Facing the Nomination Hearing: Gen. Welsh and Lt. Gen. Grass look to be Air Force and National Guard Bureau Chiefs

Today the Senate Armed Services Committee met to consider the following nominations:

  1. General Mark A. Welsh III, USAF for reappointment to the grade of general and to be Chief of Staff, United States Air Force
  2. Lieutenant General John F. Kelly, USMC to be general and Commander, United States Southern Command 
  3. Lieutenant General Frank J. Grass, ARNG to be general and Chief, National Guard Bureau

Prior to the hearing, all three were asked a series of questions by Committee members that were answered in written testimonies. Lt. Gen. Grass was asked "what is your vision for the National Guard of today and the future?"

  • "My vision for the National Guard of today and the future is a high quality, efficient, operational force for both the homeland and overseas missions consisting of citizen-soldiers and airmen that are an integral member of the Total Force. My vision includes a superb partnership between the National Guard Bureau and the Adjutants General, allowing for more effective and efficient domestic response. I foresee a force that is an excellent steward of the Department of Defense’s resources, one that is able to effectively meet the full spectrum of the Department’s requirements. Most importantly, my vision for the National Guard includes taking care of our soldiers and airmen to keep faith with our all-volunteer force."

Gen. Welsh dominated the hearing in terms of questioning by the Committee. Chairman Levin’s (D-Mich.) first question after testimonies was directed to Gen. Welsh asking him how he felt about the disproportionate cuts to the ANG in the FY13 Air Force budget. Gen. Welsh responded that the proposal clearly was not executable, but he could not speak in detail on it since he was not part of the budget decision making process. He assured members of the Committee that if he is confirmed as the Chief of the Air Force, he will work to move forward, creating a more inclusive process that takes into consideration Title 32 duties of the National Guard and respects the coordination and links between the states, Council of Governors and the TAGs.

In his pre-hearing questions, Gen. Welsh was asked "what criteria should we use in assessing the proper mix of active Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve in planning for our future force structure?"

  • "The first and most important criterion must be the ability of the Total Force to generate the capabilities needed to meet the demands of combatant commanders in executing the National Defense Strategy during all phases of operations, from shaping the strategic environment in phase zero to rebuilding the peace in phase five. The second criterion is the ability to sustain the force, including readiness, training, overseas presence, and the symbiotic manpower relationships between the active and reserve components. The next criterion is cost. As good stewards of our Nation’s resources, we must accomplish our missions in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Finally, all of the criteria above must be evaluated to understand and characterize the risk associated with each Air Force core function. The members of the active duty Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard are teammates and remain critical partners as we move forward as a Total Force."
From left to right: Lt. Gen. Kelly, Gen. Welsh, Lt. Gen. Grass

Senator Reed (D-RI) asked if Lt. Gen. Grass saw the role as the Chief of NGB as a two way street. Grass responded that it is his duty to be an adviser to the President and to have close relationships with the TAGs and Council of Governors. He said it is his role to bring an understanding to the TAGs of what is going on in the Pentagon, and to also identify the gaps in the states and promote regional and state plans that are now developing.

Senator Reed also asked about the cost-effectiveness and potential of developing more association sites across the country as a means to save money and develop and train young airmen and women. Both Welsh and Grass agreed.

Senator Nelson (D-Neb.) asked Lt. Gen. Grass what the NG needs in order to maintain capability and not be put back on the self, (‘mothballed’ as he said) as was done after the Cold War. Lt. Gen. Grass responded that one of his top priorities will be to ensure that the technologies and capabilities the Guard has developed in the past 10 years will be maintained. He will focus on moving towards using more innovative training methods and finding the right balance in order to maintain the capability edge the Guard has as an Operational Force today.

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