Leahy And Graham: Final Defense Bill Elevates National Guard To Joint Chiefs Of Staff And Includes Other Elements Of The Leahy-Graham Guard Empowerment Bill

Victory Arrives On Guard’s 375th Birthday

WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, Dec. 13) – In a far-reaching and historic advance for the National Guard’s role in the nation’s defense and security structure, bipartisan conferees on the annual Defense Authorization Bill have agreed to give the National Guard its first seat on the nation’s highest military council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to the Senate’s sponsors of the Guard reforms, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

The final version of the defense bill also includes other major provisions of The National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act (S.1025) authored by Leahy and Graham.  The Leahy-Graham bill, with 71 Senate cosponsors, had been added to the Senate’s version of the defense bill.  Counterpart provisions had also been included in the House’s version of the bill.

Leahy and Graham are the co-chairs of the Senate’s 84-member National Guard Caucus.  Their bill, S.1025, also known as “Guard Empowerment II,” is the latest in a series of successful efforts led by the Guard Caucus over the last six years to give the Guard a more meaningful voice in Pentagon circles where key policy and budget decisions are made that affect the Guard. 

In addition to adding the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Conference Committee also included other important provisions from the Leahy-Graham bill.  They include:

  • reestablishing the position of the Vice Chief of the Guard Bureau at the three-star level;
  • increasing the number of Guard general officers considered for senior positions at U.S. Northern Command;
  • helping to clarify the disaster response command relationship among the Guard and the U.S. military commands;
  • authorizing the National Guard State Partnership Program;
  • and requiring reports by the Department of Defense and the Government Accountability Office on the cost of National Guard and Reserve units compared to similar active component units. 

The underlying legislation was endorsed by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the National Governors Association, the National Guard Association of the United States, the Adjutants General Association of the United States, and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States. 

Leahy said, “The Guard now will have a voice and a policy role suited to the vital role the Guard has assumed in our security structure.  The Guard has grown to become a front-line, 21st Century force, but it has been trapped in a 20th Century Pentagon bureaucracy.  These reforms go a long way toward fixing that problem.  I am pleased that we have come so far in recent years, but much more remains to be done.  I thank my partner and my friend Lindsey Graham for all of his hard work on this effort, and we appreciate the many senators on both sides of the aisle who have helped make these advances possible.”

Graham said, “We stand on the verge of historic change as the National Guard takes its rightful place as a full, permanent member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Since 9/11, the Guard and Reserve have been indispensable to fighting the War on Terror and protecting the homeland.  They have been called up to duty, taken away from their work and families, and sent to far-away lands for long tours to protect our nation.  Their voices need to be heard and they have earned a seat at the table where our most important military decisions are made.  This long-overdue change in policy is a fitting tribute to our citizen-soldiers and the sacrifices they have made on our nation’s behalf.”

General Craig McKinley, USAF, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “If passed, the 2012 Defense Authorization Bill would have a significant impact on the National Guard and our Nation as a whole. It will ensure our civilian leaders have the best possible insight regarding the National Guard's homeland defense and civil support missions.  It's also important to acknowledge members of Congress, and particularly Senators Patrick Leahy and Lindsey Graham of the National Guard Caucus, for their outstanding leadership and support on behalf of the more than 460,000 Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard.”

Major General Gus L. Hargett Jr. (ret.), president of the National Guard Association of the United States, said, “National Guardsmen everywhere owe so much to Senator Leahy and Senator Graham for their efforts to give us a voice at the Pentagon.  Their support, their leadership and their determination have the Guard on the cusp of its biggest legislative victory Guard since the Militia Act of 1903 created the modern, dual-mission National Guard.”

Chief Master Sergeant Roger Hagan (ret.), president of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, said, “The Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States is once again indebted to Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Lindsey Graham for their victory in successfully attaching language to the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act conference report that will FINALLY make the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a full-fledged member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The over 412,000 enlisted personnel in the National Guard will directly benefit by having their voice heard loud and clear as the Chief of the NGB will soon be empowered to speak for them as part of the JCS.” 

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