Academic journal article Military Review

The Role of the Reserve Component as an Operational Reserve

Academic journal article Military Review

The Role of the Reserve Component as an Operational Reserve

Article excerpt

[The Nation must] ensure the right mix of operationally ready and responsive Total Army forces and capabilities to rapidly meet emergent global combatant command requirements while maintaining an operational and strategic landpower reserve.

--Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, former chief of staff of the Army

Current U.S. military strategy calls for an expeditionary force that is available for short-notice deployments. This means that active component (AC) forces must conduct unpredictable mobilizations and deployments. In contrast, reserve component (RC) forces follow predictable mobilization and deployment schedules. The Army now needs viable courses of action to synchronize employment of the RC in an Army Total Force (ATF) structure.


The events of 11 September 2001 changed the way AC and RC forces were mobilized and deployed, as evidenced by Operation Noble Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Dr. John Winkler, in his 2010 article in Joint Force Quarterly, describes the operational reserve with this statement:

   The concept of an operational reserve, in
   which Reserve forces participate routinely
   and regularly in ongoing military missions, is
   viewed as a fairly recent development. This
   concept is distinct from an earlier view in
   which the RCs were seen mainly as a "strategic
   reserve" whose primary role was augmentation
   and reinforcement of Active forces during a
   major contingency--an event that was anticipated
   to occur at best once in a lifetime. (1)

Winkler further states that "key developments ... in policy and practice that governed the transformation of Reserve forces and enabled the development of an operational reserve recognized that the reserve components provide both operational capabilities and strategic depth to meet U.S. defense requirements across the full spectrum of conflict." (2) With ongoing postwar reductions to the Army end strength in the current fiscally constrained environment, the ATF concept is a particularly useful way for the RC to be leveraged as an operational reserve.

With no long-war plans, the U.S. Army must change the way it thinks about the roles of the RC as follows:

* fully implement ATF strategies, concepts, and policies

* integrate geographically colocated AC and RC forces

* conduct ATF training at combat training centers, regional training centers, and home stations

* create additional multicomponent headquarters to better utilize capabilities inherent to each component

Fully Implement Army Total Force Strategies, Concepts, and Policies

The U.S. Army must change the way it thinks about the roles of the RC by fully implementing ATF strategies, concepts, and policies. Senior leaders at the joint and Army level are clearly calling for a better-integrated ATF, and the current fiscally constrained environment is a natural impetus for this change. Several strategic documents discuss the role of RC forces as an operational reserve, most notably the 2015 Capstone Concept for Joint Operations (CCJO); Army Directive 2012-8, Army Total Force Policy; the former chief of staff of the Army's CSA Strategic Priorities; and, the posture statements of the chief of the Army Reserve and the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Each document identifies the requirement for an operational reserve and the need to integrate all of the Army components.

The CCJO details how future forces require pervasive interoperability, saying that "interoperability refers not only to materiel, but also to doctrine, organizations, training, and leader development." (3) The CCJO also states that the military will need to be more agile and expeditionary in order to meet combatant commanders' requirements. For the operational reserve to be effective, it will require integration with AC forces. With 78 percent of the Army's sustainment forces projected to reside in the RC by 2017, the demand for this support will facilitate the ATF policy. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.