Special Commentary: Not So Fast: Why the Call to Expand the Reserve Components is Premature

Author
Matt Lawrence
Content Type
Commentary and Analysis
Institution
The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
Abstract
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic will have significant implications for the military and the US Army. Some experts have suggested that massive budget cuts are likely and will force the Army to increase the size of the reserve components. After all, the reserve components have performed the majority of the military’s work during the pandemic, and have argued for years that they are a low-cost alternative to active forces. However, there are several reasons this should not happen—at least not without a major shift in America’s global military presence and a significant revision of our National Security Strategy. There is no doubt that the Army’s reserve components have played an important role in the nation’s coronavirus response. Over forty-six thousand National Guard troops have been mobilized across the country, and the Army Reserve mobilized over three thousand soldiers. This was most notable in the Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, which deployed to various cities in need of additional manpower. They have provided vital services and a visual reminder of the Army’s homeland responsibilities. The importance of their efforts have led some to suggest that the reserve components will become more important and that resources should be diverted to them or that their numbers should grow. After all, reserve units in reserve status cost less. The National Guard consumes 12 percent of the Army’s base budget, and the Army Reserve only a paltry 6 percent, the major savings being the full-time pay, additional benefits, housing, installation, training, and operations and maintenance costs required by their active counterparts.
Topic
Budget, Army, Pandemic, COVID-19
Political Geography
North America, United States of America