Stop Loss: Key Questions and Answers

Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress

Stop Loss is a frequently misunderstood DOD force management program that retains
servicemembers beyond their contractually agreed-to separation date. Because of the involuntary
nature of this extension, some critics have referred to the program as a “backdoor draft” or
“involuntary servitude”.
Stop Loss was initially used the 1990-91 Gulf War and later in Bosnia and the Kosovo Air
Campaign. All of the Services used Stop Loss at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom
(OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) but only the Army has consistently employed some
form of Stop Loss over the past five years. Today, there are over 12,000 soldiers in the active
Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard who remain on active duty beyond their
scheduled separation date as a result of Stop Loss. While many observers tend to empathize with
those in Stop Loss status, others assert that every servicemember who has enlisted or reenlisted
over the past several years has been made aware of the program.
The authority for Stop Loss has existed since 1984 (Section 12305, Title 10) and enables the
President to suspend the laws relating to promotion, retirement and separation during periods of
national emergency or a Presidential call-up of the reserve components. Minor changes to the
Stop Loss program were enacted in 2002 and 2006. A more significant change was directed by
P.L. 110-329, the FY2009 omnibus appropriations act which established and temporarily funded a
new special pay, up to a maximum of $500 per month for all servicemembers extended by Stop
Loss during FY2009. DOD’s implementing guidance for this special pay is being developed, but
the plan must first be submitted to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations for
approval. Details of this plan are not yet available.
In January, 2007 the newly appointed Secretary of Defense Gates directed the Services to
minimize the use of Stop Loss. The Army has consistently argued that Stop Loss is necessary to
ensure that only trained and ready units are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, DOD
officials concede that the Army will need to continue using Stop Loss, probably at least through

2009 or longer.

With its continued use by the Army and the recent establishment of a special pay, it is anticipated th
that Stop Loss will be of significant and continuing interest to the 111 Congress.
This report will be updated as necessary.

Overvi ew ....................................................................................................................... .................. 1
What Is Stop Loss?..........................................................................................................................1
What Is the Military Obligation for Servicemembers?...................................................................2
What Is the Authority for Stop Loss?..............................................................................................3
How Has Stop Loss Been Used By the Services?...........................................................................4
Army ......................................................................................................................................... 4
Navy .......................................................................................................................................... 5
Air Force...................................................................................................................................5
Marine Corps.............................................................................................................................5
DOD ............................................................................................................................ .............. 6
What is the Impact of Stop Loss on Individual Soldiers?...............................................................6
Why Deploy Units Rather Than Individuals?.................................................................................7
Has There Been Any Recent Legislation Regarding the Stop Loss Program?................................8
Has Stop Loss Had an Impact on Recruiting?...............................................................................10
Has Stop Loss Improved Unit Readiness?.....................................................................................11
Does Stop Loss Have Any Impact on End Strength?.....................................................................11
Has “Grow the Army” Reduced the Need for Stop Loss?.............................................................12
Appendix. Army Stop Loss Totals by Month (Enlisted Only)......................................................13
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................14

Stop Loss is a frequently misunderstood DOD force management program that retains
servicemembers beyond their contractually agreed-to separation date. Because of the involuntary
nature of this extension on active duty, some critics have referred to the program as a “backdoor
draft” or “involuntary servitude”.
Stop Loss was initially used the 1990-91 Gulf War and later in Bosnia and the Kosovo Air
Campaign. All of the Services used Stop Loss at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom 1
(OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) but only the Army has consistently employed some
form of Stop Loss over the past five years. Today, there are over 12,000 soldiers in the active
Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard who remain on active duty beyond their
scheduled separation date as a result of Stop Loss. While many observers tend to empathize with
those in Stop Loss status, others assert that every servicemember who has enlisted or reenlisted
over the past several years has been made aware of the program.
The authority for Stop Loss has existed since 1984 (Section 12305, Title 10) and enables the
President to suspend the laws relating to promotion, retirement and separation during periods of
national emergency or a Presidential call-up of the reserve components. Minor changes to the
Stop Loss program were enacted in 2002 and 2006. A more significant change was directed by
P.L. 110-329,the FY2009 omnibus appropriations act which established and temporarily funded a
new special pay, up to a maximum of $500 per month for all soldiers extended by Stop Loss
during FY2009. DOD’s implementing guidance for this special pay is being developed, but the
plan must first be submitted to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations for approval.
Details of this plan are not yet available.
In January, 2007 the newly appointed Secretary of Defense directed the Services to minimize the
use of Stop Loss. The Army has consistently argued that Stop Loss is necessary to ensure that
only trained and ready units are deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Recently, the Secretary of 2
Defense conceded that the Army will need to continue using Stop Loss, probably through 2009
or longer.

