WASHINGTON: The Department of Defense is instating a new policy that could lead thousands of service members, who are deemed unfit to deploy overseas, to lose their jobs, according to a U.S. defense official.
Robert Wilkie, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told senators this week that on any given day, about 13 to 14 percent of the force — about 286,000 service members — is medically unable to deploy. The defense official estimated that the total number of non-deployable service members could be as high as 300,000.
An individual can be designated non-deployable for a number of reasons, like traumatic brain injury, out of date vaccines, failing fitness tests, mental health concerns and pregnancy. Other examples include neck or back pain that prohibits the service member from wearing a helmet and body armor.
Last July, Secretary of Defense James Mattis directed the office responsible for personnel and readiness to identify changes to military personnel policies that will “ensure our military is ready to fight today and in the future.”
According to a Pentagon memo released Thursday, the new policy states that any service member (with the exception of pregnant or post-partum individuals) who has been non-deployable for more than 12 consecutive months will be processed for administrative separation (the process to leave the military) or referred to the Disability Evaluation System. The services have until Oct. 1 to begin the mandatory processing.