Here’s some reason for relief if you’re a deployed or deployable member of the U.S. military (though at this point "deployable member of the U.S. military" is pretty much redundant). Tomorrow Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) will introduce a bill mandating that the Defense Department provide U.S. troops with two months’ rest time for every month deployed. That would put what’s known as the "dwell-deployment time" ratio back to the U.S. Army’s traditional "two-to-one" goal — something that’s gone out the window as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have stretched out. Currently, troops are on a one-to-one schedule — a year deployed, a year at home — which is a grueling pace.

Returning to dwell-deployment normalcy has long been a goal of Defense Secretary Bob Gates. In April 2007, owing to the troop surge in Iraq, Gates extended active-duty Army tours there to a 15-months-deployed-12-months-dwell schedule, and fell over himself apologizing for doing so in a press conference. At his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee last month, he outlined plans for gradually increasing dwell time, as Military Times reported:

Gates also brought the committee good news for Army troops and families, providing for the first time a timeline for boosting rest and recuperation time back home. Soldiers now are deployed for 12 months and return home for 12 months; Gates said he expects to increase so-called “dwell time” at home for brigade combat teams to 15 months by October, to two years by October 2010 and 30 months by the end of fiscal 2011.

Tauscher’s bill would move faster than Gates’ schedule, but it includes waivers for the president and defense secretary to relax the restrictions if absolutely necessary. In 2007, she introduced a similar bill, but Republicans filibustered its Senate counterpart, introduced by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.), since passage of the bill would have cut the troop surge in Iraq short because of the increased dwell-time requirements. What does Webb think of the current effort? His spokeswoman, Jessica Smith, told me:

Senator Webb remains deeply concerned about issues of individual and unit rotation—and the impact that multiple deployments with insufficient dwell time are having on our service members, especially those serving in the Army and Marine Corps. He believes it imperative that our nation’s leaders provide proper stewardship of our men and women on the front lines. Sen Webb has consistently said that the availability of our troops should dictate the operational tempo and not the other way around. The Senator and our staff are considering legislative options in the new Congress.

Doesn’t sound particularly committal, but we’ll see what happens when Tauscher introduces the bill tomorrow.

Crossposted to The Streak.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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