Friday, January 26, 2007

Gates calls for end to stop-loss

By Gordon Lubold - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Jan 26, 2007 5:51:30 EST
The Air Force Times

As the Pentagon scrambles to identify enough troops to support its missions in Iraq and elsewhere, the Pentagon’s new boss is cracking down on the use of “stop loss” as a way to prevent service members from getting out of uniform on schedule.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told each of the service secretaries and other senior defense officials that it’s time to all but end the use of the unpopular stop-loss policy and find other ways to find the manpower the Defense Department needs.

The change will not affect the active Air Force, which has not used its stop-loss authority since 2003. The service since then has met or exceeded its end-strength goals.

Stop-loss authority allows the services to extend people on active-duty at will by delaying planned separations, retirements and demobilizations.

“Use of stop loss will be minimized for both active and Reserve component forces,” Gates wrote in a Jan. 19 memo that also outlined a number of other personnel initiatives that were widely reported in mid-January.

Gates directed that Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, each of the service secretaries, and the undersecretaries of defense to get back with him by Feb. 28 on their plans for reducing their use of stop-loss authority.

Since taking office in December, Gates has been intent on restructuring personnel policies to fight the war on terrorism. He also announced that he is growing the size of the Army and Marine Corps and changing some of the existing mobilization policies for National Guard and Reserve members. Gates also formally announced a compensation program for service members who are deployed earlier than planned or extended past the expected end of their deployments.

The directive on stop loss particularly affects the Army. As of last fall, for example, more than 10,000 regular Army, National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers were being retained beyond their planned separation or retirement dates.

The Marine Corps, which used the stop-loss policy during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, has all but abandoned their use of the policy. The Navy started using stop-loss after Sept. 11, 2001, until December 2002; 301 people were prevented from leaving the service during that period. The last time the service used the policy again was in April 2003, when it prevented 179 corpsmen from getting out of uniform.

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