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Navy Reserve officials are saying that despite rumors to the contrary, there’s funding for all Selected Reserve sailors’ drills and annual training — including money for reservists who travel extended distances to their commands.
But beyond the basics, there could be shortfalls for sailors wanting to pick up more active-duty time. This year’s budget called for a 30 percent cut in active-duty training, from $154 million last year to $108 million in 2013. As the Navy cuts back on missions to meet budget requirements, reservists scheduled to support those missions will need alternate assignments.
“We will need to remain aggressive and flexible in developing new annual training opportunities for our reservists if planned primary training opportunities are canceled or postponed,” said Vice Adm. Robin Braun, chief of the Navy Reserve. “Our plan will be to communicate frequently with our supported commands to ensure the highest possible state of readiness is maintained across the force.”
And money for the basic building blocks of that readiness, Braun said, isn’t going anywhere.
“Each member’s 48 [days of inactive-duty training], two weeks of annual training and inactive-duty training travel are funded as they have been in the past,” Braun said. “The Reserve personnel appropriation, as with all services’ personnel appropriations, is exempt from sequestration.”
Rumored cuts aren't coming
Reserve sailors need those 48 days of IDT and the two weeks of AT to get a “good year” —one with enough points to count toward retirement.
There are other unpaid ways to accrue points, too, such as drilling voluntarily or completing online training; officials said those methods aren’t necessary but remain options for reservists working to acquire more than the minimum number of points.
Braun also quashed rumors that travel costs for sailors who travel more than 100 miles to their drill sites no longer would be provided. That money’s still in place, including food and lodging costs for the time sailors are at the command.
“The Navy Reserve, as with the all services’ operations and maintenance funding, will be affected by sequestration,” Braun said. “We will experience a reduction in operations, exercises and unit training for reserve commands commensurate with similar reductions by the active component.”
And Braun says that using reservists “as needed” is actually an effective tool for the active component to consider when facing budget cuts.
“Our Selected Reserve sailors are only paid when training or serving on active duty and do not incur full-time costs for housing, food, medical or other services,” Braun said. “Clearly, the Navy Reserve is a cost-effective way to maintain capabilities that can be surged when the Navy and nation need additional support.”
Most reservists report to one of the 122 Navy Operational Support Centers across all 50 states and territories. Including civilians who work for the Reserve, it represents 13.5 percent of the Navy’s total force but just 5.6 percent of the Navy’s manpower budget, she said.
More sea time, fewer Seabees
Despite some cuts, nearly everywhere there are active sailors, reservists are augmenting them.
The Reserve provides all of the Navy’s medium-lift logistics aircraft support, for example, and represents 50 percent of the capabilities of Navy Expeditionary Combat command. There are 1,675 reserve component sailors in Afghanistan among Seabee battalions, special operators and individual augmentees, Braun said, and about 3,200 reservists are mobilized worldwide to support wartime-related needs — down from a peak of 7,000 in 2010.
Unlike the active-duty force, the Reserve is set to shrink. It will cut roughly 6,000 billets over the next three years, as the force reorganizes as part of the Afghanistan drawdown. The majority of cuts will be in the Seabees.
Reservists will get new roles at sea, aboard one of the Navy’s new littoral combat ships. Three are aboard Freedom on its deployment to Singapore, where more reservists will provide maintenance support.
Reservists will be a bigger part of the LCS picture —several Reserve LCS units are in the process of standing up, Braun said.
These and other new or expanding programs mean the Navy’s looking for new reservists, even in the face of cuts.
“We continue to recruit and retain critical skill sets to meet the needs of the Navy,” she said. “Foremost in our current needs are unrestricted line officers and health care professionals — attractive bonuses are available to help meet our recruiting and retention goals in these areas.”