New Deployment Policy Could Affect 300,000 Service Members

The Pentagon has announced a new deployment policy that has the potential to affect up to nearly 300,000 service members. Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, called the new policy “a 12-month deploy or be removed policy.” The new policy states that any service member who has been non-deployable for more than 12 consecutive months will be processed for administrative separation or referred to the Disability Evaluation System.

The new policy will allow the military to push out almost any service member who has not been able to deploy in the past year. The military may also begin separating a person from the service once a determination has been made that he or she will remain non-deployable for more than a year without waiting for the conclusion of that twelve-month period. Medical boards will review the conditions of those who have been wounded.

The Department of Defense began exploring its options for non-deployable troops last July. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ released a memo last year stressing that the Pentagon needs to ensure that “everyone who comes into the service and everyone who stays in the service is world-wide deployable.” The military branches have until Oct. 1 to begin the mandatory processing.

Various estimates show that between 11 to 14 percent of the 2.1 million personnel serving on active duty, in the reserves, or in the National Guard are currently non-deployable on any given day. That equates to well over 200,000 service members. Wilkie told senators this week that the total number of non-deployable service members could be as high as 300,000.

An individual can be designated non-deployable for a number of reasons. About 80 percent of non-deployable troops reached that status due to medical issues. According to Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, nearly 100,000 service members are non-deployable due to administrative reasons, such as not having all their immunizations or their medical exams current. Roughly 20,000 are not deployable due to pregnancy. The rest are non-deployable because of short or long-term injuries.

A Navy doctor speaking on the condition of anonymity said that medical waivers were widespread in the military branches. Medical waivers are used to allow certain individuals to get into the service, but those waivers often follow them throughout their careers. The doctor said he has taken care of sailors with “every chronic condition you can imagine.”

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said that the new policy will help address readiness levels in the Army. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey said in 2015 that non-deployable soldiers were the number one problem in the Army and that only 10 percent of the Army’s non-deployable soldiers will ever be fit to serve again. Exceptions for wounded personnel and pregnancy would remain part of the new policy. The secretaries who head the military services will be authorized to grant waivers that would keep a service member on the payroll.

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