Army to Stop Extending Tours Beyond Service Obligations
By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 18, 2009; 3:42 PM
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced today that the Army will virtually eliminate the unpopular practice of "stop loss" -- or mandating that soldiers stay in the Army beyond their service obligation -- by March 2011 and will offer extra pay to soldiers whose service is extended under the policy.
About 13,000 soldiers are serving in the Army under the stop-loss policy, nearly double the number of two years ago. Gates said the goal is to reduce that number by 50 percent by June 2010 and to bring it down to scores or less by March 2011.
"I felt particularly in these numbers that it was breaking faith" to keep soldiers in the service after their end date comes up, Gates said. "To hold them against their will is just not the right thing to do," he said at a Pentagon press conference.
To achieve that, the Army Reserve will no longer mobilize units under stop-loss policy beginning in August, the Army National Guard in September, and the active duty Army by January 2010.
Gate said that the Army retains the authority to use stop loss under "extraordinary" circumstances. But he said that should only happen in an "emergency situation where we absolutely had to have somebody's skills for a specific limited period of time." Such decisions would be made by the secretary of the Army, he said.
Effective this month, the Army will also pay soldiers who are under stop loss an extra $500 per month, and those payments will be retroactive until October 2008, when they were authorized by Congress, Gates said.