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Reserve Component Personnel Issues: Questions and Answers

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Publication Date: February 2009

Publisher(s): Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service

Series: RL30802

Topic: Military and defense (Military personnel)


The term "Reserve Component" is often used to refer collectively to the seven individual reserve components of the armed forces: the Army National Guard of the United States, the Army Reserve, the Navy Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve, the Air National Guard of the United States, the Air Force Reserve, and the Coast Guard Reserve. The role of these seven reserve components, as codified in law at 10 U.S.C. 10102, is to "provide trained units and qualified persons available for active duty in the armed forces, in time of war or national emergency, and at such other times as the national security may require, to fill the needs of the armed forces whenever...more units and persons are needed than are in the regular components."

During the Cold War era, the reserve components were a manpower pool that was rarely tapped. For example, from 1945 to 1989, reservists were involuntarily activated by the federal government only four times, an average of less than once per decade. Since the end of the Cold War, however, the nation has relied more heavily on the reserve components. Since 1990, reservists have been involuntarily activated by the federal government six times, an average of once every two years. This increasing use of the reserves has led to greater congressional interest in the various issues, such as funding, equipment, and personnel policy, that bear on the vitality of the reserve components. This report is designed to provide an overview of key reserve component personnel issues.

This report provides insight to reserve component personnel issues through a series of questions and answers: how many people are in different categories of the reserve component (question 3); how reserve component personnel are organized (questions 2 and 4); how reserve component personnel have been and may be utilized (questions 1, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 11); how reserve component personnel are compensated (questions 8 and 10); the type of legal protections that reserve component personnel enjoy (question 12); recent changes in reserve component pay and benefits made by Congress (question 13); and reserve component personnel issues that might be of particular interest to the 109th Congress (question 14).

This report will be updated as needed.


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