Senior military officials stressed that this does not mean increasing the number of troops heading for Europe, but instead adds reservists to the shrinking pool of active duty troops available for rotations there. As the military faces one of its toughest recruiting crises, this move allows the Pentagon to dip into its pool of reservists to find skills needed for the European rotations.
“As an example, over time, where we may have had someone from an active component organization doing something, that job now under these authorities may be something that a reserve component unit may be able to do,” Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims told reporters at a Pentagon press briefing on the executive order, which was made public Thursday.
The Individual Ready Reserve “are trained soldiers who may be called upon, if needed, to replace soldiers in active duty and Army Reserve units,” according to a statement from the Army.
But some Republicans were quick to criticize Biden’s order as escalatory and warned against sending any and U.S. service members to fight in Ukraine, though none are fighting there and U.S. European Command reiterated in a statement that no such change is planned: “This will not change current force posture levels in Europe.”
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said in a Fox News interview that the reservists and National Guardsmen are being called up for specialized “administrative functions” — and that the changing security environment in Europe demands more support for U.S. personnel in NATO’s east.
“This basically is a realization of the fact that the president knows that the security environment in Europe is changed,” Kirby said. “We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got the proper force posture to support an additional eastern flank presence for the long-haul.”
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the Pentagon has deployed more than 20,000 additional forces to Europe. That brings the total number of American service members operating in Europe to more than 100,000.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.