Defense Budget Priority Highlights: The Pentagon Ignores Congress, Governors and the Guard

In a briefing Monday afternoon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined key priorities in the fiscal 2015 defense budget.

Highlights:

  • Reduction of tactical air squadrons to include the entire A-10 fleet.
  • Retire 80 more aircraft, including the entire KC-10 tanker fleet and the Global Hawk Block 40 fleet if 2016 sequester goes into effect.
  • Reduction of Army end strength to a range of 440,000-450,000 soldiers; if the 2016 sequester goes into effect, it will force the Army to reduce further to 420,000.
  • Reduction of Army National Guard end strength to 335,000; if 2016 sequester goes into effect, it will reduce the ARNG to 315,000.
  • Transfer Army Guard Apache attack helicopters to active-duty units. 
  • Transfer Active Army Blackhawk helicopters to the National Guard.
  • Retire all Kiowas, and the “JetRanger” helicopters used for training at Fort Rucker.
  • Sustain Light Utility Helicopters and use them for aviation training at Fort Rucker.

Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett Jr., the NGAUS president, issued a statement shortly after Hagel’s remarks, saying,  “We are disappointed, but hardly surprised, that today’s Pentagon budget preview ignores the advice of Congress and the nation’s governors that the National Guard should be more of a solution to the fiscal challenges facing our nation’s military.”

Members of Congress and governors have already come out in opposition to proposed cuts and reductions.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus said in a statement:

  • "It is greatly disappointing that even after more than a decade of overseas deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon refuses to recognize the versatility and effectiveness of the National Guard. The men and women of the National Guard have proven again and again, beyond any question that they can do any job they are assigned, at high-levels of performance indistinguishable from their active component counterparts. Fifty-seven senators joined me recently in pointing out to Secretary Hagel that a National Guard reduced to 315,000 threatens the Guard's ability to function as a cost-effective, dual-use force for missions at home and abroad, and would dangerously reduce our nation's strategic depth. As co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus and as one who has closely watched the phenomenal work of the Guard in Vermont and other states, I believe the Senate should not and cannot support a long-term plan that guts our citizen-soldier force."

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., and 12 Senate colleagues sent a letter last week to Hagel on potential Army Guard aviation cuts.

After Monday’s announcement, these senators issued a statement in opposition to Guard cuts, claiming such moves illustrate a “shortsighted approach [which] creates unnecessary risk to our national security at the expense of incredibly capable attack aviation assets in the Army National Guard.”

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., also issued a statement, alarmed by cuts to the A-10, despite Congressional mandate and current law prohibiting the Air Force from doing so.

  • “Over the last few years the budget put forward by the Administration has attempted to eliminate the flying mission of the A-10s and diminish the role of the Air National Guard.  Each time I have been proud to help lead the effort in Congress to reject this proposal and have demanded that the Air Force put forward a plan on how it will replace the important ground support mission of the A-10 and properly utilize the great talent and skill provided by the brave men and women of the Air National Guard.” 

On Sunday, governors from both political parties told the press they planned to talk to President Barack Obama Monday about preventing potential cuts to National Guard units.

Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C., spoke to reporters after the meeting. She said the president was “aggressive” and used a tone that “chilled the room a bit.” When discussing Guard cuts, the president remarked, “‘Many people in this room have asked for cuts, and now you're getting ’em,’”  Haley said.

Haley went further to say that the President’s remarks are a “slap in the face.”

Today, Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, echoed Haley’s remarks saying, “I hope that we’re not about to make a tragic mistake in this country by hollowing out our Guard in our states in some political statement of ‘you’re all going to feel the pain,’ because that’s certainly what I heard from the president of the United States today.”

The defense budget flies in the face of the Guard, members of Congress and the governors, all of whom have asked for inclusion and open discussion on force structure changes pertaining to the Guard. Opposition has included letters from 142 representatives and 58 senators to Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff,  Hagel and the President.

It appears as though no one in the Pentagon or the White House chooses to listen.

Full Text of Secretary Hagel’s Remarks
 

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