Cover: Assessment of Deployment- and Mobilization-to-Dwell Policies for Active and Reserve Component Forces

Assessment of Deployment- and Mobilization-to-Dwell Policies for Active and Reserve Component Forces

An Examination of Current Policy Using Select U.S. Joint Force Elements

Published Jul 20, 2023

by John C. Jackson, Lisa M. Harrington, Jeffrey S. Brown, Bradley DeBlois, Katherine C. Hastings, Jeannette Gaudry Haynie, Duncan Long, Max Steiner, Jonathan Welch, John D. Winkler


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Research Questions

  1. How are existing active component D2D and reserve component M2D policies implemented in each service under various scenarios? More specifically, what is the relationship between the D2D/M2D policy and operational readiness?
  2. What changes and improvements could be made to the policy to inform and optimize DoD's force utilization decisions?

Deployment-to-dwell (D2D) and mobilization-to-dwell (M2D) ratios govern how much time service members must spend at home relative to the amount of time spent deployed (for active component members) or mobilized (for reserve component members). When the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) established these ratios in 2007, during a period of extended operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, their purpose was to help ensure that service members had enough time at home and were not overexposed to combat, thereby reducing strain on the force. However, after a lengthy period of operations involving protracted deployments and increased utilization of reserve component personnel, questions have been raised about whether these policy goals remain relevant — especially in light of the return to great-power competition and the renewed focus on readiness required to respond to a major contingency.

In this report, RAND researchers examine how D2D and M2D policies are currently implemented in each of the military services. They use case studies of four frequently deployed joint force elements — the U.S. Army's armored brigade combat team, the U.S. Marine Corps' infantry battalion, the U.S. Air Force's KC-135 fleet, and the U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier — to illustrate how the services' different approaches to implementing D2D/M2D policies affect operational readiness under various conditions. The researchers then suggest policy changes to inform and optimize DoD's force utilization decisions.

Key Findings

  • The operational context for D2D/M2D policy has changed dramatically since the inception of the original D2D/M2D policy; the challenges currently facing DoD are fundamentally different from those faced in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • All Secretary of Defense–approved operations count in calculating D2D/M2D ratios regardless of service member exposure to combat conditions.
  • DoD views all Secretary of Defense–approved operations as consuming readiness, but some operations actually improve readiness.
  • The services have differing views as to what counts as a deployment.
  • Variations in service requirements lead to different methods for managing force utilization that are not confined to unit and individual D2D/M2D ratio calculations.
  • Administrators of the D2D/M2D policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense state that, in the future, an intended outcome of the policy is to help improve operational readiness for return to great-power competition.


  • Clarify the purpose of the D2D/M2D policy within the current operational context.
  • Consider redefining what counts as a deployment.
  • Review how D2D and M2D are managed across DoD.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Personnel, Readiness, and Health Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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