Stop Loss is a force management program that involuntarily extends or retains active duty
enlisted servicemembers beyond their established separation date. In the case of reserve
component personnel called to active duty in support of OIF or OEF, Stop Loss involuntarily
continues these members on active duty throughout their scheduled mobilization. Officers, on the
other hand, do not have established separation dates and are generally able to serve for indefinite

1 Operation Enduring Freedom includes ongoing operations in Afghanistan, operations against terrorists in other
countries, and training assistance to foreign militaries which are conducting operations against terrorists. Operation
Iraqi Freedom includes both the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent counterinsurgency and rebuilding operations.
2 Comments by Secretary of Defense Gates at a December 2, 2008 Pentagon news conference as reported by Military
Times, “Sec Def: Stop Loss to Remain Through 2009, by William H. McMichael, December 15, 2008.

periods. As a result, Stop Loss only applies to officers who have an approved retirement or
resignation, which can then be denied or postponed until completion of the deployment.
There are two variations of Stop Loss: Skill-based and Unit-based Stop Loss. Skill-based Stop
Loss retains selected personnel with critical skills. For example, in the early stages of OIF, Skill-
based Stop Loss was employed to retain special operations and aviation personnel that were
determined to be critical to military operations. Unit-based Stop Loss, on the other hand, is used
to maintain unit strength, enhance unit integrity and maintain cohesion for units deploying to
OIF/OEF by retaining those who might otherwise separate before, during or immediately after the
deployment. As a general rule, if a servicemember is assigned to a unit that is alerted to deploy
and his or her term of service will end during the deployment or 90 days prior to the deployment,
their active duty period will be involuntarily extended to a point in time up to 90 days after the
deployment ends.
A complementary program frequently associated with Stop Loss is Stop Movement. Stop
Movement precludes the loss of unit personnel due to reassignment orders. Under Stop
Movement, these orders will be rescinded and the individual will remain in the unit through the
deployment cycle. While Stop Movement originally applied to all assigned personnel in a
deploying unit, exceptions have emerged over the past several years. For example, Army soldiers
being reassigned to Drill Sergeant or Recruiter duty, personnel selected for schools such as
Officer Candidate School (OCS), Special Operations accessions courses and Army Medical
Department schools are exempt from Stop Movement.
Since the beginning of OEF/OIF, the Services have used various combinations of unit and skill
based Stop Loss and Stop Movement to address personnel shortfalls and to sustain the personnel
readiness of deploying units.

Individuals enlisting in the armed forces, active and reserve component3, are contractually
obligated to an eight-year service requirement called the Military Service Obligation (MSO). This
obligation is stipulated on their enlistment contract. Those enlisting for active duty for the first
time will generally commit to a two to six year active duty obligation. Following separation from 4
active duty, the remainder of the MSO may be served in the Selected Reserve or Individual 5
Ready Reserve (IRR).

3 The termreserve component” refers to the seven individual reserve components of the armed forces: the Army and
Air National Guard, the Army Reserve, the Navy Reserve, the Marine Corps Reserve, the Air Force Reserve and the
Coast Guard Reserve.
4 Also frequently referred to asdrilling reservists,” members of the Selected Reserve are assigned to units and
generally perform one weekend of training each month (the weekend “drill”) and two weeks of training each year (also
know asannual training). Additional information on Reserve Component personnel matters can be found in CRS
Report RL30802, Reserve Component Personnel Issues: Questions and Answers, by Lawrence Kapp.
5 The IRR is a manpower pool of trained military personnel who have no unit affiliation and few, if any, military
requirements. They can be involuntarily ordered to active duty under a Presidential Reserve Call Up, a Partial
Mobilization, or a Full Mobilization.

For those directly joining the Reserve Component, a variety of options are available but all
generally include a specified period of active Guard or Reserve duty in the Selected Reserve
followed by a period in the IRR until completion of the MSO. Reserve component personnel, to
include those in the IRR, are subject to a call to active duty under statutory authority.
Servicemembers who reenlist or extend beyond their initial or subsequent enlistment will also
have a separation date. Similar to the initial enlistment, the reenlistment period generally ranges
from two to six years. Those who decide to separate rather than reenlist are required to sign a
declination statement confirming their intent but may still be retained by Stop Loss.
Officer personnel also have an eight-year Military Service Obligation and generally have an
active duty service obligation of three to five years depending on their source of commission.
They may voluntarily remain in their military component as long as they meet promotion
requirements. Officers deciding to separate are required to serve the remainder of their MSO in
the Selected Reserve or IRR. While officers do not have a firm separation date they are subject to
Stop Loss if a voluntary resignation or retirement application has been submitted.

