House Members Decry Proposed Cuts to Army Guard
Responding to remarks made by Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army chief of staff, and a controversial plan to restructure Army aviation assets, a coalition of Democratic and Republican representatives spoke out last week against potential cuts to Army National Guard end strength and drastic restructuring of the Army Guard's helicopter fleet.
The bipartisan group, led by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., praised the service Army and Air National Guardsmen performed during the past 12 years of conflict while urging the Army to reconsider the proposed reductions in end strength. Perry described the Army's proposal for the National Guard as "drastic" and that it "will put the Guard on the back shelf as a strategic reserve."
Other members were much more blunt. "The recent comments by Army leadership are as ridiculous as anything I have seen in quite some time," said Rep. Steven Palazzo, R-Miss. Palazzo continued, "In a transparent effort to protect their own, they have effectively thrown the men and women of the National Guard out with the bath water."
Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., suggested cutting the Army Guard "to its lowest level in 50 years would not only weaken our national security and homeland defenses," but makes very little sense from a fiscal and strategic perspective "as personnel costs for Guardsmen are roughly one-third the cost of active component personnel." Others echoed Rahall's comments on the cost-effectiveness of the National Guard, numbers which have been backed up by a 2013 study by the Reserve Forces Policy Board.
Perry, a currently serving Army Guard aviator, addressed Odierno's remarks that the National Guard was not interchangeable with the active component in part due to only training 39 days a year.
"The comments, that, quite frankly... are disappointing and hit my heart are that Guardsmen train 39 days a year... as a matter of fact, I don't know anyone single Guard member that trains only 39 days a year," he said.
"We are a better Nation with a better military than to dismantle the sacrifices made on the battlefield with false claims of National Guard and Reserves' lack of capability," stated Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill. "I certainly have devoted much more than 39 days a year to serving my Nation as a military pilot; and so have my fellow Guard troops."
The following representatives also spoke out or submitted comments on the cuts to Army aviation and end strength:Doug Collins, R-Ga., Charles Dent, R-Pa., Bill Enyart, D-Ill., Keith Rothfus, R-Pa., Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., Joe Wilson, R-S.C. and Ted Yoho, R-Fla.
In addition to the floor speeches, Congressmen Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. and Tim Walz, D-Minn, the co-chairs of the House Guard and Reserve Caucus penned a letter to Gen. Odierno in response to his remarks on interchanegability and readiness of the Army Guard. The letter urges the Army to consider the cost savings that Army National Guard units offer and dispel the myth that the National Guard trains 39 days a year to the Active Army's 365.
The message was made very clear: allegations that the Army Guard is less capable and not interchangable with its active counterpart are false and that cuts to Army Guard end strength and aviation assets would jeopardize national security.