Guard And Reserve Commission’s Recommendations Would Muffle National Guard’s Voice In Pentagon Decision Making

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Jan. 31) -- Several recommendations in the final report of the National Guard and Reserve Commission released Thursday, if implemented, would undermine the National Guard and hamper the Defense Department’s ability to respond to domestic emergencies, according to the leaders of the 87-member Senate National Guard Caucus. 

National Guard Caucus Co-Chairs Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo.) say the Commission’s Guard recommendations “do not give due credit to the superb performance, missions and capabilities of the National Guard.”  The Commission recommends that the top service officers – the Directors -- of the Army and Air National Guard be removed from the National Guard Bureau and serve directly under the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and Air Force, respectively.  Bond and Leahy say that would undermine the National Guard’s ability to balance its dual missions -- serving as the nation’s primary operational military reserve, and as the military first responders for emergencies at home.  Commission member Major General Gordon Stump, U.S. Air National Guard (Retired), Adjutant General of the State of Michigan from 1991 to 2003 and a past president of the National Guard Association of the United States, dissented from that Commission finding. 

The panel also suggested that requirements for military equipment needed for emergency situations should be set by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), rather than by the Guard itself.  Leahy and Bond say that would give the already overwhelmed DHS a new responsibility beyond its capacity and expertise.  It would also foster confusion in military budgeting and sow unnecessary bureaucratic tension, while doing little to improve or streamline equipment needs during domestic emergencies.

Earlier this week, the President signed into law the Fiscal Year 2008 Defense Authorization Bill, which was cosponsored by a vast majority of senators.  The defense policy bill includes several key provisions of the Leahy-Bond National Guard Empowerment Act to give the Guard more bureaucratic muscle in decisions affecting the Guard’s equipment, missions and staffing.  The Guard Empowerment reforms also will give the Guard a direct voice in homeland defense decisions in which the Guard has experience.  On behalf of the National Guard Caucus, Senators Leahy and Bond intend to introduce a follow-on Guard Empowerment bill to strengthen the Guard further. 

Leahy said:  “The Guard and Reserve Commission has pointed out some of the general issues that the National Guard Caucus has spotlighted over the years.  That is why it is so puzzling that the Commission has disconnected its findings from its recommendations.  The Commission calls for a retreat from the newly enacted Guard Empowerment reforms.  Its Guard recommendations are unjustified, counterproductive, and corrosive to effective decision making.  The Commission seems to have become entangled in the old bureaucratic cobwebs that the Guard Caucus and the Empowerment Reforms have now begun to clear away.  The half-million men and women of the National Guard have never let the country down.  They are the indispensable element in helping the military support civilian authorities in responding to emergencies here at home.  We should be helping the Guard fill these missions, instead of hindering them.”

“While this report recognizes some of the challenges unique to the Guard, much of it is not only short-sighted but flat-out wrong.  If enacted, some of these recommendations would undercut the important victories we have earned to empower the Guard,” said Bond.  “The Guard is critical to protecting us here at home and also to our success in the war on terror and we cannot let ill-conceived recommendations threaten these important missions.” 

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