The Hill reported January 25th that new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is directing the heads of the different military services to reduce the use of the stop-loss policy, a much-disputed program that involuntarily extends military members beyond their original commitments.
Citing a memorandum sent to the military chiefs, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, and undersecretaries of defense, The Hill reported that Mr. Gates requested plans for minimizing the use of stop-loss for active duty and reserve troops by the end of February.
According to The Hill, the President’s new plan for Iraq involves the use of stop-loss orders. Quoting Democratic Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee, the report says, “They’re extending and stop-lossing people in the country [Iraq] themselves. And it is very unpopular, even with the troops themselves, when they don’t understand the mission.” Murtha has been an adamant critic of the Iraq war and the manner in which it has been conducted.
The Hill report says that several Republicans from the House of Representatives sent Secretary Gates a letter last week in which they asked that members of the National Guard and Reserve not be kept on duty beyond their original commitments. “The stop-loss program is, in essence, a hidden draft,” Representative Randy Kuhl of New York is quoted as saying in the letter.
According to The Hill, the letter also says that the use of the stop-loss program by the Defense Department “betrays [soldiers’] trust, separates families and threatens to devastate the likelihood that active-duty soldiers will follow up their service with time serving in the reserves.” Representatives Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Steven LaTourette of Ohio, and Jim Ramstad of Minnesota also signed the letter, The Hill says.
The report goes on to say that “A stop-loss order for National Guard and Reserve units activated for the war against terrorism has been in effect since November 2002. The policy allows the Pentagon to keep soldiers whose enlistment is due to expire in order to maintain troop strength and unit integrity.”
Despite many challenges to the legality of the policy, the Pentagon has successfully argued in court that under the law the program is allowed if the president deems it essential to the national security of the United States, The Hill says.
Information for this article was obtained from “Pentagon Cuts Stop-Loss,” by Roxana Tiron, published January 25, 2007 in The Hill.