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Pentagon Authorities Plan to Call Army Reserve Force to Active Duty

By Bradley Graham
THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

The Pentagon plans to call several thousand reservists to active duty in the next few days in what defense officials said Thursday would likely mark the start of a much larger military mobilization in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist strikes.

The initial call-up will focus on reservists with “specialized skills,” according to a senior military official. He said many of the extra personnel were necessary to support combat air patrols over major metropolitan areas instituted this week. They will fill out the ranks of pilots, aviation maintenance crews and air traffic controllers. The Pentagon has the authorization to call about 40,000 reservists, the official said.

The Pentagon move represents the first significant federal call-up. And because major U.S. military actions almost invariably require reservists to supplement regular troops, Pentagon estimates of the number of reservists likely to be summoned in the weeks ahead range in the tens of thousands.

As President Bush and his top national security aides were reported reviewing retaliatory options, several high-ranking Pentagon officers said Thursday they expected the U.S. military response this time would be far more aggressive and require a larger force than the limited attacks that have characterized past American reactions to terrorist attacks. This time, military officials said, Bush and his advisers appear ready to consider the use of ground troops, particularly special forces. More generally, they said administration officials are inclined to give greater weight to employing military force rather than treating the matter largely as a police action.

At the same time, military officials knowledgeable about the extent of Pentagon preparations characterized the planning as still in the early stage. They said no specific targets had been selected and no forces yet earmarked for action.