Reserve Yard-Sale!

By Captain William K. Fogerty, U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired), and Professor Timothy Somes

These reserve centers provided the full range of naval life for most reservists. This was where mobilization would occur; where medical and personnel records were maintained, and where travel and training orders had to be initiated and delivered to each reservist. This was the central site where the Navy was able to gain access to reserve personnel, and the Reservist was able to gain access to the active Navy. As Rear Admiral Thomas Hall, former Chief of the Naval Reserve pointed out in 1996, "we had an exceptionally well equipped Reserve, we had grown a great deal, and we were sized and missioned for massive mobilization in a Cold War scenario." 2

The Reserve Center Today

All this has changed. Training, mobilization, and administrative support are no longer major responsibilities of the reserve centers and their personnel.

Responsibility for training is shared between the reserve unit and the gaining command. The reserve center merely provides the site for a few required evolutions to take place.

Mobilization processing has changed, as well. During the Gulf War, Naval reservists reported to their reserve centers, received medical and administrative screening, filled out missing personnel forms, and picked up final orders to their gaining commands. Final accession to active duty generally occurred at the personnel support detachment (PSD) serving their gaining commands.

Navy mobilization processing sites (NMPSs) have been created because some reserve personnel reported to their gaining commands without full medical or dental qualifications. NMPSs include a national system of 14 mobilization sites, each located at a major Navy installation. 3 Now the reserve center merely will give reservists their service and medical records and direct them to the appropriate NMPS to complete screening, processing, and accession to active duty. On the local level, PSDs actually maintain reserve records; the reserve center provides only institutional access to the jackets. 4

This revolution in Naval Reserve organization and practice has changed the working relationship between active and reserve elements dramatically. Reservists are tied directly to gaining commands through their unit organizations. Reserve centers do not deal with gaining commands; they support reserve units and provide whatever services are needed. They neither drive nor control this process anymore. Therefore, the old reserve-center based paradigm must change in order to better support the new method of doing business—one that places contributory support ahead of Reserve infrastructure support.

The Refocused Naval Reserve Missions

The purpose of the Naval Reserve is to provide trained personnel when required for mobilization and to provide substantial contributory support to the active Navy. 5

Contributory support is work produced by Naval Reserve personnel in direct support of their gaining command's activity. These activities may involve providing administrative support, conducting operational inspections, or participating in operations and exercises. In most cases, these evolutions must be performed at the gaining command—where guidance, supervision, appropriate publications, and operational priorities are well known. The SeaBees' experience shows how continual presence at the gaining command translates into significant contributory support. Numerous construction projects completed by reservists on a combination of drill days and annual training demonstrate the efficacy of this concept.

To tie reserve units directly to gaining commands effectively, the Navy must redistribute its resources within the Naval Reserve more efficiently. Individual reservists should spend all their drill time at their gaining commands. 6

Since 1989, the number of reserve centers/facilities has decreased from 267 to 204 for FY 1997. 7 Naval Reserve manning fell from 152,000 to about 96,000 in the same period. 8 Thus, while the Naval Reserve Force shrunk by 37%, the number of facilities fell only by 23%.

In fact, Naval Reserve budgets have maintained ample funding for all facets of reserve center operations while money to get Reservists to their gaining commands has decreased. Reserve centers remain staffed, funded, and still operate as though their responsibilities-and way of doing business—have not changed.

The Coast Guard Reserve "Model"

The Coast Guard offers a dramatic alternative for the Navy to consider. Having completed a major realignment of its reserve units, the Coast Guard sends its reservists directly to their active-duty components, except for port-security and coastal-warfare units that have no active components. The Coast Guard has about 34,000 active-duty personnel and about 8,000 reserve personnel. This is roughly the same active-duty-to-reserve ratio (80:20) that the Navy has. 9

"Team Coast Guard" is the term used to describe the Commandant's initiative that reorients the Reserve training program. It has completely reengineered the Reserve force, eliminating separate, redundant command and administrative support structures. Team Coast Guard has:

  • Assigned reservists directly to active-unit commands for operational and administrative control
  • Established port security units, naval coastal warfare units, and composite naval coastal warfare groups, where there were no active component commands
  • Deactivated most reserve units, eliminating grade-structure anomalies and reserve-only work spaces, where the use of active-component spaces is more efficient
  • Shifted administrative support from Reserve personnel reporting units and other reserve-only administrative offices, to fully integrated personnel and administrative staffs
  • Distributed Selected Reserve positions by a standardized process called a Reserve Personnel Allowance List. 10

The Coast Guard quickly and dramatically revised the way it did business, reduced infrastructure, and shifted personnel assets from support to operational missions. Along the way, it was able to capitalize on unique reserve capabilities, particularly in local ports and environments.

