WASHINGTON — The Defense Department unveiled a program April 19 that will reward administrative leave to Military Members whose service in combat does not meet the department’s goal for the time at home-station between deployments.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates directed the development of this program Jan. 19, when he implemented a force-management policy stating that DoD’s goal was to give Active-Duty troops two years at home-station for every year deployed, and Reserve-component troops five years at home-station for every year deployed. At the time, Gates recognized that national security concerns would require Military Members to be deployed more frequently than this goal, so he announced a compensation plan to make up for frequent deployments.
Under the new policy, Active-Duty Military Members who are deployed for more than 12 months in a 36-month period will earn one day of administrative absence for each month beyond 12. If Military Members are deployed for more than 18 months in a 36-month period, they will earn two days of administrative absence a month. Past 24 months, they will earn four days a month.
Members of the Reserve components will earn one day of administrative absence a month for every month beyond 12 they are mobilized in a 72-month period. Members of the Reserve components will also earn two days a month if they are mobilized past 18 months in a 72-month period, and four days a month if they are mobilized past 24 months in the same period.
Administrative absences are days off authorized by the commander, and are separate from normal leave accrued by a Military Member.
In a news conference announcing the policy, Michael Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the program is meant to recognize the sacrifices Military Members make, but is in no way trying to put a physical value on their service.
“Secretary Gates and all of us honor the service of the men and women in uniform, particularly in these demanding times,” Dominguez said. “This program can’t be viewed as being commensurate with the level of service that they offer to the nation. In many respects, while it is substantive and it is tangible, it’s also symbolic. It’s part of our recognition that we’re keeping them in our thoughts and we’re trying to do something for them.”
The policy is retroactive to Jan. 19, so any Military Member who was deployed or involuntarily mobilized from that day forward, whose service exceeds the time frame in the policy, will earn the days off, Dominguez said. Also, troops who were deployed within the last three years, and are deployed now, will earn administrative leave for their current deployment, he said.
In deciding what compensation to give Military Members who are deployed more frequently than DoD would like, defense officials considered a wide range of options, Dominguez said. Monetary compensation was considered, he said, but time off seemed the logical choice to reward increased frequency and intensity of service.
“We weren’t trying to find some metaphysical balance between the service you were rendering and buckets full of gold, or any other thing we can do for you,” Dominguez said. “This was about telling men and women of the Armed Forces that we know when we ask you to do something extraordinary.”
DoD has had a policy since 2004 that pays Military Members who are extended in theater beyond 12 months $1,000 a month, Dominguez said. That policy is still in effect, he said, and applies to Army personnel who now have to serve 15-month tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The new policy is meant to deal with frequency of deployments, rather than the length of each deployment, Dominguez said. The administrative leave Military Members earn under this policy will stay with them through their military career and can be used anytime, with commander approval, he said.
“This is what we do,” he said. “This is the job of the men and women of the Armed Forces, from which they do not shirk, and the volunteer force is extraordinary. This is just saying, ‘Look, we know what you’re doing, we recognize what you’re doing, we’re proud of what you’re doing, we’re grateful for what you’re doing.’”