military personnel appropriation (MPA) – Money budgeted by the Active Duty Military to fund reservists brought on active duty to fill real-world requirements.

Operations IRAQI FREEDOM  and ENDURING FREEDOM put unusual stresses on all aspects of how the Department of Defense conducts its operations, not just in the war zone, but also at home.  On any given day, home stations (these could be in the US or US bases located in foreign countries) have a responsibility to carry out their mission of training, equipping and maintaining all of their resources.  After all, airplanes, vehicles break, become obsolete and require continual maintenance.  When it comes to obsolescence, there is a complex process involved bringing new systems from either a battlefield requirement or gee-whiz idea to a fully operational weapon system.  All of this requires people.  And lots of them.

On a good day, in peace time, keeping the world’s most advanced and powerful military ready to defend America and her allies is a daunting task.  When multiple hot spots around the world are thrown in, the system gets stressed, sometimes to the breaking point.  Enter America’s reserve force.

In order to meet its obligations the nation’s Armed Services have come to rely on Citizen Soldiers/Sailors/Airmen/Marines to either help get the job done at home or go forward to the battlefield and get the mission accomplished there.  But these are severely fiscally constrained times.

Already the pundits are dreaming of large Peace Dividends.

“With the withdrawal of its military forces in Iraq already under way and increasing talk of winding down operations in Afghanistan, the United States is poised to reap a “peace dividend.

But it won’t rival the one after the end of the cold war – a 40 percent drop in real defense spending during most of the 1990s, saving hundreds of billions of dollars. It won’t even be as big as the Obama administration expects, defense budget experts say.

The two wars are budgeted to cost $159 billion in fiscal 2011, which starts next October. That’s down a tad from 2010. From fiscal 2012 to 2015, the administration pegs the cost at $50 billion a year. But the US won’t really save $100 billion a year.

“That’s not realistic … not likely to happen even if everything goes as well as planned,” says Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank. The $50 billion is a “placeholder,” a number neither the Defense Department nor outsiders can estimate given the uncertainties of war and political stabilization.”  By David R. Francis / March 29, 2010, The Christian Science Monitor

The problem remains — America is involved in major conflict, yet the nation is burdened with incredible debt and something has to be done.  There is no doubt every branch of the US Government is being pressed to trim budgets.  Enter the Military Personnel Appropriation Day.

An easy target to reduce spending, immediately, is to “curtail” the orders of Reservists on MPA tours.  This has happened in a large and abrupt way.  Thousands of Reservists were notified last week that they would no longer be needed and should “polish their resumes” and begin looking for civilian work.  In some cases, these Reservists will return to civilian jobs they already have, but in many cases they are basically becoming unemployed.

Of course they’ll receive time to transition to their new civilian careers, well, not really. In order to accomplish an MPA tour, many military units require its Reservists to lump their Reserve time, you might call it one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer, all together in October.  This means, they’re not actually on Active Duty, rather they’re fulfilling “inactive duty training” requirements.  Typically many Reservists don’t start their MPA tours until the end of October every year (the Government’s year runs October to October).

This means these Reservists have been using their Reserve days, something they would normally space out across a calendar year, in anticipation of going on Active Duty for the remainder of the year.  Now many have been told they won’t be put on Active Duty at all, with virtually no notice.

The cuts have been draconian.  In some cases as many as 90% of man days have been cut.

Reserve man days are an easy target.  Reservists will go quietly into the night searching for work.  It’s not in their nature to stand up and ask the question “where’s my severance or support as I look for a job?  After all, I’ve served the nation and suddenly I’m an easy budget cut?”  Estimates for savings to the government by cutting thousands of Reservists are significant, probably in the hundreds of millions of dollars. An Active Duty Colonel was overheard saying “this is one day I’m not proud to serve.”  Many of his fellow Active Duty service members feel the same way. The Colonel knows what this action could mean to people who have made it possible for his mission to accomplished: unemployment, food stamps, foreclosures, possibly homelessness.  For the Active Duty force it means some part of their mission will “fall to the floor” and simply not get done.

Reservists understand their full-time work should be in the Civilian world, but the Active Duty asked for and truly needed their help.  Reservists are Patriots and many would prefer being in uniform to ensure our nation’s security. It’s truly that simple.  Little did they know the economy would crumble and unemployment would be at its highest in decades.

If you’re an HR person and you see a flood of resumes from Reservists come through, give them a second look.  You have no idea the sacrifices they’ve made for our nation and the abrupt nature of their release from government service.