Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) today introduced a bi-partisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act requiring that active-duty troops and units have at least equal time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas. The amendment also sets a minimum 1-to-3 year ratio for National Guard and Reserve members and units.
Thirty-one members of the Senate have signed onto Webb’s amendment as original co-sponsors, including Senator Chuck Hagel, the lead Republican cosponsor.
For a copy of the amendment, complete floor speech, list of co-sponsors and other materials please visit www.webb.senate.gov
From a press release out of Senator Webb’s office:
“Now in the fifth year of ground operations in Iraq, this deck of cards has come crashing down on the backs of soldiers and Marines who have been deployed again and again, while the rest of the country sits back and debates Iraq as an intellectual or emotional exercise,” Webb said.
“We’ve reached the point where we can no longer allow the ever-changing nature of this Administration’s operational policies to drive the way our troops are being deployed. In fact, the reverse is true. The availability of our troops should be the main determinant of how ground operations should be conducted.
“This is one area where we all as Democrats and Republicans should be able to come together. I would urge my colleagues to recognize this common interest and the interests that we share in addressing the welfare of our troops and their families,” continued Webb. Troops currently face extended deployments with insufficient “dwell time” to rest with families and friends, retrain, and re-equip before they are redeployed. The effects have been seen in rising mental health problems among service members serving multiple tours and falling retention rates for mid-grade officers and non-commissioned officers.
“The war is headed in a dangerous direction, and Americans are united in the belief that we cannot wait until the Administration’s September report before we change course in Iraq,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said in a press conference today with Senator Webb. “Attacks on U.S. forces are up, Iraqi political leaders are frozen in a dangerous stalemate and a change at every front is required if we are to succeed. We cannot ask our military to continue to fight without a strategy for success, and we certainly cannot ask them to fight before they are ready to do so.”
Senator Webb’s amendment sets a floor for minimum periods between deployments for both units and members. It states that if a unit or member of a regular component of the Armed Forces is deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, they will have the same time at home—“dwell time”—before being redeployed. Guard and Reserve units and members will have a minimum floor of three years dwell time prior to being redeployed.
The amendment, however, states that the ideal rotation scenarios are a 1-to-2 deployment-to-dwell ratio for active duty troops and five years between subsequent deployments for the Guard and Reserve. The amendment also states the sense of Congress that units and members of Reserve components should not be mobilized continuously for more than one year.
“Senator Webb has taken an important leadership role on an issue that is as important to our country and to our military and their families as any other issue—and that’s ensuring the readiness of our military,” said Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) today on the Senator floor. “It is the men and women who we ask to fight and die for this country who must always be our highest priority. The men and women who serve this country in uniform and their families deserve a policy worthy of their sacrifices.”
“We continue to ask more and more of our brave men and women fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). “It’s time to live up to our commitments and give them a fair and reasonable amount of time at home between deployments to re-establish family ties, and continue their training and advanced military education, so they’re well prepared for their next deployment.”
“Multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a huge toll on our troops, both physically and mentally,” said Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. “When our men and women in uniform are called to duty we must make sure they’re ready and equipped with the resources they need. Rest is a critically important component of that. Senator Webb offers common sense legislation that will truly support our troops.”
“Our armed forces are completely overstretched with extended tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA). We have been fighting this war for four years, and it’s time to give our fighting men and women a reprieve. This amendment will be a huge improvement to military retention for our National Guard and Reserve units by allowing these units the time they need to reunite with their families and adequately prepare for their next mission. We simply will not have the manpower we need to meet our next challenge, whatever it may be, unless our forces and their families receive the support they deserve.”
“The men and women who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are carrying a heavy burden and they all deserve our support,” said Senator John Kerry (D-MA). “This amendment is an important step in restoring the social contract between our Armed Forces and the government that this administration has shattered. We keep faith with troops when we remember the sacrifices they are making and we take steps to help them and their families cope with these extended deployments. It’s only fair they have an opportunity to rest at home after these long deployments and I look forward to a vote on this amendment.”