The Defense Department has a “higher expectation” of deployability by its forces, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Jan. 17.
Speaking with reporters on a return flight from Germany to Washington, the secretary said the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness last week defined a problem that initially was brought to his attention by the Army, where “many non-deployables were on their rolls.”
Aside from combat-injured personnel who are in a separate category, Mattis said, the issue concerns service members “who are, just for one reason or another, not able to deploy with their units. It was a significant number, and the Army brought their concerns forward. The other services also highlighted (their) concerns.”
DoD’s office of personnel and readiness has “come out with a policy that if you’re not deployable for a year or more, you’re going to have to go somewhere else,” he said.
As an example, Mattis said, if 10,000 troops out of 100,000 are not deployable, that means 90,000 deploy more often to meet the same deployment standard.
“That’s unfair,” he said.
The secretary talked about a service member who is on his sixth deployment in 11 years.
“When that sort of thing happens, that brings sharply into focus that some people are carrying more than the share of the load that I want them to carry,” he said.
“They need time at home,” Mattis emphasized. “They need time with their families. We may enlist Solders, (but) we re-enlist families. That’s the way it is. If you can’t keep the family together, then you’re either going to lose the family or you’re going to lose the Soldiers, and that’s a net loss for our society and for our military. (We) put a lot of training into people nowadays. So that policy is now out.”
Military must be deployable
The secretary said as he reviewed the services’ policies, they were already strong enough, “so some of this may simply be more adherence to the current policy that we have; some of it may require an effort within the DoD, the Office of Secretary of Defense policy, that we put out for the department now,” he added.
“But the bottom line is, we expect everyone to carry their share of the load,” the secretary said, adding, “and sometimes things happen. People bust their legs in training or they’re in a car accident. We understand that.”
But DoD comprises a deployable military, which is a lethal military that aligns with its allies and partners, he said.
“If you can’t go overseas (and) carry a combat load, then obviously someone else has got to go. I want this spread fairly and equitably across the force.”
The only exemption is for those who have been injured in combat, he noted.
“If they were wounded in combat, and they want to stay in and they’ve lost their leg or something like this, and they can’t be a paratrooper anymore, then we’ll find a place to use them. That’s a special category. They’ve earned that special status,” Mattis said.
“Otherwise, you’re either deployable, or you need to find something else to do. I’m not going to have some people deploying constantly, and then other people who seem to not pay that price to be in the U.S. military,” he said.