"Dwell Time" For Troops Largely Ignored By Media

I was a little surprised this Sunday when two interviews with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates failed to yield any serious questions on whether the Pentagon can send more troops to Afghanistan without a change in the administration's stated priority to allow our troops to have more "dwell time" -- time off between deployments. Then I remembered that I was watching Sunday morning political shows, and so had no right to expect a serious question.

But with General Stanley McChrystal and Ambassador Karl Eikenberry set to testify before Congress this week, one should anticipate that concerns over "dwell time" are going to be aired at some point. A cursory examination of the past week's television news indicates that the topic isn't getting a lot of play in advance of these hearings, which makes me wonder if the matter will pass through the media's ears, without comment.

The only media figure who seems to take this matter seriously is MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, who has done at least two segments I know of on "dwell time," including this explainer:


MADDOW: Full of the first casualties of the escalation of the war in Afghanistan is apparently the amount of time our fighting troops will get between deployments. It's called dwell time. And once upon a time the Obama administration's goal was to give our fighting men and women more of it. Currently, soldiers get about a year at home for every year of deployment. Marines get slightly more. Earlier this year, Defense Secretary Bob Gates testified that he hoped to lengthen that dwell time for soldiers to two years at home for every year out. That was before the president decided we needed to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. So now that hope for two years dwell time is apparently out the window.


SEN. MARK UDALL (C-DO), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: What effect do you see this additional deployment having on dwell time and the length of deployment cycles and reset?

ADM. MIKE MULLEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: We want to get to a point where there home twice as long. With this deployment decision, we expect that it will probably take a couple more years to get to a point where he's out two-to-one.


MADDOW: That was yesterday. Then, today testifying before the house armed services committee, Admiral Mullen seemed to slightly back off that more pessimistic prediction.


MULLEN: We'll still be able to have on the Marine Corps side dwell time move out towards two-to-one fairly significantly, a little more slowly on the army side.


MADDOW: A little more slowly on the army side. John Soltz of the Progressive Veterans group says, the dwell time change it's bad in itself and he says it raises the prospect of a whole lot of other potentially troubling consequences of the president's troop escalation for the military.

Quote--"What about ending stop loss, or not using the individual ready reserve, or mobilizations that are no longer than 12 months for the National Guard and Reserve? All of those could be in Jeopardy. This concerns are why can't endorse this strategy. The math doesn't add, and Admiral Mullen's testimony raises more concerns and questions that answers."

For more on VoteVets' position on "dwell time," click here. As noted here, Maddow previously took up this issue on the November 18 broadcast of her eponymous show and, in an appearance on Charlie Rose on December 1, said, "I honestly feel like the issue of dwell time is being really underplayed."

Army Data Show Constraints on Troop Increase Potential [The Washington Independent]
VoteVets Blasts Obama on Dwell Time [Washington Independent]

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