Senator Webb calls for National Guard, Army Reserve support

Concerned with the military’s continuing erratic deployment rotations, freshman Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) is planning to introduce an amendment to the 2008 defense authorization bill that will require the Pentagon to give troops at least as much time at home as they spent on deployments.

“We’re seeing, in many cases, our ground troops burned out,” Webb said at a press conference yesterday alongside Kansas Gov. Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusJerry Moran: 'I wouldn't be surprised' if Pompeo ran for Senate in Kansas Mark Halperin inks book deal 2020 Democrats fight to claim Obama's mantle on health care MORE (D). “The current strategy of this administration has not justified the deployment of troops in this way.”

Multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are causing an increase in mental-health issues among members of the military and are prompting more troops to leave the armed forces, he said.

The Senate is expected to take up the authorization bill after the July 4th recess.

Earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates outlined in a memo an initiative to change the deployment of Reserve as well as active-duty troops. Under Gates’s directive, members of the Reserve forces will have an involuntary deployment time of one year, followed by five years on their home bases. Some Reserve forces could be mobilized sooner, but only on a temporary basis.

Active-duty forces will deploy for one year at a time and will spend two years at their home bases, according to Gates’s memo.

Pentagon officials have acknowledged, however, that it may be difficult to adhere strictly to the plans, and are looking to establish a compensation and incentive program for those whose deployments are extended.

Currently, most active units deploy for one year and spend one year at their home bases, after which they immediately deploy again. But many of the deployments have been extended to more than a year.

Active-duty Army soldiers currently serve up to 15 months in Iraq or Afghanistan with a 12-month home stay, and longer terms of National Guard and Reserve units have placed an “unprecedented” strain on supply and readiness at home, Sebelius said.

The governor made headlines in May when she sounded alarm over her state’s inability to respond to the aftermath of devastating tornadoes. More than 60 percent of the Kansas National Guard’s equipment is in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“If we had needed equipment in two places simultaneously we couldn’t have done it,” she added.

Kansas is not alone in facing a depleted stock of National Guard supply. Earlier this month, USA Today reported that 31 states have 60 percent or less of their authorized National Guard equipment.

Webb, who served as the first assistant secretary of defense for Reserve Affairs during the Reagan administration and later as the Navy secretary, said he knows what a properly functioning National Guard and Reserve system should look like.

“This is not really what we’re seeing,” he said.

The White House has criticized Democratic mandates on funding as “micromanagement” of the war effort. But Webb cited precedent from the Korean War as well as a constitutional authority to supply and train troops.

“That’s not micromanaging,” he said. “That’s setting forward to protect the well-being of those sent into harm’s way.”

The senator would not, however, endorse calls from other members of his party to cut off funding as a means for bringing the Iraq war to an end.

Roxana Tiron contributed to this report.