NATIONAL GUARD magazine
By Maj. Gen. James Hoyer & Maj. Gen. Glenn Curtis
(read online digital version)
NGAUS and the Adjutants General Association of the United States have developed a set of combined legislative priorities for 2017.
We base them on the constitutional framework that defines the National Guard’s dual mission as an operational reserve of the Army and Air Force and as the homeland’s first military responder.
After 25 years of investment, the Guard is an operational reserve that is fully interoperable with active-component forces. Our constitutional role is also essential to the nation in preparing for and responding to current threats.
To sustain our competencies and enhance Total Force readiness, we agree with Sen. John McCain’s recent recommendations to increase personnel end-strength in the Army National Guard to 360,000 troops and in the Air Guard to 110,000 personnel, which are essential levels for the Guard’s readiness.
Personnel benefits are a legislative priority. Specifically, Guardsmen deserve the same benefits when mobilized as their active-component brethren. To ensure this, we will seek the following for Guardsmen when mobilized, including under the newly created authority, 12304(b):
- Access to TRICARE for premobilization;
- Access to post-mobilization transitional assistance;
- Full access to vocational rehabilitation post-mobilization;
- Credit toward the Post-9/11 GI Bill;
- Credit toward the deployment-based early retirement program;
- Increased funding for and access to mental health care; and
- Retirement eligibility after 20 years of service with full nonmonetary benefits that have no age requirement.
After almost two decades of war, the readiness of service members and equipment is becoming more difficult to maintain. Reduced full-time manning, benefit inequities, aging armories, and overall depleted funding increasingly challenge our units.
Some of this is the result of budget caps triggered by the Budget Control Act of 2011, or sequestration, which must end.
But ending sequestration will not fix everything; other relief is needed. A Pentagon report to Congress required in the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act concluded that the Guard would be able to convert up to 4.8 percent of its dual-status military technicians to Title 5 civilian employees without degrading military readiness. However, the law requires a 20 percent conversion.
We are working with the National Governors Association to present legislation to Congress that would not only enhance readiness but will provide full benefits to our entire technician force.
The Guard also needs more full-time support. We believe FTS levels should be 100 percent of validated service requirements. In addition, the Army Guard Transformation Master Plan to improve our armories must be funded.
We must align ourselves with the new National Defense Strategy and be prepared for future threats. This means the Guard must play a substantial role in the cyber mission force. We also need to expand the State Partnership mission, and earn joint service credit for domestic operations.
In addition, the National Guard Bureau vice chief should be able to join other vice chiefs on the Joint Requirements Oversight Council. Dual-status command policy must also be enhanced.
We also need to ensure equity in modernization and training so Guard units remain interoperable with their active-component counterparts.
We know that modernization is a challenge and will remain so for the foreseeable future. But it’s critical. The Army Guard must have a recapitalization and modernization plan for all of its force structure, including aviation. Air Guard modernization must focus on its aging C-130 Hercules cargo-aircraft fleet and defining a roadmap for the conversion of its legacy fighter wings to fifth-generation fighters.
In addition, funding through the congressionally directed National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account must be sustained. We must also ensure the acquisition of the latest equipment and training for Guard CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense) enterprise units.
Finally, all of the recommendations of the independent Army and Air Force commissions should be implemented. The Guard’s role in State Department mil-to-civ operations should be enhanced along with international state partnerships. Along with these priorities, preserving civilian-job protections for Guardsmen and Reservists is critical.
Our legislative priorities are straightforward. We are working with our governors, Congress and other stakeholders to end sequestration and develop cost-effective national defense and homeland defense strategies that leverage Guard capabilities as part of the Total Force.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES HOYER is the NGAUS chairman of the board. MAJ. GEN. GLENN CURTIS the president of AGAUS. They can reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.