For the first time since President Bush mobilized the National Guard and Reserve after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon is abandoning its limit on the time a citizen-soldier can be required to serve on active duty.
The Pentagon also announced it is proposing to Congress that the size of the Army be increased by 65,000, to 547,000 and that the Marine Corps, the smallest of the services, grow by 27,000, to 202,000, over the next five years. No cost estimate was provided, but officials said it would be at least several billion dollars.
Until now, the Pentagon's policy on the Guard or Reserve was that members' cumulative time on active duty for the Iraq or Afghan wars could not exceed 24 months. That cumulative limit is now lifted; the remaining limit is on the length of any single mobilization, which may not exceed 24 consecutive months.
In other words, a citizen-soldier could be mobilized for a 24-month stretch then demobilized and allowed to return to civilian life, only to be mobilized a second time for as much as an additional 24 months.
A senior U.S. military official who briefed reporters Thursday on Iraq-related developments said that by next January, the Pentagon "probably will be calling again" on National Guard combat brigades that previously served yearlong tours in Iraq. Under Pentagon ground rule, the official could not be further identified.