Issues & Advocacy

Issue: Leverage the Cost-Effective Guard

Our nation can reduce defense spending and maintain the necessary force structure and experience to meet future challenges by growing the National Guard as a percentage of the Total Force.

Issue Overview

Today’s National Guard is a modern, accessible military force that trains and performs to the same standards as their active-component counterparts at a fraction of the cost. In this cost-conscious budgetary environment, the answer to an affordable defense force lies not in cutting the reserve, but in maintaining a well trained and equipped, community-based force. 

What’s At Stake?

Major persistent conflicts over the last two decades have required near-continuous use of both the Active and Reserve Components in order to meet security needs. During these sustained engagements, the National Guard has evolved from a strategic reserve to a battle-proven, operationally proficient force. In an era of declining budgets and evolving threats, the United States must re-examine and rebalance foreign and national security policy in ways that are more cost effective without compromising capabilities.

Demand for U.S. military forces in the future will remain high
The current threat environment will continue to evolve, but the magnitude of the impending budget cuts will challenge the Defense Department’s ability to meet the full spectrum of operations. Although the operational tempo will remain high and budgets constrained, the military still needs to be prepared to respond to 21st century threats.

The National Guard provides a broad range of capabilities, making it able to fight our nation’s wars, participate in exercises with allied forces, serve as the first line of defense for threats to the homeland and respond to a disaster. The National Guard provides our nation with a modern, balanced force that is readily deployable.

A large standing military is unsustainable
In its current form, the U.S. military has become unaffordable. Total personnel costs are consuming nearly half of the Defense Department budget. Our military has been through funding cuts in the past, but for the first time in nearly 50 years, the manpower-mix discussions may be as important as the procurement and operating accounts.

The large, permanent standing military is a relatively new construct in our republic’s history. However, the debate over a professional military versus a civilian militia was one of the fiercest in American constitutional history.  Since our nation’s founding, we have relied on the National Guard to protect and defend our country.  

Cutting defense spending without compromising national security
The notion that we must now choose between capacity and quality to meet future challenges is misguided. Instead of reducing the size of the military to meet budgetary necessities, the force should be reshaped with the goal in mind of maintaining as much of the capability and professionalism that exists in today’s forces as possible. The Department of Defense can reduce its budget and continue to provide a modern, balanced and ready defense by transferring missions and manpower into the National Guard. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • For approximately 10 percent of the Army budget, the Army National Guard provides 34 percent of the Army’s total personnel and 40% of its operational force.
  • For approximately 6 percent of the Air Force budget, the Air National Guard provides 19 percent of the Air Force’s total personnel and 30 to 40 percent of the fighter, tanker and airlift capacity.

The National Guard remains the most cost-effective model within the Total Force, and the tried-and-true American tradition of citizen-soldiers allows the DoD to do more with less. By maintaining a larger portion of the force in the National Guard, the DoD gains a larger, less expensive force that provides the best value for our nation.

NGAUS supports:

  • Rebalancing the AC/RC force mix by increasing the National Guard as a percentage of the total force, including the force structure and end strength of the Army and Air National Guard
  • Shifting missions and manpower into the National Guard, particularly those aligned with predictable cycles, to save money and maintain capabilities in our active components as they draw down their force structure and end strength
  • Fairness in benefits and pay for all members of the Guard, their families and retirees