Stop Loss is not specifically mentioned in law but is derived from 10 U.S.C. 12305 which states,
in part:
“...during any period members of a reserve component are serving on active duty...the President
may suspend any provision of law relating to the promotion, retirement, or separation applicable
to any member of the armed forces who the President determines is essential to the national
security of the United States.”
Section 12305 was added to Title 10 by the Department of Defense Authorization Act of 1984.6
The legislative history of this section reveals that Congress, following the Vietnam War and the
military’s transition to a volunteer force, was concerned about the effectiveness of the President’s
call-up authority in the event of war or national emergency. To be able to respond to a crisis or to
present a credible deterrent, a provision was believed necessary that would prevent the loss of
both regular and reserve personnel who became eligible to separate or retire during a crisis.
Therefore, the broad authority of this provision allows the President to extend the enlistment or
appointment of essential personnel serving on active duty, reserve personnel who have been
called to active duty, and non-mobilized reserve component personnel, if necessary.
By Executive Order 12728,7 President George H. W. Bush, in 1990, delegated his authority under
Section 12305 to the Secretary of Defense.This delegation authorized the Secretary to suspend the
laws regarding promotion, retirement and separation and to further delegate this authority to
subordinates appointed by the President. This delegation remains in effect.

6 Section 1021, P.L. 98-94, September 24, 1983.
7 Executive Order 12728, Delegating the President’s Authority to Suspend and Provisions of Law Relating to
Promotion, Retirement, or Separation of Members of the Armed Forces, August 22, 1990.

In response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush proclaimed a 89
national emergency on September 14, 2001 and issued Executive Order 13223 to order the
Ready Reserve to active duty for not more than 24 consecutive months. This proclamation
remains in effect today. With the reserves ordered to active duty and the proclamation of a
national emergency, the Secretary of Defense could approve implementation of necessary
programs such as Stop Loss.
On November 9, 2001, the Secretary of Defense further delegated his authority under Section
12305 to the Service Secretaries. There is currently no Department of Defense (DOD) policy
guidance such as an Instruction or Directive that addresses the Stop Loss program.
Over the past few years, several lawsuits have challenged the legality of the Stop Loss program.
However, the courts have consistently held that Stop Loss is a valid exercise of Presidential
power that is authorized by 10 U.S.C. 12305, that it comports with the requirements of the Fifth 10
Amendment’s Due Process clause, and that it is a proper delegation of Congressional power.

Stop Loss was first used during the 1990-1991 Gulf War where it was initially applied to all
deployed personnel and later to selected individuals with critical skills. It was also used at the
beginning of the Bosnia deployment and during the Kosovo Air Campaign. However, the use of
Stop Loss in OIF/OEF represents a much longer term use of the program with an ongoing impact
on tens of thousands of servicemembers and their families. The following summarizes the use of 11
Stop Loss during OIF/OEF by service.
The Army, the largest service and with the most servicemembers deployed to OIF/OEF, has used
Stop Loss extensively and across all three components—active Army, Army Reserve and Army
National Guard. It is also the only service that continues to use its Stop Loss authority. A table
depicting the number of Stop Loss soldiers, by month, is at Appendix.
In the initial stages of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the Army used a skill-based program
for selected critical skills–Special Operations, Aviation, Military Intelligence, Military Police and
Civil Affairs/Psychological Operations. This program was later modified to limit the Stop Loss

8 A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America, Declaration of National Emergency by Reason of
Certain Terrorist Attacks, September 14, 2001.
9 Executive Order 13223, Ordering the Ready Reserve of the Armed Forces to Active Duty, and Delegating Certain
Authorities to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Transportation, September 14, 2001.
10 According to R. Chuck Mason of CRS American Law Division, Santiago v. Rumsfeld (425F.3d 549) held that Stop
Loss did not exceed the Presidents statutory authority and Doe v. Rumsfeld (435F.3d 980) held that Stop Loss is a
valid exercise of presidential power authorized by 10 U.S.C. 12305; it comports with the Fifth Amendments Due
Process Clause and is a proper delegation of congressional power.
11 A chronological summary of Stop Loss actions by service and the occupational specialities that were impacted can be
found in Appendix VI: Service Stop-Loss Policies since September 11, 2001 in GAO Report 04-1031, Military
Personnel: DOD Needs to Address Long-term Reserve Force Availability and Related Mobilization and
Demobilization Issues, September 15, 2004.

