Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team conduct a presence patrol May 19, 2012, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. These soldiers are assigned to 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod)

Army Early Outs: ‘Rightsizing’ or Degrading Force Capabilities?

June 11, 2012
by Sergeant Major Harold G. Overstreet USMC (ret)

Are budget cuts in the Department of Defense already having an effect on force readiness? A story in the Army Times focusing on the Army’s Involuntary Early Separation Program suggests that may be the case.

The key word in that bureaucratic formulation is “involuntary.” Under the new policy, the Times reports, some soldiers will be forced “to leave active duty up to 12 months before the expiration of their enlistment contracts.” For many soldiers who had been planning on a career in military service, this news will come as a rude awakening.

More from the Army Times:

    Soldiers forced to leave service under this program are entitled to the same veteran benefits they would have had if they completed their contracted enlistment, except that they are not entitled to pay and allowances for the period of active duty not served.

    Unearned portions of enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses will not be recouped, according to personnel officials.

    The revised involuntary separation program began June 1 and will remain in effect until further notice.

The story doesn’t tie the involuntary separations directly to budget cuts, and Pentagon officials would likely defend the program as needed to “rightsize” military forces in the coming years. And there’s probably something to that explanation: with action winding down in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s understandable that some reductions in standing forces would be warranted.

But you do have to wonder about the priorities at work here. Since the Pentagon has already been floating aggressive force reductions—and even lay-offs—as a key strategy for meeting budget targets, the question is, will this program of involuntary personnel reductions extend to other categories of federal workers, or just men and women in uniform?

Given that the Pentagon at the bureaucracy, like other federal agencies, continues to grow rapidly even as our force of uniformed personnel is hollowed out, we think we know the answer to that question.

Read more about the Involuntary Early Separation Program here.

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