Reservists May Fill Vacant Civilian Slots in Afghanistan (Because No One Else Will)

Defense Secretary (and occasional superhero) Robert M. Gates has indicated reservists with the specialized skills sought for Afghanistan may be called to fill jobs planned as civilian posts.

It appears the so-called “civilian surge” may be anything but.

In recent remarks at Marine Corps base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Gates stated that the plan for civilian infrastructure experts to get Afghanistan shakin’ isn’t panning out. (And this is a surprise?) But why let that derail this train? Why not get reservists to volunteer to hold down these jobs (for the duration) until civilians can be found (never)?

Great idea, except that it’s not. In the rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul scenario, reserve units might suffer. Reservists skilled as accountants, engineers, veterinarians, air traffic controllers, and legal experts are expected to volunteer. But what if they don’t? No problem. These are uniformed personnel subject to the UCMJ. Our guess is they will be ordered to those jobs, but in the capacity as civilians.

This set-up sounded suspect, so we called on our legal experts. One D.C. power lawyer and former Army JAG can see challenges to the move, but from a UCMJ stand point, he sees no argument. Title 10 gives commanders and the executive branch “broad, discretionary powers.” DoD can order its people — active or reserve — in varied capacities as long as the order has a military purpose, which Afghanistan does. Changes to Title 10 during 2008 also brought civilians (DoD and contractor) under UCMJ jurisdiction.

Retired Marine Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy, who heads the Reserve Officers Association quickly said not so fast, Bob. He is concerned with the gutting of reserve units. We won’t list the issues potentially impacting the individual reservist.

So why has Plan A sputtered? Are these slots being handled with the appropriate import? We’ve heard some complain about the applicant clearing house, which appears to be USA Jobs — a known black hole according to some in government service.

Critics have charged the now defunct “stop loss” policy was a backdoor draft. Will this be more of the same?

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