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The End of Stop Loss

Defense Secretary Gates announced today the Army was ending its use of the Stop Loss authority this year.

So, I took an hour of vacation today and spent it with the Army G1, LTG Michael Rochelle, MG Gina Farrisee, Director, Military Personnel Management and a host of lesser luminaries of the MSM and Blog press.

I'm going to make this short and sweet.

The Army has chosen to stop using the Stop Loss authority they've been using for the last six years. They retain the option, however. Don't think it went away. We're one major mess in the world away from it coming back.

What's changed?
LTG Rochelle said three things have combined to make this an acceptable risk (and risk is a term he used).

1. The on-going drawing down of forces from Iraq as announced by President Obama.
2. The Army has met it's new endstrength numbers of 547K three years earlier than originally planned.
3. The Army believes that the full integration of, as LTG Rochelle put it, "Enterprise-wide personnel management" as a component embedded in the Army Force Generation program (ARFORGEN) will allow the Army to manage it's soldiers to meet manning requirements without having to use stop loss.

Among those tools in the "enterprise-wide personnel management" toolkit would be offering incentives to soldiers who are short-final to leave active duty and are in a scheduled-to-deploy unit to extend their enlistments to complete the tour with their unit vice having to re-enlist for the whole enchilada as is currently the case. 

Those incentives were not spelled out as they haven't been finalized, but they're going to be monetary according the MG Farrisee. Those incentives will also vary by component, i.e., Active Duty, National Guard, and Army Reserve), as they each have different nuances within their components that they have to manage to.
 
The implementation of this is being phased in by component, with the Active force being last as it has the greatest number of affected individuals. The Army Reserve will cease Stop Loss starting in August 09, the National Guard in September, and the active Army in January 2010.

There are currently about 7,307 active duty troops affected by stop loss, followed by 4,358 National Guardsmen, and 1,452 Army Reservists. 45% of those troops are Specialists, the rest are Sergeants and above. The infantry troops are most affected, followed by the other combat arms and then logistics folks.

All soldiers in a Stop Loss status will (keep your fingers crossed) start to receive the $500 payment effective their March 08 paychecks (which will hit 1 April). Due to a new legal opinion, the Army believes they have the authority to make Stop Loss payments retroactive to 1 October 2008. Soldiers who were in a Stop Loss status on 1 October or later will get lump-sum payments to catch them up. Those payments are expected to hit in May, with hard-to-resolve cases, like soldiers who have already left the service, continuing into June. The amount of those payments earned in the combat zone will be subject to the combat zone exclusion for tax purposes.

Matt from Blackfive asked about how the $500 figure was arrived at. LTG Rochelle essentially said, "Ask Congress" though those weren't his exact words.

I asked about unintended consequences. Such as, will this shift the burden onto soldiers who stay in by reducing their "dwell time" between rotations, as the Army manages pieces and parts to fill shortages for deploying units? LTG Rochelle said he did not believe it will have a significant impact on that. While I personally suspect that's possibly true for larger MOSs, I suspect low-density specialties may find a bit of roughage there - but, in truth, they have those problems now. Only time will tell. I also specifically asked did LTG Rochelle see this as possibly causing a deflection to more call-ups from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) to meet shortages? LTG Rochelle said he believed that the level of call-ups out of the IRR will remain constant, and not spike as a result of no longer using the Stop Loss authority.

So - remember as you turn down those incentives to extend your tour to go with your unit... you still are subject to getting tapped out to fill out another unit in the out-years, until you hit that magic 8 year window. Read your contracts boys and girls. This is an improvement, but there are still bugbears hiding in the woods.  As I said in an earlier post, Stop Loss was a blunt tool for a surgical problem - but just because you ets'd doesn't mean you're free and clear.

In some cases, that's worse, since Stop Loss may stop you from getting your new business started now, or getting enrolled this year in college... but a recall out of the IRR will take you away from the business you worked so hard to start, if that's what you do.

But you read your contract, and you knew that, right? So don't cavil about it if it happens. This many years into the war, there's no excuse for that kind of ignorance.  And, at least for those of you who got snagged by Stop Loss since 1 October 2008, you're going to get $500 a month for your trouble.  Too bad about the rest of ya, though.

Something to write your Congressperson about, if your Stop Loss saga pre-dates FY09.

Update: Matt's take over at Blackfive - click here.

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On my vacation today, and I just got off of a conference call with LTG Rochelle (Army G1). The main points: There are 13,217 soldiers on Stop Loss status now. Approx 7000 are Active Duty, approx. 4,000 are National Guard,... Read More

6 Comments

dang!  and i held back from offering the opinion that it might have been caused by hitting end-strength target early!

makes good sense....

(now lets just watch how long that $500 offer holds out before it gets suspended)
 
I don't see why the payments should be suspended, Mike.  The Congress has already appropriated $73M for the outlay, not authorized and appropriated, so the wickets have been jumped for the Army to start making the payments.

Don't confuse the $500 per month Stop Loss payment with the as-yet un-determined incentive payments for people to extend their enlistments.

Now, if you mean a re-institution of Stop Loss... different animal.  Like I said in the post - we're one crisis in the world (Mexico, anyone?) away from reimposing Stop Loss.
 
I can't believe we're still paying "stop lossed" Soldiers $500 to meet their 8-year contractual obligations they signed on for.  I understand paying troops who have completed their 8 years of active and IRR time getting the money if they are stop-lossed, but not those with fewer than 8 years.  It's just a waste of money going to people who voluntarily signed the damn paper!  It's that entitlement mentality?  Will the $500 make them less pissed off?  Will they start singing our tune and encouraging others to sign up?  Hell no!
 
CJ, it's not that, it's an extra five hundered bucks so that when they get home,  and Tricare dumps them on the Insurance system, they can fall behind on the payments slower.  ('cause, y'know, that's what DoD's going to do now, instead of honouring the prior commitment to Veteran care going back to the civil war.)

Five hundered a month is about 150 bucks less than coverage under COBRA costs for laid off employees who need to keep their Health Insurance while they're looking for work-and that's cheaper than private insurance for unemployed vets who're too physically screwed up to find a job that pays a living wage AND has health care bennies.

So...you're right-it's a disgrace.  You're just wrong about HOW.
 
"I'm going to make this short and sweet."

Whew!  I'm glad.  
I can only imagine how many pixels it would take for *long and bitter*....
*snnnort*
0>:~}
 
Hey, it was only 914 words for a complex subject that I had to impress everybody with my mastery of so that my ego would be appropriately engorged.

What's your point?

[sits back with popcorn to see where *this* goes]