period to no more than 12 months for all soldiers. The Army National Guard and Army Reserve,
on the other hand, adopted a unit-based program that precluded separation or retirement from the
time the unit was alerted for mobilization to 90 days following the redeployment.
In preparation for Operation Iraqi Freedom, all Army components instituted a unit-based program
that retained soldiers from the time of the unit’s deployment or mobilization date minus 90 days
through the redeployment or demobilization date plus a maximum of 90 days. This 90 day period
following redeployment or demobilization is designed for transition activities to better prepare the
individual for reintegration into the civilian environment.
The Army briefly terminated its unit-based Stop Loss program in mid-2003 and instituted a skill-
based program impacting approximately 25 job skills, commonly referred to as Military
Occupational Specialties (MOS). However, in late 2003 the Army reinstituted the unit-based
program that continues today. As a result, the Army’s active and reserve components all currently
have the same unit-based Stop Loss program. The primary purpose of unit-based Stop Loss is to
provide trained, ready and cohesive units to OIF and OEF.
As implemented by the Army, however, Stop Loss applies to both deployable and non-deployable
personnel. The deciding criteria is whether they are assigned to the unit. Non-deployable
personnel are normally assigned to the unit’s rear detachment. As a result, a soldier with a
temporary non-deployable medical condition would still be subject to Stop Loss if the unit was
alerted for deployment. Those in Stop Loss status remain eligible for promotion and school
The Navy implemented a skill-based Stop Loss program for the first year of OEF. The initial
requirement appears to have been overstated and resulted in 10,000 sailors being retained in
Special Operations, Explosive Ordnance, Security, Linguist, and Physician and Nurse
occupational specialties.
The initial program was rescinded but was followed approximately six months later with a more
targeted program to retain hospital corpsmen in support of the Marine Corps. This program
initially identified approximately 2,600 personnel but the program only lasted for one month and
actually affected fewer than 100 sailors. The Navy halted its Stop Loss program in August 2002.
The Air Force implemented a Stop Loss program immediately following the attacks of 9/11. The
first phase of this program affected the entire Air Force and lasted approximately 11 months. The
second phase was a skill-based program that affected fewer than 400 airmen over an eight month
period. The Air Force ended its Stop Loss program in June 2003.
The Secretary of the Navy authorized the Marine Corps Stop Loss program in early 2002. This
unit-based program affected fewer than 10,000 Marines and lasted for five months. It was
followed by a highly selective program that was implemented in two phases. The first phase was

used to stabilize the personnel assigned to a newly formed anti-terrorism brigade and impacted
approximately 560 Marines. The second phase only included Marines assigned to C-130 aircrew
positions. The Marine Corps rescinded its Stop Loss program in May 2003.
While its program was in effect, the Marine Corps was the only service to grant individual
exemptions to Stop Loss. Under their policy, the first General Officer in a Marine’s chain of
command could exempt a Marine from Stop Loss.
Shortly after being confirmed as Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates tasked the services with 12
minimizing the use of Stop Loss for both active and reserve component forces. At the time when
the memo was released, only the Army was still using its Stop Loss authority and maintained that
the program was still necessary to ensure that only trained and ready units were deployed to Iraq 13
and Afghanistan. Even with the emphasis on minimizing or eliminating the use of Stop Loss,
defense officials currently estimate that Stop Loss will continue to be used by the Army through 14
at least 2009.

As implemented by the Army, Stop Loss affects both active and reserve component soldiers from
90 days prior to their unit deployment date (active component) or mobilization date (Guard and
Reserve), through the deployment (currently 12 months for units deployed to OIF and OEF) and
for a maximum of 90 days following the redeployment. The 90 days following redeployment is to
allow adequate time for transition activities.
As a “worst case” scenario, a soldier who was scheduled to separate from active duty 90 days
prior to the deployment date would be involuntarily retained in the unit for those three months 15
plus 12 months of deployment plus up to 90 days of redeployment and transition; a potential
involuntary extension of up to 18 months. In this example, an enlistment that specified four years
of active duty would have grown to five and a half years on active duty. However, even a
maximum enlistment of six years and an involuntary extension of 18 months would be less than
the contractual eight year Military Service Obligation (MSO).
According to DOD officials, there are four primary factors that affect the number of soldiers
subject to Stop Loss:

12 Secretary of Defense Memorandum, Subject: Utilization of the Total Force, January 19, 2007.
13 Secretary of the Army Memorandum: Subject: Armys Response to Minimizing the Use of Stop Loss Policy, March 7,
14 Army Times, Stuck on Stop Loss, Michelle Tan, May 5, 2008.
15 The Army has maintained a 12-month deployment cycle except immediately before and during the 2007-2008
surge of forces in Iraq when the deployment period was extended to 15 months. The Marine Corps uses a 7-month
deployment cycle.

