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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Tours of duty for members of the U.S. Army will be extended from 12 months to 15 months effective immediately, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday.
"What we're trying to do here is provide some long-term predictability to our soldiers and their families," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon.
In exchange for the extension, Gates said the service will be able to give all units a year at home between deployments.
He denied the order was a sign that the Army has passed its breaking point under the stresses of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying the service has met or passed its recruiting and retention goals.
But he added that the military has been "stretched" by the conflicts.