Lawmakers Ask for Truth in Army, Army Guard Debate

(Jan. 17, 2014) Two lawmakers with experience in the reserve components of the U.S. military have chastised the Army chief of staff for unfavorable comparisons he made last week between the Army National Guard and the active-component force.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., and Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., who are co-chairs of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, also doubt the accuracy of some of Gen. Ray T. Odierno's remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Odierno said the Army Guard and active-component Army are not interchangeable and claimed the Guard trains only 39 days a year compared to a full year of training by the active force.

Hunter, a former Marine still serving in the Marine Corps Reserve, and Walz, who retired as a command sergeant major after 24 years in the Army Guard, sent a letter Thursday to Odierno and Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, who spoke at the press club two days after Odierno.

They called Odierno’s remarks about training days “disingenuous,” adding, “From our own personal experience, we know for a fact that while 39 days may be the minimum that individuals will train, there are significant other training activities that take place that put the total number of training days upwards of 90 to 100 days in some cases.”

Plus, they wrote, active-component troops train about 200 days annually, not year-round, as Odierno said. The entire letter can be read here.

They also noted the cost savings in an Army Guard infantry brigade. The annual cost to maintain and deploy a Guard brigade is $163 million, compared to $285 million for an active-component unit, they wrote.

The comments from Odierno and Grass came amid a growing kerfuffle between the Guard and the active force about end strength and structure. The Army wants to reduce the Army Guard to 315,000, while Grass has drawn the line at 345,000. Plus, the Army has proposed removing all combat helicopters and other aircraft from the Army Guard.

Hunter and Walz reminded the two generals where the final decision will be made.

“As the Army completes its force structure review, it is extremely important to note that final troops levels will be decided by Congress,” they wrote, “and any proposal by the Army should be reviewed thoroughly to ensure that it does not in any way disparage or diminish the capabilities of one component over the other.”

The two men seek “an open and honest dialogue” on the military’s force structure, and call it “irresponsible” to suggest that the Guard and Reserve forces are in any way less capable of meeting the nation’s security objectives.