National Guard: America’s Best Defense Value

The National Guard is America’s first military organization and for 377 years the men and women of the National Guard have proven they can meet any challenge. Since the tragic events of 9/11, the National Guard has transformed from a strategic reserve into an operational force. As our military shifts towards a new defensive strategy, we must recognize the value and capability the National Guard brings to the U.S. Air Force, the Army, and our nation. If our legislators fund the National Guard, they are funding the immediate safety of the U.S., as well as our operations overseas, at about 1/3 of the cost of the full-time active component.

The United States military in its current form has become unaffordable. The personnel costs alone consume more than half of the Department of Defense’s budget. A Reserve Forces Policy Board study concluded that an active component service member costs taxpayers $384,000 compared to $123,000 for his/her counterpart in the reserve component - about a one-third difference. This translates into about $2.6 billion in savings for every 10,000 positions shifted from the active component to the National Guard.  

The National Guard has been mobilized by the Army and Air Force more than 760,000 times in support of overseas missions; more than 50% of Guard members have combat experience, which does not include the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and airmen that have responded to domestic emergencies. This demand has required an almost continuous use of both active and reserve component forces in order to meet war-time requirements.

The National Guard is a vital part of our nation’s military yet it’s also our domestic operational force. It has met every wartime request with ready units while simultaneously meeting every request for domestic emergencies. To emphasize this point, in 2012 alone, the National Guard provided support to domestic crises over 100 times; specifically, 11 natural disasters costing more than one billion dollars.

The National Guard rapidly and expertly expands the capacity of local and state first responders to protect American people and critical infrastructures. This, coupled with meeting the challenges of overseas deployments, makes the unique nature of the National Guard citizen-soldier/airman critical to new and developing operational missions.

The Department of Defense can gain a more cost-effective force, providing the best value for our nation to support both domestic emergency response and overseas deployments by maintaining a larger portion of the force in the National Guard.  As our military moves towards a new defensive strategy during these fiscally austere times, we must recognize the value and capability that the National Guard brings to the defense of our nation.


Joel Mutschler is the chairman of the Pennsylvania National Guard Associations (PNGAS), the professional organization and voice of more than 19,000 Pennsylvanians who proudly serve their state and nation in the Pennsylvania National Guard. PNGAS consists of the National Guard Association of Pennsylvania (NGAPA) and the Pennsylvania National Guard Enlisted Association (PNGEA). In short, these associations exist to “guard the Guard.”

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