Spending Even Less Time At Home

Air Force General Lance Smith, the head of Joint Forces Command, which coordinates the provision of forces to Iraq, told defense writers this morning that if the troop surge continues through the summer, "in a worse case planning scenario....there is a high possibility" that the "dwell" time, or time at home for units between war zone tours, would decrease and that the tours of more units in Iraq would have to be extended.

Army units are normally deployed to Iraq for one year, but some units in Iraq and Afghanistan have been extended for three more months -- a total of 15 months. However, "as of now," said Smith, there is "no one we'd expect to be there 18 months."

With five additional brigades headed to Iraq to fulfill the President's surge plan, Smith told reporters that the number of support troops could increase as well, and that the Joint Forces Command is already planning for such needs. "But we always do," Smith said. He added that any Congressional initiatives to mandate a minimum at-home time of, for example, one year for Army units would have a "significant impact" on planning within Joint Forces Command.

Such a dwell time requirement "makes no sense," said Smith, and would be "very difficult" to achieve "without taking some absolutely significant risks in other places." Smith added: "Are we willing to pull a brigade out of Korea?" for example, "or send reserve forces over in ways that don't meet their needs?"

By Anna Mulrine