The Department of Defense is asking Congress to expand its authority to recall retired members of the military to active duty in the event of a war or national emergency.
The DoD proposal predates the turmoil that followed the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis last week and the activation of National Guard units in numerous states.
Current law (10 USC 688a) permits the military to recall no more than 1,000 retirees in order “to alleviate a high-demand, low-density military capability” or when necessary “to meet wartime or peacetime requirements.” DoD wants to remove that 1,000 person limit.
“This proposal . . . would allow the Secretary of a military department to recall more than 1,000 retirees to active duty during a war or national emergency,” the Pentagon said in its May 4 request, which is one of numerous legislative proposals for the FY 2021 defense authorization act.
“Waiving the 1,000 member limitation on this temporary recall authority and the authority’s expiration date in time of war or of national emergency will increase the Department of Defense’s flexibility and agility in generating forces with the expertise required to respond rapidly and efficiently during such a period.”
“Given the unpredictability of war and national emergencies, such as the COVID 19 pandemic, waiver of the 1,000-member limit will better posture the Department to respond to unpredictable and rapidly evolving situations,” DoD said.
There is no reason to be concerned that such authority would ever be abused, the Pentagon told Congress, because “The Office of the Secretary of Defense will ensure the amount of recalled retirees does not exceed the number warranted by mission requirements.”
Last March, the US Army contacted more than 800,000 retired soldiers to inquire if they would be willing to assist with military’s pandemic response, according to a report in Military.com.
The Congressional Research Service summarized the constitutional and statutory authorities and limitations governing the military role in disaster relief and law enforcement in The Use of Federal Troops for Disaster Assistance: Legal Issues, November 5, 2012.