WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Army maintains its policy of mandatory tour extensions despite pledges from the Defense Department last year to stop the practice, records show.
The tour extensions, called "stop loss," extended duties from 12 months to 15 months to bolster forces deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Under recommendations from Defense Secretary Robert Gates in January 2007, troops affected by "stop loss" dropped to a three-year low in May, but that number is now up 43 percent, USA Today said Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., urged Gates "in the strongest terms" to put a stop to the practice in an April 17 letter, adding it suggests the United States needs more troops in the Army.
U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., agreed saying the "stop loss" suggests the Army is "unraveling a bit," the newspaper said.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen James Thurman, a top official in the Pentagon, said the Army may consider halting mandatory extensions by fall 2009.