Grass, Odierno Talk Apaches with Senators

Washington Report

(April 8, 2014) The chief of the National Guard Bureau acknowledged today that the Army’s plan to pull all the Apache helicopters from the Army Guard could very well go forward, but he put his hopes in Congress that will have its own ideas about erasing combat helicopters from his force.

“Since the decision has been made, I have to plan for the future,” said Gen. Frank J. Grass.

He testified for more than three hours today before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s hearing on the force mix for the Army, sitting next to Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff and a proponent of pulling those Apaches from the Guard and putting them in the active component. He said removing the helicopters was necessary to meet budget constraints.

Last week, Grass told the House Appropriations Committee that the Guard’s alternative plan was to transfer about 40 percent of the Guard Apaches to the active component and hold on to enough to field six attack battalions.

Today’s hearing lasted more than three hours and included Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, the chief of the Army Reserve.

Odierno’s plan also involves reducing the end strength of the Army Guard to 315,000, a figure opposed by Grass, who wants to maintain a force of 345,000. Odierno said that would be a problem.

“If we keep the end strength up, we reduce their readiness because we won’t be able to pay for their training,” he said.  

Grass said he provided his best advice as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and offered other options besides transferring all Apaches, but now it’s maybe time to move on. He supports a bill that would create a commission to study the Army force structure.

Lawmakers also asked the men about the relationship between all three components given the current climate.

They were hesitant to jump into the fray. Odierno likened the disagreement to a “family spat,” and said no one should jump to conclusions about the relationship between active Army, the Reserve and the National Guard.

He reiterated his commitment to a total force, and said the current disagreement is simply “over resources.”