Pentagon issues warning for non-deployable personnel: 'Deploy or be removed'

The Pentagon on Wednesday announced a new “deploy or be removed” policy that could affect up to nearly 300,000 service members who have been non-deployable for the past 12 months.

“This new policy is a 12-month deploy or be removed policy,” Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel and readiness on Wednesday.

The move comes after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ memo last year stressing the need to ensure that “everyone who comes into the service and everyone who stays in the service is world-wide deployable.”

The plan was first revealed by The Military Times.

According to various estimates, between 11 to 14 percent -- or well over 200,000 service members -- of the 2.1 million personnel serving on active duty, in the reserves or National Guard are currently non-deployable on any given day, hindering military readiness.

The new policy will have exceptions such as pregnancy while medical boards will continue to be able to grant exceptions for wounded personnel.

“The situation we face today is really unlike anything we have faced, certainly in the post-World War II era,” Wilkie told the Senate panel. “On any given day, about 13 to 14 percent of the force is medically unable to deploy. That comes out to be about 286,000 [service members].”

The official asked the panel to imagine Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, walking into his company on Christmas week and finding out that 14 percent of his workforce is unable to work. “He would no longer be the largest company in the world,” Wilkie said.

Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell told the Times earlier this month that nearly 100,000 are non-deployable because of administrative reasons like not having all their immunizations or their medical exams.

Another 20,000 are not deployable due to pregnancy while the remaining service members are non-deployable because of short or long-term injuries. But Troxell said that very few of those injuries “are related to combat injuries. Or battle injuries. It’s related to everyday, doing their job, or during physical training that they were injured.”

“If you are going to serve and continue to want to serve, and if you want to make this a career, you’re going to have to learn that path of recovery and get back to being healthy. Because we need healthy, fit warriors to defend this nation,” Troxell added.

Wilkie admitted the military shares responsibility for reaching such high numbers of non-deployable personnel, as unit leaders often did not ensure those under their command received all required medical examinations and care.

“The other thing we’ve seen is that in the down years of recruiting for the military, we offered too many medical waivers,” the official said. “The medical conditions ... have followed them into the service as they progressed through their careers. We have to address that.”