The New Reserve

The new Naval Reserve has success stories-linking its reserve units to their gaining commands. In Norfolk, Virginia, approximately 3,000 reservists are assigned to the Naval Reserve Readiness Center Norfolk, the second largest in the country. But on any of the monthly drill weekends, few people are in the center. About 90% of the assigned reservists are on duty at gaining commands. Although this reserve center is large and has 40 full-time, active-duty staff personnel assigned for reserve support, it actually provides little more than a central location for administrative meetings, access to the reserve computer system for pay and order writing, and indoctrination training for transitory personnel affiliating with new units. 11

On the aviation side in Norfolk, a similar situation prevails. Approximately 1,000 reservists are assigned to the Naval Air Reserve Center (NARC), a few miles away at the Naval Air Station, but only 20% actually drill at the two NARC buildings on the two drill weekends each month. The remaining reservists report to their gaining commands. Support staff at this reserve center also includes more than 80 TARs and 20 civilians. 12

These two commands represent the paradox of the new Naval Reserve. The readiness center staff has, in effect, worked itself out of a job, by moving its reserve units to their appropriate gaining commands. Despite the fact that both centers essentially are empty of selected reservists for 26 days each month, they still are managed and staffed for peak activity.

We need to follow the Coast Guard's example. We have proved that large numbers of reservists can be assigned to their gaining commands each drill weekend. We must reduce the number of reserve centers rapidly, thereby minimizing their infrastructure costs. We also should reassign their active-duty support personnel (TARs) to the increasing number of open fleet billets and gaining-command billets that are key to accessing reservists.

The Norfolk experience should demonstrate that the focus on the gaining command is not only a policy goal, but also that it is the most effective means of supporting the Navy mission. Reservists should be at their gaining commands, contributing directly to the Navy mission and preparing for future contingencies. We need to reallocate funding captured from reducing infrastructure and staff costs to provide travel monies to get reservists to their gaining commands. Reserve units should be shifted closer to their gaining commands—even if that causes the reserve population to decline slightly. Travel need not be monthly. Drills can be combined into a six-day period or annual training to use assets more effectively. 13

Through a major policy change, we have created a dynamically new environment, tying the Naval Reserve directly to the customers it supports. The present emphasis on downsizing gives the Naval Reserve a unique opportunity to design an infrastructure that supports the way the Navy does business with the Reserve-both organizationally and technologically. Getting the reservist to the gaining command all of the time should be the goal. Numerous examples within the Naval Reserve and the Coast Guard prove that this can be done. Spending scarce dollars on unnecessary intermediate obstacles—such as Reserve Centers—is wasteful.

1 Cdr. Donna Hopkins, "Square Peg . . . Round Hole!" Proceedings, June 1996, pp. 55-58

2 RAdm Thomas Hall, "Focus on the Reserve," Navy Times, 9 Sept. 1996, p.22.

3 Telcon with Capt (sel) Richard Anderson, N32, Chief of Naval Reserve, New Orleans, 8 May 1996.

4 It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which the reservist is notified of a recall to active duty; he/she goes to the small, perhaps temporary, reserve office in a local mall where orders and directions to the NMPS are distributed; they are told that service jackets and medical records will meet them at the NMPS; tickets are provided if necessary.

5 Radm Hall, Naval Reservist News, March, 1996.

6 The naval reserve centers in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida-separated only by 20 miles-offer a good example of redundancy. Collectively, these centers drill a grand total of three weekends each month. Tampa has two drill weekends each month; St. Petersburg has one. Combining all functions would use one reserve center more effectively and reduce staff and maintenance expenses overall.

7 Telcon with Cdr Sykes CNRF Code 11 Manpower, New Orleans; 8 May 1996

8 "NRA Compares Navy/Naval Reserve Draw-Down," Naval Reserve Association Magazine, May, 1994, p. 8.

9 An extraordinarily high portion of the Naval Reserve numbers-17,551 out of 98,894 in FY-96--are full time Training and Administration of Reserves (TARs) support personnel. According to CDR Don Bunn USCGR (Code G-WTR-3), Washington, D.C., in a telephone conversation on 14 February 1997 there are about 75 full-time support personnel for the Coast Guard Reserve; another 400 billets are funded for support of the Reserve. This would equate to a personnel level of about 5,500 if the CG Reserve were the size of the Navy Reserve.

10 “Coast Guard Reserve." Fiscal Year 1995 Report of the Reserve Forces Policy Board, March, 1996, p. 19.

11 Telcon with Cdr Marlowe, XO, NRRC Norfolk, 20 August 1996.

12 Telcon with Cdr Baszner, XO, NARC Norfolk, 15 August 1996.

13 A different situation exists for those units whose gaining commands are outside of the continental United States. There may he no other option than to have these units drill at a common reserve site. Reserve units with the same command or geographical assignment (CinCPacFlt for example) should be assigned to the same "reserve site," thereby optimizing training, doctrinal discussion, and operational integration. This sort of reserve site does not have to be capable of accommodating 1,000 personnel every day of the week, nor should it be fully staffed 30 days each month. A part-time reserve site might exist in a neighborhood mall and be staffed by one or two personnel who provide access to reserve computer systems, publications, and staffing documentation. Additional staff might arrive for the drill periods, during which the entire organization would move to a space like a college campus, large enough to accommodate the reserve population. A mobile PSD detachment could provide administrative support. Medical record keeping could occur in the same fashion. Reserve personnel could handle the schedule of spaces and the planning of training.

Captain Fogerty recently retired from the Naval Reserve. He was the Deputy Director of Crisis Action for the U.S. Pacific Command from October 1996-March 1997, and was the co-moderator for the Joint Military operations course (Reserve segment) at the Naval War College from 1992-1996. During his career, Captain Fogerty has had six reserve commands. Professor Somes is a retired Navy captain who served as the Operations Department head at the Naval War College. At present, he is a member of the National Security Decision Making Department at the Naval War College.


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