Defense Secretary Explains New Policy: 'You're Either Deployable, Or You Need to Find Something Else to Do'

Susan Jones | February 20, 2018 | 6:51am EST
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Defense Secretary James Mattis holds a town hall at U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany on Feb. 16, 2018. (DOD Photo)

( - The U.S. Defense Department has rolled out a new policy to reduce the number of non-deployable service members and improve personnel readiness.

“You're either deployable, or you need to find something else to do,” Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters Saturday on his way back from Europe. “I'm not going to have some people deploying, you know, constantly, and then other people who seem to not pay that price to be in the U.S. military.”

Mattis said the U.S. Army identified the problem after finding “a significant number” of “non-deployables” on their rolls. These include people who have not returned to active duty because of non-combat injuries or various other reasons.

In response, the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness has issued a new policy, Mattis said:

They've come out with a policy that if you're not deployable for a year or more, you're going to have to go somewhere else.

And let me explain what happens. If you have 100,000 troops -- let's just pick a number, just for the sake of giving you mental model of this -- if 10,000 of them are not deployable, then 90,000 deploy more often, obviously to meet the same deployment standard. So that's unfair.

I had a lady here a couple of months ago tell me her husband was on…his sixth deployment, completing his fifth, and is now on his sixth combat deployment. This lady had been married to the soldier for 11 years, OK. When that sort of thing happens, that brings sharply into focus that some people are carrying more than the share of the load that I want them to carry.

They need time at home. They need time with their families. We may enlist solders, (but) we re-enlist families. OK, that's the way it is. If you can't keep the family together, then you're either going to lose the family or you're going to lose the soldiers, and that's a net loss for our society and for our military; that we put a lot of training into people nowadays. So that policy is now out.

Mattis said the military “understands” that “sometimes things happen,” such as car wrecks or training accidents, which may require months of recovery.

“But this is a deployable military,” he said. “If you can't go overseas in your combat load -- carry a combat load, then obviously someone else has got to go. I want this spread fairly and equitably across the force.”

A reporter noted that some deployment issues are related to the DoD “bureaucracy,” such as not being able to get dental appointments or shots scheduled in time.

Mattis agreed that in some cases, the failure to deploy rests not with the troops but with the military services. “I mean, some of it could probably be solved as easily as giving everybody their shots,” he said. “But I'm not interested in the excuse; I want the solution.”

Mattis said there’s only one category for whom exceptions are made: “If they were wounded in combat, and they want to stay in and they've lost their leg or something like this, and they can't be a paratrooper anymore, then we'll find a place to use them. That's a special category. They've earned that special status.

“Otherwise, you're either deployable, or you need to find something else to do.”

According to the new policy:

-- Service members who have been non-deployable for more than 12 consecutive months, for any reason, will be processed for administrative separation or will be referred to the Disability Evaluation System. Waivers may be issued by the secretaries of the military departments.

-- Pregnant and post-partum service members are the only group automatically excepted from this policy.

-- The mandatory processing of non-deployable service members for administrative or disability separation must begin by October 1, 2018, but it can start immediately.

-- The military may initiate administrative or disability separation on determining that a service member will remain non-deployable for more than 12 consecutive months; they are not required to wait until the service member actually has been non-deployable for 12 months.

-- The military services must write monthly non-deployable reports and submit them to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense.


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