Academic journal article Military Review

Wartime Sourcing: Building Capability and Predictability through Continuity

Academic journal article Military Review

Wartime Sourcing: Building Capability and Predictability through Continuity

Article excerpt

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THE U.S. MILITARY has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for over nine years, yet our Army continues to source the fight year-by-year rather than devising a long-term sourcing solution. Although we are supplying these wars with the appropriate number and types of units and personnel, we can do this more efficiently and more effectively by revising our methods. We can also bring a semblance of predictability to our soldiers' lives that will improve the short- and long-term health of the institution.

The method of sourcing I propose is to align requirements (units and individuals) habitually with units or sourcing organizations. Recently, our leadership has proposed a plan termed "Campaign Continuity" that begins to address one weakness in our current sourcing process. However, to improve the process, we need to analyze a number of aspects of sourcing, including tour length, continuity in sourcing, and the balance of sourcing for both units and individual augmentees.

We should determine a way to best balance the health of the service and the welfare of the soldier with mission accomplishment. I propose to do this by reviewing the impacts of tour length, dwell time, reset, and continuity. I will also make recommendations on how to ensure that the entire force has the opportunity to contribute to current and future fights.

Maximum Tour Length vs. Optimal Tour Length

Accepting the current operating environment as a long-term war requires conducting an analysis of tour length for service members. The Army must determine the maximum duration that it expects a soldier or unit to deploy. Our current method of deployment schedules seems to focus on dwell time to determine tour length. In fact, we should do the opposite. Once we determine maximum tour length, we can determine dwell time.

Closely examining the psychological impacts of serving in a combat zone is important to determine maximum tour length. Depending on the intensity of the assignment and exposure to combat stress, there is likely a maximum amount of time in a combat zone before service members experience a significant degradation in capability. The mental health advisory teams sent to Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have conducted investigations and provided insight and recommendations to improve force health. In November 2006, Mental Health Advisory Team IV's central findings included the following observations: "Overall, Soldiers had higher rates of mental health problems than Marines," and "Deployment length was related to higher rates of mental health problems and marital problems." (1) Key recommendations included extending the interval between deployments and decreasing deployment length. (2) The Army has only focused on the first recommendation.

Our current policy is that all units deploy for 12 months (including mobilization for reserve units). Based on the above findings and having served both a 12-month and a 15-month deployment, I propose that 12 months should be the maximum tour length, the longest time we expect a soldier to operate in a combat zone.

The next thing we need to determine is optimal tour length--the tour length that best balances the requirements of the mission and the health of the soldier. Based on Mental Health Advisory Team IV findings, six to nine months is a better range to ensure mental health and optimal performance for most soldiers. In 2008, the surgeon generals of the Army, Navy, and Air Force told senators that "the optimal tour in Afghanistan and Iraq to reduce combat stress should be 6 to 9 months with 18 months at home." (3) Although the 18-month is not yet achievable, the 6- to 9-month tour length is possible in the current operating environment if we implement a better plan for continuity. While I propose 6 to 9 months for most units, we should determine appropriate tour lengths not by blanket policy but by mission and unit type. …

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