1. The length of the deployment. As the length of the deployment increases, e.g., the recent
Army increase from 12 to 15 month deployments for OIF during the “surge” in Iraq, the number
of soldiers in Stop Loss status also increases.
2. The number of units deployed. As more units are deployed, e.g., the recent “surge” in Iraq
from 15 to 20 Brigade Combat Teams (BCT), the number of soldiers affected by Stop Loss
3. The distribution of separation dates within a unit. A somewhat random factor but the more
soldiers in the unit with separation dates after their scheduled redeployment, the fewer who would
be affected by Stop Loss.
4. Units alerted for out-of-cycle deployments. As more units are notified of deployment dates
that are sooner than what was originally planned, the more soldiers who will be affected by Stop
The relationship between the number of deployed Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) and the length
of the deployment has been modeled by DOD to demonstrate the impact of Stop Loss on
individual soldiers. The model shows that if there are 15 BCTs deployed on a 12-month rotation
cycle, the average soldier impacted by Stop Loss will be involuntarily extended by 4.8 months. If
the number of deployed BCTs increases from 15 to 20 and if the rotation cycle increases from 12
to 15 months, the average soldier retained by Stop Loss will spend an average of 6.6 additional
months on active duty.

The need for Stop Loss is directly linked to the Army’s rotation methodology for OIF/OEF which
emphasizes the rotation of units rather than individuals. The Army, in particular, has long
struggled with the issue of using individual or unit replacements, attempting to balance the
benefits to unit cohesion with a personnel system that emphasizes individual career development.
It has long been believed that stabilizing personnel in units would improve readiness and allow
the unit to operate more effectively as a team. However, from World War II through Vietnam,
units were initially deployed to the combat theater and individual replacements were then used to
compensate for those who were killed, wounded or rotated out for various reasons. The unit
remained in the combat theater but its composition and identity changed dramatically over time
with this personnel turnover.
During WWII, individual replacements were trained by replacement centers, shipped to a
replacement depot and called forward into combat units as necessary. With no prior unit
affiliation, these replacements were “military orphans” with little esprit de corps and no cohesion.
With no previous combat experience, these replacements struggled to be integrated into the pre-16
existing “band of brothers” in the unit and many quickly became casualties themselves, in part
because they were unfamiliar with unit operations.

16, The U.S. Army in World War II: Manpower and Segregation by Rich Anderson.
Published online, 2000.

Once a soldier was wounded or separated from his unit during WWII, there was little chance of
returning to the same unit. When cleared to return to duty, these soldiers were also sent to a
replacement depot and would be reassigned to whatever unit then needed his particular skills. To
avoid a new unit and remain with their comrades, many wounded soldiers concealed their injuries
and remained with their units.
Again in Korea, units were sustained by individual replacements. Some attempts were made to
recruit, train, and deploy small, 4 to 5 man teams that were supposed to be assigned to the same
unit but this seldom occurred due to the combat tempo. Korea also saw the introduction of an 17
individual rotation program based on time exposed to combat. Rather than serving in combat
until killed, injured, or the war ended, individuals in Korea were returned stateside after serving a
specified number of months. This rotation policy also increased the personnel turnover.
In Vietnam, individual servicemembers were continuously rotating in and out based on when they
completed their one-year tour or deployment. As a result, there was very little unit cohesion and
new personnel were a continuous training challenge. This turbulence was exacerbated by a
command tour policy that saw unit leaders serving only six months in command while soldiers
served a year in the unit.
From WWII through Vietnam, this soldier replacement method was referred to as the Individual
Replacement System and it was frequently cited for causing an unacceptably high level of
personnel turbulence and for inhibiting the formation of cohesive units, especially in the combat
arms. Recognizing the importance of unit stability to overall combat readiness, the Army, since 18
the end of Vietnam, has attempted at least four different systems of unit replacement, each
designed to keep soldiers and leaders together longer. However, each of these proved
unsatisfactory to the Army’s leadership and the most recent was discontinued at the beginning of
the buildup for Operation Desert Shield/Storm.
Since 2004, the Army has pursued unit stabilization through the Unit Manning System to ensure
that trained and ready units were available for deployment. This system is focused on Brigade
Combat Teams (BCT) and linked into the Army’s Force Generation Model. This model
categorizes units through a progression of deployment preparedness from retraining to ready to 19
available. However, even this most recent attempt at unit stabilization to enhance readiness has
depended upon the use of Stop Loss to minimize personnel turbulence.

