July 20, 2023

NOTEWORTHY Ordering the Selected Reserve and Certain Members of the Individual Ready Reserve of the Armed Forces to Active Duty

In this edition of Noteworthy, Katherine Kuzminski and Taren Sylvester discuss changes recently made by President Biden to Select Reserve and Individual Ready Reserve to active duty.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 121 and 12304 of title 10, United States Code, I hereby determine that it is necessary to augment the active Armed Forces of the United States for the effective conduct of Operation Atlantic Resolve in and around the United States European Command’s area of responsibility.

Operation Atlantic Resolve began in 2014 in response to the Russian invasion of Crimea. It aims to enhance U.S. ties and interoperability with NATO ally militaries, especially in eastern Europe and the Baltic states. Besides conducting multinational training exercises, Atlantic Resolve aims to deter further Russian aggression. Timed with the conclusion of the NATO summit, this EO is likely also meant to underscore the United States’ commitment to the deterrence mission by demonstrating the willingness to commit all components of the military to the operation.

— Taren Sylvester | Research Assistant, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

In furtherance of this operation, under the stated authority, I hereby authorize the Secretary of Defense,

Authorization is not the same as activation. This EO increases the number of reservists available to deploy, but it does not necessarily mean that all 3,000 will deploy at any given time, nor does it provide orders to specific units or individuals.

— Taren Sylvester | Research Assistant, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

and the Secretary of Homeland Security with respect to the Coast Guard when it is not operating as a service in the Navy,

The Coast Guard operates as a service of the Department of Homeland Security unless and until Congress and the president issue a declaration of war. In that event, the Coast Guard operates in service to the Navy. Therefore the president must authorize not only the secretary of defense but also the secretary of homeland security to activate members of the Coast Guard.

— Katherine Kuzminski | Senior Fellow and Director, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

under their respective jurisdictions, to order to active duty any units, and any individual members not assigned to a unit organized to serve as a unit of the Selected Reserve,

The Selected Reserve are those service members assigned to drilling Reserve units, Individual Augmented positions, or on Active Guard and Reserve (AGR) duty. Given their levels of training and readiness, Selected Reservists are the most likely element of the Reserve Component to be activated.

— Katherine Kuzminski | Senior Fellow and Director, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

or any member in the Individual Ready Reserve mobilization category

The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is comprised of service members who separated from either active duty or the Selected Reserve with a remaining military service obligation. These service members may be recalled involuntarily if authorized by the president. Moreover, IRR service members may be ordered to muster duty to screen for “mental, moral, professional, and physical fitness” standards as determined by their military service, “with or without the member’s consent.”

While the recall of the IRR is less likely than an activation of the Selected Reserve, the compulsory nature of an IRR recall may catch service members by surprise. There is also recent precedent for an IRR recall: between March 2003 and August 2006, the U.S. Army Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve recalled nearly 18,000 soldiers and Marines, 8,400 of whom deployed to Iraq.

— Katherine Kuzminski | Senior Fellow and Director, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

and designated as essential under regulations prescribed by the Secretary concerned, not to exceed 3,000 total members at any one time,

In a Pentagon press briefing on July 13, J-3 Director of Operations Lt. Gen. Douglas A. Sims stated that these troops would not be sent in addition to those currently deployed in Europe but would join the deployment rotation as replacements. This may free active duty components currently performing support functions to undertake other tasks and operations.

However, the need to activate the reserve components may also reflect the strain on manpower due to falling recruitment numbers, especially among combat arms military occupational specialty (MOS).

— Taren Sylvester | Research Assistant, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

of whom not more than 450 may be members of the Individual Ready Reserve, as they deem necessary, and to terminate the service of those units and members ordered to active duty.

In 2020, the military called for volunteers in the Individual Ready Reserve from specific MOSs, in that case mainly medical fields, to support efforts to counter the COVID-19 national emergency. Should veterans on the IRR need to be recalled under this EO's authorization, it will likely follow a similar pattern of reaching out to a narrow set of MOSs that require highly specialized skills relevant to the current mission.

— Taren Sylvester | Research Assistant, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.


July 13, 2023.


  • Katherine L. Kuzminski

    Deputy Director of Studies, Director, Military, Veterans, and Society Program

    Katherine L. Kuzminski (formerly Kidder) is the Deputy Director of Studies, and the Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society (MVS) Program at CNAS. Her research special...

  • Taren Sylvester

    Research Assistant, Military, Veterans, & Society Program

    Taren Sylvester is the Research Assistant for the Military, Veterans, & Society Program at CNAS. Their research interests include issues of civil-military relations, socie...