What is the Individual Ready Reserve?

Answers to your questions about the news.
June 29 2004 4:55 PM

You're in the Army Now (and Forever)

How long do you have to be all you can be?

The U.S. Army is planning to call up close to 6,000 reservists, who will likely be shipped off to Iraq or Afghanistan later this year. Many of the troops will be drawn from the Individual Ready Reserve, which was last tapped en masse more than a decade ago during the first Gulf War. What is the Individual Ready Reserve, exactly, and why is it so seldom used?

The IRR is comprised of former full-time soldiers who still have time remaining on their military commitments. When Army hopefuls sign their enlistment contracts, they are agreeing to an eight-year stint in the service. After four years or so, soldiers who do not wish to become lifers are given discharges and return to the civilian world. But they're still on the hook as IRR reservists and are supposed to keep the Army apprised of their whereabouts.

Unlike members of the Selected Reserve, who drill consistently with an organized unit, soldiers in the IRR aren't required to attend training, nor are they attached to a specific unit. In fact, many IRRists aren't even aware that they're in the reserves at all. But whenever the president sees fit, these troops have to answer the bell. Title 10 of the United States Code gives the president the authority to muster 200,000 reservists whenever "it is necessary to augment the active forces." Of that 200,000, who must serve for a period of 270 days, no more than 30,000 can be members of the IRR.

In addition, in times of grave national emergency, the president can authorize a partial mobilization of the reserves, which would involve up to 1,000,000 troops for a 24-month stretch. A full mobilization, which can occur only if Congress has declared war or during a national emergency, would call up all reserves and military retirees younger than 60 for the duration of the crisis.

One problem the Army has encountered with the IRR is the tendency of ex-soldiers to change addresses without notification. Of the 118,000 soldiers in the Army's individual reserve—each branch has its own IRR—approximately 40,000 can't currently be located. The Pentagon has reportedly toyed with the idea of examining IRS records to track down the lost reservists, to the chagrin of privacy advocates.

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for Gizmodo. His first book, Now the Hell Will Start, is out now.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

An Iranian Woman Was Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist. Can Activists Save Her?

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 2:08 PM We Need to Talk: Terrible Name, Good Show
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 3:01 PM Netizen Report: Hong Kong Protests Trigger Surveillance and Social Media Censorship
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 2:36 PM Climate Science Is Settled Enough The Wall Street Journal’s fresh face of climate inaction.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.