The FY2002 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included two provisions regarding the
Stop Loss program. The first focused on those who had been extended by Stop Loss beyond their

17 For a detailed review of unit stabilization and replacement policies in WWII, Korea and Vietnam, see the Center for
Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Forging the Sword: Unit-Manning in the U.S. Army, by Pat Towell, September
18 Military Review, “A History of Unit Stabilization” by John R. Brinkerhoff, May-June 2004.
19 For additional details on the Force Generation Model, see CRS Report RL32476, U.S. Army's Modular Redesign:
Issues for Congress, by Andrew Feickert.

mandatory retirement or separation and were denied a transition period upon completion of their 20
OIF/OEF tour. The provision authorized Service Secretaries to extend these servicemembers on
active duty for 90 days to provide additional time to prepare for retirement or separation.
The second focused on the issue of special or incentive pay which, at the time, could not be paid
beyond the ending date of a servicemember’s active duty commitment. In this instance, the 21
provision authorized the continuation of all special and incentive pays during the entire period
of involuntary retention resulting from Stop Loss.
The FY2006 NDAA emphasized the importance of informing potential and current 22
servicemembers about the possibility of Stop Loss by requiring two reports from DOD. The first
report was required to address the actions being taken by DOD to ensure that those being
recruited for the armed forces were aware of Stop Loss and the further possibility of being
recalled from the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) following their active duty obligation. In 23
response, DOD revised the enlistment contract to explicitly explain Stop Loss and is to provide
a briefing on Stop Loss prior to any potential recruit signing the enlistment contract. The second
report required the services to provide Stop Loss and IRR Recall information periodically during
a member’s enlistment.
In response to the FY2006 NDAA, DOD revised the somewhat vague reference to Stop Loss in
the enlistment contract to explicitly state:
“During any period members of a Reserve component are serving on active duty pursuant to an
order to active duty under authority of 10 U.S.C. 12301, 12302, or 12304, the President may
suspend any provision of law relating to my promotion, retirement, or separation from the Armed
Forces if he or his designee determines I am essential to the national security of the United States.
Such an action may result in an extension, without my consent, of the length of service specified
in this agreement. Such an extension is often called a “stop-loss” extension.”
Legislation introduced in the 110th Congress sought to establish a special pay for any
servicemember in Stop Loss status in the amount of $1,500 per month and would have made this 24
authority retroactive to October 1, 2001 for an estimated 160,000 personnel. However, this
legislation was not included in the FY2009 Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act
While the FY2009 NDAA was silent on the issue of Stop Loss, the FY2009 omnibus 25
appropriations act authorized a maximum Stop Loss special pay of $500 per month for any
servicemember in Stop Loss status during any month or portion thereof during FY2009. The
amount of $72 million was appropriated for this purpose. This provision is not retroactive to 9/11
and the authority for this special pay expires on September 30, 2009.

20 Section 508, FY2002 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 107-107, December 28, 2001.
21 Section 623, FY2002 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 107-107, December 28, 2001.
22 Section 546, FY2006 National Defense Authorization Act, P.L. 109-163, January 6, 2006.
23 Department of Defense Forms 4/1 through 4/3, July 2007.
24 H.R. 6205 and S. 3060.
25 Section 8116, H.R. 2638, Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2009
which became P.L. 110-329, September 30, 2008.

Some observers have noted that including this authority in the appropriations act may be a
technical violation of congressional budget rules since new benefits or programs should first be
authorized in separate legislation before funds are appropriated unless it is a temporary
emergency measure. Since funds in the omnibus act are limited to FY2009 and since the authority
will expire at the end of this fiscal year, some suggest that this qualifies as a temporary measure.
Prior to obligating or expending funds for Stop Loss, DOD is required to submit an
implementation plan to the Committees on Appropriations. Within 180 days of enactment, DOD
must also submit a report that examines the impact of Stop Loss on recruiting and any correlation
between extended deployments and domestic assaults, sexual assaults and alcohol offenses. An
additional requirement stipulates that Stop Loss data must be included in the end strength portion 26
of the FY2010 President’s Budget.

