WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2009 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has delegated the authority to order up to 45 days of pre-mobilization training for reserve-component soldiers to the secretary of the Army.

The change will allow Army Secretary John M. McHugh to authorize “contiguous training” for selected National Guard and Army Reserve units. The delegation authority will last for one year.

The term refers to inactive duty training or annual training conducted immediately before units are mobilized for federal service.

“This whole request originated with the state and territory adjutants general,” said Dennis M. McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. State National Guard leaders asked for clarification of Gates’ policy on the use of reserve-component forces. A big part of the policy is that federal mobilization would last for one year, including train-up and deployment.

Previously, Gates personally approved contiguous training for some units where it made sense, McCarthy said, and this is the reason for the delegation of authority to the Army, where the same rules will apply. Reserve-component aviation units can receive up to 45 days of contiguous training. Other types of units can receive up to 30 days contiguous training.

Contiguous training also helps to ensure unit soldiers get sufficient training, even in cases of late notification or personnel fills. “We do not expect every unit will want or need contiguous training,” McCarthy said.

This will mean less turmoil among servicemembers, their families and employers, McCarthy said. Under the old system, units would train in weeklong or two-week increments. “This meant an on-again, off-again cycle of training, and employers, particularly, found this difficult,” he said.

Allowing contiguous training means soldiers go through the training closer to home and often can spend nights or weekends at home. “The bottom line for the adjutants general was they felt this was a less disruptive policy for soldiers, families and employers,” McCarthy said.

Gates put the one-year limit in place in 2007 because some reservists were being called to active duty and spending 16 to 24 months away from home. The defense secretary wanted to cut the stress on reservists, their families and their employers, and move to the ideal of one year deployed to five years at home.

“The bottom-line key question for Secretary Gates on this was whether approving it would break faith with soldiers and their families,” McCarthy said. “He studied the proposal long and hard, and met with all those involved.”

The proposal moved up the chain and picked up the concurrence of the chief of the Army Reserve, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, the Army chief of staff, the Army secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, Joint Chiefs chairman, concurred with their recommendation in a July 22 letter to the secretary.

McCarthy has met with mobilizing soldiers. “It’s not universal, but the vast majority feel this is a better way to go,” he said.

Gates has tasked McCarthy to study the situation and address pre- and post-deployment requirements. McCarthy must submit his report by June 30.

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