Friday, May 05, 2006

IA, Mobilization and the Navy's Role "Over There" 

Chap has written a bit on the IA rumors as they apply to the AC while some of his commenters have pondered what the ramifications maybe for the RC mobilization picture. Allow me to run off at my mouth and offer a somewhat informed opinion. For those not already familiar with my history, please allow me to establish my bona fides in this area by offering a brief personal account of my involvement with the process.

On Oct 2, 2001, after having done about 18 days of AT supporting the Emergency Crisis Center at BUPERS, I was one of five Reservists mobilized to BUPERS, forming what was then called "Pers-44M" (I came up with using "M" to stand for "Mobilized"). At that time the IA issue was hot and heavy at PERS and it was that with which we were initially tasked. Specifically, we were had to identify specific eligible candidates currently serving on shore duty who had the requested skills and qualifications. Until we arrived on the scene this was being done in an ad-hoc "fair-share" sort of way among the various branches (Pers-41/42/43/44), similar to the way 1000 and 1050 billets are distributed. This was recognized to be not the best way, as parochial interests invariably resulted in branch warfare over the "fair share". Additionally, the branch heads were encountering conflicts of interest in having to deal with claimants they were simultaneously manning and borrowing from (and the claimants kept trying to bargain their IA contributions in relation to prospective orders for others). Moving the IA process out of the branches allowed them to continue their normal business without complication and established us as an "honest broker" that simply looked for the right candidate from the right claimant. To make this easier I built a data system that identified suitable candidates and also provided detailed manning information on the potentially affected commands. After all, it's hard for the O-10 from the Naval Academy to push back too hard on an IA requirement when you can demonstrate to him that not only does he have four eligible candidates, but that he is also overmanned both in URLs and designator specific officers of the requested rank. About this time, though, many of our warnings concerning the management of the mobilization were beginning to be evidenced and our focus was, instead, shifted to getting a handle on what was happening with regard to the Reservists.

Fast forward to July 2003, when I demobilized, and we had centralized all mobilization order writing activities, including personal Sailor Advocacy with mobilized Reservists, employing a staff of around 20 full-time mobilized members and the support of a 20-man Reserve Unit. We still had an IA group, but it was relatively small, headed by an FTS Officer and was solely concerned with AC fills. On those occasions where an RC fill was identified as best for a specific IA request that requirement would be reproduced by OPNAV and communicated to CNRF for sourcing. IA orders were still 179-day TAD orders generated by the local commands IAW the JCS IA instruction.

Speaking of which, it should be noted that the term IA (Individual Augmentation) has a very specific meaning. By the IA Instruction, an IA is a requirement for a specific skill needed by a Combatant Commander that the JTF Commander cannot internally source and it is, therefore, referred up for external temporary fill. Since the JTFC we're talking about here is CENTCOM and they're carrying the lion's share of the fighting at this point any IA request that gets all the way through the JTFC is treated pretty much as gospel. At that point the actual requirements are evaluated and farmed out to the various services based upon their ability to provide. It should be no surprise to anyone who has been reading the relevant ALLNAVs that ADM Mullen and VADM Cotton are pointedly looking for how the Navy (AC and RC both) can maximize its contribution to the GWOT, hence an emphasis on IA of late. As I said, the last time I was closely involved AC IA orders were 179 days, but I think this was mainly due to type of orders (TAD) being used. It is my understanding that the standard today is one-year boots on ground plus any work-up and job specific/combat training mandated, possibly expanding the orders to up to 18 months.

To specifically address some of Chap's issues/questions:
Re IRR mobilization: it is a world of difference to do an involuntary recall for an IRR member compared to SELRES. If you are in a critical rate (e.g. 8404 HM), there's a chance. Other than that probably not. On the other hand, there are other ways to get from here to there. For example, I just recently received IAP orders, taking me out of an 18-month VTU funk. They say it is to retain a critically undermanned designator (1125), but in the back of my mind I also know that the IAP folks are at the top of the list for getting grabbed.

WESTPAC Warrior is right that a big factor, besides patriotism, is maintaining relevancy in a DoD that is very focused on a ground war with a minimal maritime aspect. Now, once we go at it with Iran and have to control the SOH, deny their SOF and tag their Kilos things may be a bit different...

Bullnav, if you really want to go to the desert just call me and I'll get you orders. You are, however, just making the same point I have been making for several years now. The more that Reserve manning and detailing is pulled from CNRF and moved to Pers-46 the better it gets, though. The Navy mobilization experience has been unique and instructive, in that the majority of our people were ordered as an individual mobilization and not part of a unit mobilization. This can provide us the experience to help us better manage the IA task, but on the RC side of business I agree that there isn't much of a clear overall strategy of managing our human capital. I have heard whispers that it is changing, but I know some of the folks in CNRF who would have to change their way of doing business to make it happen, and the prospects for real change don't look good to me.

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