Reaction Of Senator Leahy To National Guard Components Of New U.S. Defense Strategy

“I applaud President Obama, Secretary Panetta and Chairman Dempsey for producing a new defense strategy that makes clear choices about our future national security priorities.  Unlike many past efforts in earlier times, this is a plan that recognizes that our economic strength is at the core of our national security and the foundation of a healthy defense budget and strategy in the years to come.  And unlike in earlier times, this has not been a go-through-the-motions exercise ungrounded in reality.  We cannot afford to mortgage our long term national security through untenable and unsustainable spending in the short term, and the administration has developed a strategy to avoid that outcome.

“I took particular interest in elements of the strategy related to the balance of active and reserve forces in our manpower mix.  While I am pleased by some of the concepts in the strategy, such as reversibility and the acknowledgement that the Department must thoroughly study the future force mix of active and reserve troops, the new strategy leaves many questions unanswered.  One key question concerns the long-term implications of reversibility as a force structure model.  The Guard and Reserve must not be cast as a way station between active duty service and full separation.  Another key section of this strategy indicates that the Department will evaluate the active and reserve balance, which is something Senator Graham and I successfully pressed for in the recently enacted defense bill.  The provision we offered requires a study and report by the Pentagon on the active and reserve force mix, as well as a companion study by the GAO to help us base these decisions on facts and reality.

“As co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, Senator Graham and I will need to watch closely how the Pentagon studies the matter of active and reserve force mix particularly as contingency operations in Iraq have come to an end and as our operations wind down in Afghanistan.  If the Pentagon unwisely moves to cut the Guard and Reserve components in order to maintain a smaller and much more expensive active component, Senator Graham and I will work to correct such missteps.

“Overall, I believe the strategy is promising.  President Obama and Secretary Panetta have set priorities that can become a template for future defense strategies.  Our strategic shift toward Asia is an important choice.  While the United States has ongoing commitments in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere, the President has clearly signaled his intent to shift our defense focus to East Asia.  This clearly acknowledges the rise of China and the importance of our strategic partners in that region.

“It is historically difficult for the Pentagon and the Congress to acknowledge the plain fact that some mission areas are more critical than others, but the days of pretending that every program in the defense budget is sacrosanct are waning under harsh new realities.  I will watch the implementation of this strategy closely and will continue to support President Obama in his aim of maintaining a capable and effective military in the years and decades to come.”

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