Chairman's Message: Déjà vu

The Chairman's Message
The Chairman's Message
Magazine

On March 27, the current tour of the Army National Guard director will conclude. At the time of publication, there has been no announcement of the Army secretary’s nominee to replace him. 

This likely means that, barring some manipulation of law, we will have an acting director for at least some period.   

That is truly unfortunate. Our Army Guardsmen deserve better.

I hope we’ll have a nominee soon, that he or she will sail through the confirmation process in the Senate and magically be confirmed by March 26. But it’s unlikely.  

These processes occur behind closed doors and there could be a hundred reasons for the silence to date. Consider the law and the many moving pieces required to nominate an officer.

The tour length is set at four years. A serving director may be reappointed for a second term, but would have to be reconfirmed.

The nominee is selected by the secretary of the Army and forwards the name through the defense secretary to the president. The president appoints with the advice and consent of the Senate, which requires a vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee to refer the nominee to the full Senate.  

Seems pretty straight forward, but there are lot of unique legal requirements.

Not just any Army officer is eligible. He or she must be a member of the Army National Guard of the United States. This is the reserve component of the Army, in which mobilized Guard soldiers serve when activated for active-duty service. By law, all members of the ARNGUS must first be members of the Army National Guard (basically “federal” recognition).  

Nominees are chosen from officers who have been nominated by their respective governors.  This is critical. The National Guard remains a state military force under the governor’s command until mobilized for active duty and the governors are best qualified to nominate.

Presumably at the top of the list would be officers who have commanded at the highest level of the National Guard — the adjutants general. Currently, the three three-star Guard officers serving at the National Guard Bureau are all former adjutants general.  

Any process that did not start with the governors would be not only unlawful, but would strip the state from a key role that provides advice to the federal decision-maker.

The Army secretary chooses the nominee from the governor-nominated list, but first must consult with the NGB chief.  

This is new. Prior to 2015, the chief would usually be consulted, but there was no requirement.  Now the secretary must consult with the chief. This is a natural extension of multiple changes affecting the NGB chief and National Guard empowerment. Congress believes, as do I, that the chief is in the best position to assess officers nominated by governors.

OK, pretty easy. All you need to do is reach out to all of the nation’s governors and seek nominations. Once you have a list, the process is probably like most in the Pentagon. Hold a board and generate an order of merit list. Then navigate the halls to the Army secretary’s desk for final decision.

Easy or maybe not so easy. If we end up with an acting director of the Army National Guard, it will be the third time in my tenure as Wisconsin adjutant general. Those who served (Ray Carpenter, Judd Lyons) did a great job, but it hamstrings the organization.

Our Army National Guard faces big issues and we need a director.  

The author is NGAUS chairman of the board. He can be reached via [email protected].