and
everybody knows we do - prudent planning would seem to dictate that increased
recruiting has to be part of the solution.

We don't think the need is lost on military leaders. They're doing their
utmost to find the best solution to a huge manpower challenge within the
"transformation" limits imposed upon them by politicians and political appointees. But
there's also a limit to how much reality can be ignored, and a limit to the risks
we should accept in planning military force levels needed to defend the

Remember, "Help is on the way"? We never thought it meant just another helping
of sacrifice heaped on those who have already borne their fair share of the