Our nation can reduce defense spending and maintain the necessary force structure and experience to meet future challenges by growing the National Guard as a percentage of the Total Force.
Today’s National Guard is a modern, accessible military force that trains and performs to the same standards as their Active Duty counterparts at a fraction of the cost. In this cost-conscious budgetary environment, the answer to an affordable defense force lies not in cutting the reserve, but in a return to a well trained and equipped, community-based force.
What’s At Stake?
Major persistent conflicts over the last two decades have required near-continuous use of both Active and Reserve Component forces in order to meet security needs. During these sustained engagements, the National Guard has evolved from a strategic reserve to a battle-proven, operationally proficient force. However, as overseas contingency operations draw down, the United States must rebalance its national security needs in ways that are more cost-effective without compromising capabilities.
Demand for U.S. military forces in the future will remain high
An uncertain future is a proven historical constant, and impending budget cuts will challenge the Department of Defense’s ability to meet future threats. While demand for U.S. military forces is not likely to remain as high as it has been while conducting two major campaigns, the military needs to be prepared to respond to all conceivable threats to national security. The National Guard is poised to provide unique capabilities to meet every mission – whether it’s to fight in times of war, participate in exercises with allied forces, serve as the first line of defense for threats to the homeland or respond to a disaster. They provide our nation with a modern, balanced and ready force that can be consistently employed on a continuous basis.
A large standing military is unsustainable
In its current form, the force has become unaffordable. Personnel costs consume more than half of the DoD budget. For the first time in nearly 50 years, the manpower issue is every bit as important as procurement and operating costs.The large, permanent standing military is a relatively new construct, and most people might assume that there is little alternative. Historically, this is not the case. One simply needs to look back in history to a nation that relied on citizen-soldiers and airmen to protect and defend our country for several hundred years.
Cutting defense spending without compromising national security
Budgeting continues to be dominated by across-the-board cuts to the branches of the armed forces, rather than by more cost-effective strategies. Instead of reducing the size of the military to meet budgetary necessities, the force should be reshaped with the goal in mind of maintaining as much of the capability and professionalism that exists in today’s forces as possible.
The most recent report of the Reserve Forces Policy Board (RFPB) concluded that a National Guard member costs about 1/3 of his Active Duty counterpart. This would translate into nearly $2.6 billion in savings for every 10,000 positions shifted from full-time to part-time. While the RFPB did not suggest changes to the Active or Reserve Component end strength, the implications of the report are obvious. The cost savings attributed to the community-based, part-time nature of the National Guard include fewer pay days per year and significantly lower costs for training, infrastructure and entitlements. Additionally, National Guardsmen serve longer and retire later than their active duty counterparts, maintaining expertise and increasing the value of their training.
The solution for a cost-effective, modern defense is increasing the size of the National Guard
The notion that we must now choose between capacity and quality to meet future challenges is misguided. The Department of Defense can reduce its budget and continue to provide a modern, balanced and ready defense by transferring missions and manpower into the National Guard. The numbers speak for themselves:
- The Army National Guard provides 32% of the Army’s total personnel and 40% of its operating force, while only consuming 11% of the Army budget.
- The Air National Guard provides 19% of the Air Force’s total personnel and 30-40% of its overall fighter, tanker and airlift capacity, at 6% of the Air Force budget.
- The National Guard remains the most cost-effective model within the Total Force, and the tried-and-true American tradition of citizen-soldiers allows the DoD to do more with less. By maintaining a larger portion of the force in the National Guard, the DoD gains a larger, less expensive force that provides the best value for our nation.
- Rebalancing the AC/RC force mix by increasing the National Guard as a percentage of the total force, including the force structure and end strength of the Army and Air National Guard.
- Shifting Active Component missions and manpower into the National Guard to save money, maintain capabilities and improve efficiencies and capture the national investment in our Active Duty as they draw down their force structure and end strength.
- Channeling funds saved by increasing the end strength of the Guard into reprogramming for recapitalization and requirements for the entire Total Force.
Please Write to Congress today and urge them to evaluate the cost-effective experience and capabilities found in the National Guard and rebalance the AC/RC force mix by increasing the National Guard as a percentage of the total force, including force structure and end strength. This is the quickest and most effective method of expressing your views to Congress. Also, contact your friends and family and urge them to use Write to Congress as well.