Acting Army secretary seeks shorter tours of duty
Brownlee asks for plan to put in place after insurgency ends
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Army leaders have been asked to shorten the tour of duty for troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, though no changes would be made until the insurgency in Iraq is brought under control.
Troops now deploy for one-year tours. Acting Secretary of the Army Les Brownlee asked Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, in a memo dated October 8 to shorten that period.
Brownlee said he wanted a plan ready to put in place when the insurgency is stopped. He said the Iraqi security forces are up to the task of securing the country.
"It is important that these plans be available for implementation when the security conditions and the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces might enable us to do so," Brownlee wrote. "Please develop a plan that would enable us on fairly short notice to curtail tour lengths for our deployed and deploying soldiers."
For some time, the Pentagon has been struggling to find enough troops to cover the rotations while making the tours shorter and less stressful on the soldiers and their families.
In the past, U.S. Army troops were deployed on six-month tours. With a violent insurgency in Iraq, military leaders saw the need for longer deployments.
The Marine Corps sends troops to Iraq and Afghanistan on seven-month rotations, which the Marines say is the most efficient way to operate.
Earlier this year, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with Marine Corps leaders to examine if deployment lengths should be increased.
Army recruiters have worried that the ability to draw in new soldiers will begin to deteriorate if potential enlistees see the Army as an automatic ticket to a year of serving away from their families in a war zone.
No time frame was offered for when troops could expect shorter tours of duty. Brownlee wrote, "during the next few months, conditions permitting, we should begin to work closely with commanders in theater to examine potential reductions in tour lengths."