Lawmakers to Hagel: Preserve Army Guard

NGAUS Washington Report

(Dec. 17, 2013) Nearly 150 members of the House of Representatives have asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to not give in to an Army plan to reduce the size of the Army National Guard to 315,000 soldiers.

In a letter sent Friday and signed by members of both parties, House members say such a cut to the force would be “deeply troubling” and describe it as “draconian.” It would leave the force far below pre-9/11 levels.

Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, has set 345,000 as the preferred end strength for the Army Guard.

A reduction of the end strength of the entire Army is being forced upon the service because of cuts to the federal budget under the Budget Control Act, which includes the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. Under that plan, all programs are cut equally without regard to their intent or effectiveness.

If the Bipartisan Budget Act passes the Senate this week, some of the sequestration cuts will be limited, but the overall budget for the military will still shrink.

“We believe that significant end strength and force structure cuts can be mitigated by better utilizing the Reserve Component, which would save money while sustaining defense capacity and capability,” the members wrote in the letter to Hagel.

They suggest a blend of active and reserve units, such as that found in the Air Force’s active-associate program. This would take advantage of the inherent cost effectiveness found in the reserve component.

NGAUS supports a larger Guard force.

“This letter sends a clear message that Congress is paying close attention to what’s going on between the Army and Guard,” says Annie Lively, the NGAUS senior legislative manager for Army programs. “Lawmakers understand that as we draw down and have to make necessary cuts that the Guard is the answer to maintaining capability that our nation needs.”

She said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., and Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., have been leaders on the issue in the House.