Feb. 16 (UPI) -- The Pentagon on Friday released new policy guidance on retention of non-deployable service members, which could result in nearly 300,000 soldiers being kicked out of the military.
The new directive seeks to improve overall readiness and lethality of forces by reducing the number of service members who cannot be deployed overseas, according to Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Robert Wilkie, who testified before Congress on Wednesday.
"On any given day, about 13 to 14 percent of the force is medically unable to deploy -- that comes out to be around 286,000 service members," Wilkie told the Senate Armed Services Committee's personnel subcommittee on Wednesday.
The new directive, requiring review of all non-deployable personnel, comes from a 2017 directive from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to shore up members of the military needed for overseas service by requiring them to be deployable within 12 months.
"The objective is to both reduce the number of non-deployable service members and improve personnel readiness across the force," Wilkie said in a memorandum outlining the new policy.
The individual branches of the military have a deadline of Oct. 1 to begin separating non-deployable service members, but the Pentagon has said the services can start processing them immediately.
Military medical boards will review the status of soldiers who have been wounded, and the secretaries of the departments of the military have been authorized to issue waivers for service members who exceed the 12-month limit on non-deployability.
The policy includes exemptions for pregnancy, postpartum depression and related conditions, but also allows the branches of the military to separate members who are expected to be non-deployable for 12 consecutive months before the passage of 12 months.
"The situation we face today is really unlike anything that we have faced, certainly in the post-World War II era," Wilkie said. "We have to ensure, given the climate this country faces, that everyone who signs up can be deployed anywhere in the world."