Congressman: Data Must Drive Decision on Army, Army Guard

By Rebecca Autrey

(May 29, 2014) A co-chairman of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus says data must be the driving factor behind future policy decisions on the structure of the Total Army.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., spoke this morning at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. The think tank was unveiling its report on the future of the U.S. Army National Guard in a transitioning defense environment. The report is called “Citizen-Soldiers in a Time of Transition: The Future of the U.S. Army National Guard.”

Walz called the report a timely and groundbreaking work. It was released as Guard supporters and the active-component Army continue to disagree over the Guard’s future role in the Total Force. He stressed that outside analysis is needed so decision-makers do not allow “emotion” and “turf battles” to drive the debate moving forward.

“Provide the data,” he said. “Let’s be driven by the data. Let’s be driven by what’s in the best interest of this country.”

In that vein, Walz also discussed an amendment that he co-sponsored in the House fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. The measure would create an independent commission to look at the future structure of the Army. His goal is that a commission, like the CSIS report, would provide data to drive policy decisions by Congress. 

The retired Minnesota Army National Guard command sergeant major stressed, “I’m not looking for a preconceived outcome on this.”

He pointed out that for more than a decade, American taxpayers have invested a lot of dollars in the National Guard. It’s a dual-mission force trained in battle, and “we need to decide how best to use them.”

Adding to the pressure is the looming threat of sequestration, the automatic budget cuts Congress approved in the 2011 Budget Control Act. The Pentagon, along with state adjutants general, have been put in a challenging position “because [Congress] didn’t have the courage or willingness to come up with a budget.”

Now, Walz said it’s time to focus on the future.

“How are we going to get this right?” he said. “Because to be very honest with you, this is one area . . .  we can’t get wrong.”