Don’t Look to Reserve for Cheap Cuts

Typically, reserve forces would be the first on the chopping block as the Defense Department looks to make large-scale resource adjustments. However, that approach would lead to a less capable fighting force and ultimately higher long-term costs, warns Lt. Gen. Charles Stenner, Air Force Reserve chief, in the new white paper, Total Force Policy 21: A 21st Century Framework for Military Force Mix Decisions. Stenner argues that reducing the reserve force to “preserve” the active duty component would essentially eliminate a cadre of experienced personnel in exchange for a new batch of less experienced ones. That, he says, would result in the “immediate reduction in combat capability.” Indeed, reserve forces are “ready, available, and accessible to fulfill operational requirements,” all for a “significantly lower cost than full-time active duty forces,” says Stenner, who prepared this paper in support of DOD’s review of the reserve component’s future role.