Some observers predicted that the perceived unpopularity of the Stop Loss program would have a
negative impact on recruiting and the vitality of the all-volunteer military. At the height of the
insurgency in Iraq and with mounting casualties, the Army did miss its quantitative recruiting
goal in FY2005; with a recruiting target of 80,000, the Army recruited 73,373 new recruits for a
shortfall of 8.3%.
By increasing the number of recruiters, increasing the service’s advertising budget, and raising
the maximum amount of enlistment bonuses from $20,000 to $40,000, the Army was able to 27
achieve its recruiting mission of 80,000 in each of FY2006, 2007 and 2008, in spite of the very
difficult recruiting environment. Even with this quantitative success, most analysts remain
concerned about the decline in recruit quality as measured by the number of high school diploma 28
graduates, the number of moral waivers being required, and the increase in the number of
recruits from the lowest acceptable mental category. Retention has been successful, annually
meeting or exceeding the numerical goals.
Recruiting for the Army Reserve and Army National Guard has been somewhat more problematic
from year to year but both components have continued to recruit in the range of 95-100% of the
annual objective.
One area of special concern has been the potential impact of Stop Loss on the “Influencers”; the
parents, teachers and coaches who are viewed as the key to recruiting success. While the number
of these influencers who would support a young person joining the military declined as the “long

26 Congressional Record, Explanatory Statement Regarding the Amendments of the House of Representatives to the
Senate Amendment to H.R. 2638, p. H9438, September 24, 2008.
27 Additional details on the FY2006 and FY2007 recruiting program are discussed in CRS Report RL32965, Recruiting
and Retention: An Overview of FY2006 and FY2007 Results for Active and Reserve Component Enlisted Personnel, by
Lawrence Kapp and Charles A. Henning.
28 To enlist in the armed forces, a moral waiver is required for past criminal behavior which includes traffic offenses,
drug use, misdemeanors and most felony convictions. Individuals who have committed certain crimes (drug trafficking,
multiple felonies, sexually violent crimes) are automatically excluded from waiver consideration and barred from

war” continued, the most current assessment reflects that 59% of these “influencers” now support 29
joining the military.
Since the beginning of OEF/OIF, there has been no definitive survey data that would demonstrate
that a shortfall, either in quantity or quality, has been directly attributable to the Stop Loss
Program. With the recent economic downturn and a rising unemployment rate, any concern about
Stop Loss from potential recruits may be overshadowed by the military becoming an increasingly
attractive and financially secure option.

According to the Army, Stop Loss is used sparingly and only affects about 1% of the Total Army
(Active, Reserve, and National Guard). With a total force of approximately 1,200,000 and an
average of 12,000 soldiers in Stop Loss status, the Army’s claim is correct but may lead some
observers to conclude that terminating Stop Loss would therefore have a negligible (1%) impact
on readiness.
However, assuming that most or all soldiers in Stop Loss status are deployed to OIF or OEF
allows for a more realistic assessment of the potential impact of Stop Loss on personnel 30
readiness. With 12,204 soldiers in Stop Loss status and 129,700 Army soldiers currently 31
deployed to OIF/OEF, those in Stop Loss status represent nearly 10% of the deployed force.
Requiring units to deploy with a personnel shortage of 10% or more would likely have a
significant detrimental impact on unit readiness.
A more serious dimension of the readiness problem is that approximately 45% of the Stop Loss
cohort are noncommissioned officers (NCOs) in grades E5 (Sergeant) through E9 (Sergeant
Major) who have declined to reenlist or submitted voluntary retirement requests, if eligible. These
NCOs are the leadership backbone of small units and a key to the unit’s tactical success.
Deploying without these key NCOs at squad, platoon and company level or losing them
immediately prior to deployment would likely have a substantial adverse impact on unit training,
cohesion, and stability.
The Army’s deployment criteria for Brigade Combat Teams requires that they achieve 105% of
their authorized enlisted strength and 95% of their authorized officer strength at 90 days prior to
deployment. Without Stop Loss, these units might be unable to meet this criteria and would
deploy in a somewhat degraded readiness posture.

The Army fought the first several years of OIF/OEF with an active duty end strength of 482,400,
which many Members of Congress and defense observers thought was too low in light of

29 Christian Science Monitor, “Americans Views of Military Service Improve, by Gordon Lubold, November 10,
30 See September 2008 data at Appendix.
31 DOD Information Paper, Congressional Research Service Request for Boots on the Ground (BOG) Statistics for Iraq
and Afghanistan, September 1, 2008.

operational demands. However, this level was strongly supported by both DOD and the Army. In
a rather dramatic change of position, the newly appointed Secretary of Defense announced on
January 19, 2007 that he would seek approval to increase the end strength of both the Army and 32
the Marine Corps.
Subsequently, Congress approved an end strength increase for the active Army from 482,400 to 33
547,400 by the end of FY2012. This represents an increase of 65,000. The Army intends to
achieve this new, higher end strength by the end of FY2010, two years earlier than mandated by
However, as Congress monitors the growth of the Army, it should be noted that the Stop Loss
program may artificially inflate the actual end strength. For example, if the Army reports an
FY2008 end strength of 530,000, this number would include nearly 7,500 active duty soldiers
who have been involuntarily retained beyond their initial obligation. The actual end strength
would have been only 522,500 soldiers if the Stop Loss contingent had been allowed to separate
or retire as their normal terms of active duty expired. As a result, continuing to grow the Army
may require additional recruiting or retention targets to negate the effect of Stop Loss on Army
end strength.

