Guard & Reserve Merger Debate Continues-The System is Broken
Broken Reserve System Needs To Be Fixed
By Gus L. Hargett, Jr., president, National Guard Association
Originally appeared in The Hill's Congress Blog on 8/17/2012
Now is the time to merge the National Guard and the Reserve into one force because, despite a claim in an earlier Congress blog, the system is broken. It does need to be fixed. Doing so would save billions of dollars by eliminating redundancies and wasteful competition. More importantly, it would provide a larger and more versatile force to the governors for humanitarian assistance during disaster response and for the protection of critical infrastructure should the need arise.
Retired Col. James Tyson Currie, the former Army Reservist who began this discussion on these pages back in July, was right when he said the “days are long gone” for there to be two distinct reserve components in the Army and Air Force. Times have changed and the roles they play have never been more compatible.
And my friend Drew Davis, the executive director of the Reserve Officers Association, who responded to Currie’s idea in a later blog post, was wrong when he said that “only in the face of systemic failure” should such a merger be considered. In fact, it is because the two forces have been so successful in the 10 years since 9/11 that we know such a merger could take place and that our men and women and our leadership could navigate this difficult maneuver with ease. We have learned since 9/11 that nothing we ask of our members is too much for them to perform. And this merger, which would be in the best interest of the nation, would be no different. Mr. Davis also notes that no one in a position of authority has sought such a merger. So what? Good ideas can come from anywhere. And this one has been kicking around for decades in the nation’s capital.
But the time is right for it as the nation faces a budget crisis and the military is about to end its involvement in two wars. This is the time for a bold move that will position our uniformed forces for the future. Certainly, the driving force behind this idea should be our nation’s security. But let’s not forget that the budget crisis has been described as a national security issue. Anything we can do to alleviate that burden adds protection to the country. As has been stated, a Congressional Budget Office study 15 years ago estimated a savings of $2 billion over five years if only the Army components came together. The savings would surely be greater now, especially with the Air Force components added to the plan. More than 2,500 people work at the Air Force Reserve headquarters. The Air Guard headquarters has a staff of 1,500. There are duplications galore.
Combining the Reserve and the Guard for the Air Force would eliminate numerous general officer positions alone. We’d hate to see our friends go away, but our duty is to the country. I could point to several locations where Guard and Reserve units share a location and perform the same mission, but do not share facilities or equipment. The components have two separate recruiting programs and staffs operating independently. But the time for theoretical debate has ended. Congress must now make the merger of the Guard and the Reserve one of its major talking points as it seeks ways to cut the cost of the federal government. This idea requires focused and objective study that can come only from the body that controls this country’s budget and is responsible for providing its defense.
This idea should now rest with Congress.