NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Pentagon Increasingly Relying On Reservists

January 24, 2000

With overseas peacekeeping operations proliferating and the armed services having shrunk by one-third since the Cold War, the Pentagon is increasingly turning to members of the National Guard and Reserve units. Rather than devoting one weekend a month and two weekends each summer to reserve duties, men and women are being pulled away from their jobs and families to spend perhaps nine months in areas as remote as Kosovo and East Timor.

  • There are 870,000 men and women in the National Guard and Reserves.
  • In the Army today, Guard and Reserve soldiers actually outnumber those in the regular force -- 564,000 to 479,000.
  • In the late 1980s, reservists spent less than 1 million days on active duty supporting military operations -- compared to nearly 13 million days last year.
  • Already, in the first four years of operations in Bosnia, more Army reservists have been activated than were in the entire Vietnam War.

A recent Pentagon study predicted that demand for Guard and Reserve deployments "is likely to remain high over the next 15 to 20 years."

Not only are those who are activated forced to put their lives and careers on hold, the cost to employers who must scramble to fill their vacant positions is considerable. By law, employers cannot dismiss those called to active duty. While reservists on duty collect the same wages as regular army troops, for many that represents a considerable cut from their civilian wage levels.

Although they are not required to do so, a number of firms supplement their employees' military pay until they return. Nevertheless, active duty means interruptions in careers and in some cases delays in chances for civilian promotions.

Source: Steven Lee Myers, "New Role of Guard Transforming Military," New York Times, January 24, 2000.


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