The mandated 65,000 soldier increase in active Army end strength from 482,400 to 547,400 by
FY2012, as discussed earlier, is commonly referred to as the “Grow the Army” initiative.
Through recruiting and retention efforts the Army plans to complete this growth by 2010, two
years earlier than required by Congress. Based on recent indicators, the Army appears to be able
to meet this growth objective.
Some observers have noted that the Army could divert some of this increase to minimizing or
eliminating the need for Stop Loss. However, it appears that the Army is more committed to
growing its force structure from 42 to 48 Brigade Combat Teams and from 75 to 83 Modular
Support Brigades and will therefore continue to use Stop Loss to reduce unit shortages.
Another possible option would be to continue the Stop Loss program for all NCOs, recognized as
critical to small unit leadership and cohesion, but eliminate the program for all junior enlisted
personnel, most of whom would be serving their initial enlistment. While the Army has
experience with both unit-based and skill-based Stop Loss, this option would require
implementation of a Grade (or Rank)-based Stop Loss program.

32 Department of Defense (DOD) Press Transcripts, DOD News Briefing with Under Secretary of Defense David Chu,
Lieutenant General Stephen Speakes, and Lieutenant General Emerson Gardner from the Pentagon, January 19, 2007.
33 Section 403, P.L. 110-181.

Month/Year Active Army National Guard Army Reserve Total
November 2004 5,984 2,460 2,984 11,428
December, 2004 6,640 3,016 3,459 13,115
January, 2005 7,872 2,086 4,527 14,485
February, 2005 8,348 2,199 4,196 14,743
March, 2005 9,045 2,681 4,032 15,758
April, 2005 9,044 2,480 3,762 15,286
May, 2005 7,986 2,480 3,616 14,082
June, 2005 7,951 2,447 3,392 13,790
July, 2005 7,325 2,772 3,280 13,377
August, 2005 7,458 2,953 2,970 13,381
September, 2005 6,929 3,002 2,847 12,778
October, 2005 7,803 2,962 2,602 13,367
November, 2005 8,383 2,840 2,473 13,696
December, 2005 7,620 2,429 2,418 12,467
January, 2006 8,826 2,250 2,238 13,314
February, 2006 9,282 2,336 2,231 13,849
March, 2006 8,968 1,953 1,945 12,866
April, 2006 7,782 2,242 1,994 12,018
May, 2006 6,040 2,190 2,000 10,230
June, 2006 6,130 2,160 1,864 10,154
July, 2006 6,408 2,113 1,894 10,415
August, 2006 7,061 2,134 1,815 11,010
September, 2006 8,045 2,132 1,806 11,983
October, 2006 8,742 2,286 1,645 12,673
November, 2006 8,697 2,201 1,645 12,543
December, 2006 7,072 2,036 1,603 10,711
January, 2007 7,148 2,053 1,537 10,738
February, 2007 6,207 2,004 1,556 9,767
March, 2007 5,364 2,006 1,536 8,906
April, 2007 5,185 2,103 1,432 8,720
May, 2007 4,946 2,125 1,469 8,540
June, 2007 5,355 2,313 1,501 9,169
July, 2007 5,238 2,401 1,520 9,159
August, 2007 5,874 2,275 1,459 9,608

Month/Year Active Army National Guard Army Reserve Total
September, 2007 6,322 2,325 1,464 10,111
October, 2007 6,940 2,199 1,324 10,463
November, 2007 7,627 2,020 1,363 11,010
December, 2007 7,407 2,027 1,370 10,801
January, 2008 7,690 2,168 1,440 11,298
February, 2008 7,227 2,267 1,478 10,972
March, 2008 6,868 3,879 1,488 12,235
April, 2008 6,547 3,838 1,561 11,946
May, 2008 6,728 3,803 1,523 12,054
June, 2008 7,011 3,903 1,419 12,333
July, 2008 6,828 3,801 1,308 11,937
August, 2008 6,824 3,934 1,475 12,233
September, 2008 6,714 4,025 1,465 12,204
Source: Army G-1
Charles A. Henning
Specialist in Military Manpower Policy, 7-8866