Transitioning the Strategic Reserve into an Operational Force

What is it'

Transitioning the strategic reserve into an operational force (Army Initiative 4) is one of seven initiatives being spearheaded by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. The objective is to transition the Army's reserve components, both the National Guard and Army Reserve, from a strategic reserve into an operational force.

A strategic reserve is a force in waiting, which does not expect to deploy unless and until there is a conflict. Reserve units that are part and parcel of the operational force, by contrast, are fully integrated into the deployment cycle.

The objective is a reserve-component force that is manned, trained and equipped for recurrent mobilization and for employment as cohesive units. This in accordance with the Army Force Generation (ARFORGEN) model, the all-volunteer force and the Citizen-Soldier ethos.

What has the Army done'

The Army has taken decisive steps to transform its reserve component into an operational force. These steps include:

- Establishing (in Feb. 2008) an AI4 task force to manage and facilitate this transition
- Synchronizing AI4 activities and initiatives across the Army staff and government agencies
- Creating Army Campaign Plan (ACP) Annex I, which is the AI4 implementation plan

In this way, the Army is institutionalizing its ongoing use of reserve-component forces for overseas contingency operations.

Why is it important to the Army'

As Casey has observed, we are in an "era of persistent conflict," and conflicts today are inherently manpower intensive: They require American ground troops. That's why the Army is adopting a rotational deployment cycle, in which all Soldiers, active duty and reserve component alike, are expected to regularly deploy.

The requirement for reserve-component forces that are trained and ready to deploy has become especially pronounced since September 11, 2001. Indeed, 540,000 reserve-component Soldiers have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in support of current operations. Thus, as a practical matter, the Army's reserve component is an operational force.

What remains to be done'

More formal systems and processes are required to ensure that reserve-component forces are properly resourced, trained and prepared for overseas deployments. These more formal systems and processes include:

- Developing AI4 performance metrics
- Implementing the recommendations of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve
- Hiring additional full-time staff and adjusting budgets accordingly

Final decisions on force readiness levels and resources will be decided in the Fiscal Year 2012-15 Program Objective Memorandum.


AI4 Task Force Website

Commission on the National Guard and Reserve

Department of Defense Directive (DoDD) 1200.17, "Managing the Reserve Components as an Operational Force" (PDF)