Thousands of service members’ jobs at risk under new Pentagon policy

State of the Nation

Source: MSN Money

Thousands of service members who are deemed unfit to deploy overseas are at risk of losing their jobs because of a new policy being adopted by the Department of Defense, a U.S. defense official told ABC News.

According to the memo released Thursday, the new policy states any member — with the exception of pregnant or postpartum members — who has been ineligible for deployment for more than 12 consecutive months will be processed for administrative separation — the process of leaving the military — or referred to the Disability Evaluation System. The military has until Oct. 1 to start the required processing.

Secretaries who lead military services will be the only individuals authorized to grant waivers allowing a member to remain on payroll.

A service member can be deemed unfit to deploy for a variety of reasons, including traumatic brain injury, out of date vaccines, failing fitness tests, mental health concerns, pregnancy or neck and back pain that may prevent the individual from wearing a helmet or body armor.

The under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Robert Wilkie told senators 13 percent to 14 percent of service members — about 286,000 to 300,000 — are medically ineligible to deploy on any given day, according to ABC.

Command Sgt Maj. John Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joe Dunford told the Military Times at least 99,000 of those service members are undeployable because of easily fixable issues, such as missing medical appointments or immunizations. About 20,000 are because of pregnancies.

“Because the more of these people we have that can’t deploy and do their mission, that means somebody else has to pull their weight for them, or we have a void or a degradation in capability, because we don’t have the requisite people,” Troxell said.

Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said the new policy will help improve the military’s level of readiness and that having so many non-deployable service members puts a strain on those that can serve.

“We have to ensure given the climate that this country faces, that everyone who signs up can be deployed to any corner of the world at any given time and that is the reason for the change in policy,” Wilkie said.

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