It’s an interesting time at the Department of Defense (DoD). A series of policies have come down from DoD that may ultimately shrink the current fighting force while DoD is, at the same time, trying to recruit and expand the number of active duty, Guard, and Reservist servicemembers. Yes, you read that right, while DoD is trying to beef up the number of servicemembers in every branch, they are also making it harder to serve. If that’s not adding up to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
The “Non-Deployable” Policy
This month, IAVA’s own Tom Porter participated in a briefing with senior DoD officials for a Q&A discussion on top priorities. Of particular note, in response to a question about recent media coverage of a DoD plan to address readiness problems and military personnel who are non-deployable for various medical reasons, a senior administration official gave a brief overview of a policy aimed at the the 13.6 percent of servicemembers labeled “non-deployable.” They want to send a message to the force that all personnel must be worldwide-deployable. They will then set a deadline to be ready or be processed out. Exceptions will be established like for the combat-wounded. To help meet recruiting needs to fill these new gaps and to meet the new end-strength goals, DoD will conduct additional public outreach, including putting JROTC back in schools.
Just a day later, DoD released their new policy, called the Universal Retention Policy. The new policy states that any servicemember that has or will be unable to deploy for twelve consecutive months can be administratively separated. Exceptions are included, such as for pregnant servicemembers or those that were wounded in the battlefield.
Policy Update: Transgender Servicemembers
IAVA believes that equality is a force multiplier and we have been outspoken in our support for transgender servicemembers. When President Trump announced a departure from the DoD’s policy to allow transgender servicemembers to openly serve, IAVA was one of the few veterans groups to actively oppose this change.
Since July, DoD has gone back to the drawing board; and Secretary Mattis was scheduled to brief the President last week on his recommendation moving forward. He missed the February 21st deadline, but we’re hearing that Secretary Mattis gave the President his recommendation on Friday.
While the meeting was in private, we are encouraged to hear reports that Secretary Mattis recommended to keep the policy in place to allow transgender servicemembers to serve. But ultimately, we will have to wait and see what the White House recommends in coming months.
What It All Means
What is clear is that DoD is shrinking its pool of applicants with these new policies. And the pool of applicants is not big: about 70% of the traditionally recruitable age, 17-24, aren’t eligible to serve because of weight or education, or several other issues.
Between the new non-deployables policy and a possible change to the transgender policy that could impact the thousands of transgender servicemembers currently in uniform, DoD is putting more restrictions and policies in place that may further shrink that pool of applicants–and could mean that those who are currently serving will be shown the door.
IAVA is here to help. If you need help navigating these new policies, reach out to our RRRP team here. To see all that IAVA is doing to advocate for those that have and are serving, check our Policy Agenda.