Allowing the National Guard to regress back to a strategic reserve would squander over a decade of investment in training, equipping, and readiness.
Maintaining the National Guard as an operational force is key to preserving more than 13 years of hard-fought battles and tremendous sacrifice. As our military shifts towards a new national security strategy in a time of fiscal austerity, the Defense Department cannot afford to be mired in traditional standards and assumptions, but must bring our strategy into the future by recognizing the value and capability the National Guard brings to the defense of our nation.
What's At Stake?
Since 9/11, our military forces have sustained a high operational tempo due to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Air and Army National Guardsmen have been mobilized more than 750,000 times in support of overseas missions. In addition, hundreds of thousands of soldiers and airmen were called up during the same time period by their states for domestic response. As our forces draw down and budgets get leaner, the military and policymakers need to find the best way to maintain capability and experience. An operational National Guard is the solution.
A premier operational force abroad and at home
After more than a decade of war, the Guard meets the same readiness and training standards for deployment as the active component. The Guard currently sustains an exceptionally high level of readiness and provides key surge capability to meet the requirements of an operational force. Continuing to utilize the operational National Guard with missions in places like the Sinai, Kosovo, Antarctica and Korea is in the best interest of the nation and overall military readiness. It connects communities and employers directly to the operations, maintaining their support.
The National Guard is not only a vital part of the Total Force and experienced in overseas missions, but it is also the nation’s premiere domestic operational force. The National Guard can rapidly and expertly expand the capacity of local and state first responders to protect the American people and critical infrastructure. And it does so every day.
A voice inside the Pentagon
In the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress authorized the chief of the National Guard Bureau a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, institutionalizing the National Guard as the primary advisor to the president and the defense secretary on matters of homeland defense. However, a seat for the chief on the JCS is not yet a seat at every table in the Pentagon. Recent defense budgets have seen disproportionate cuts to the Guard as well as a shrinking piece of the equipment procurement pie, putting at jeopardy our critical domestic response capability and partnership in the Total Force. If current trends continue, the Guard will be placed back on Army and Air Force shelves, wasting years of hard-earned capability, investment and experience.
The National Guard faces mounting challenges regarding legacy equipment and aircraft that is becoming obsolete or irrelevant, equipment left behind in a theater of operations, and equipment that is aging through normal wear and tear. To maintain the large investment used to make the Guard an operational force within the Total Force, Congress must continue to provide resources not only through Army and Air Force budgets, but also through the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account (NGREA). Congress has authorized and appropriated additional equipment funding for the Guard and Reserve in each of the last 30 years because, year after year, the services’ budgets fail to sufficiently fund the National Guard. NGREA funding is the Guard’s equipment lifeblood, providing critical procurement and modernization.
The face of the military in America
It cannot be forgotten that as citizen-soldiers, the men and women of the National Guard have a strong connection and relationship with the everyday citizen. Guardsmen live and work in their communities and provide the American people a direct link to our military forces. This direct connection makes the sacrifice and service more recognizable and real to civilians in communities. After more than a decade of war, America cannot lose sight of what it means to serve, and the National Guard acts as that reminder.
- Statutory and policy changes that solidify and protect the National Guard as an operational versus strategic reserve
- Increasing or maintaining National Guard personnel, equipment and resources as a vital and cost-effective part of Army and Air Force plans for the future
- Continued congressional funding through the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account
- Acquiring new technology and equipment equal and proportional to that purchased for active-component forces
- National Guard access to the same training and educational opportunities available for active-component forces