Reserve & Guard leaders to House Subcommittee: We should remain Operational Reserve
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. John Orrell)
WASHINGTON—As part of the Total Force, the National Guard has successfully transformed to an operational Reserve and must not be put back on the shelf as a strategic Reserve, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said last week."We must continue to be utilized as part of the operational force … and must maintain readiness and continue to be a part of the national security framework,"
Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley said while testifying to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense on March 30.
McKinley – along with Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard; Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter, acting director of the Army National Guard and Army Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve – spoke about the important role the National Guard and Reserve have served over the last decade.
McKinley said remaining a fully operational force relies on the service components' willingness to keep the Air and Army National Guard operational. "I believe very strongly that [Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen.] Norton Schwartz and [Chief of Staff of the Army Gen.] George Casey believe that access and availability to call on the Guard is vital to their future, especially in an era of persistent conflict," he said.
"From a strategic vantage point, we in the National Guard believe that care must be taken not to break this magnificent force that has been there when needed these last 10 years," McKinley said.
"We have proven that this Reserve component can be an operational force. We have demonstrated the capabilities," Stultz said. "We have demonstrated the fact that we are a good return on investment."
That return on investment can be seen in all three Reserve component branches.
"We have created an Army that has to have an operational Reserve," Stultz said. "Just in raw numbers, 75 percent of your engineering capabilities … 80 percent of your logistics capability … 75 percent of your medical capability … and 85 of your civil affairs capability, which is in high demand, is in the Reserve or Guard."
Wyatt said the Air Guard provides a high percentage of Air Force mission capability relative to the total budget the Air Force provides to the Air Guard. "The Air National Guard provides about 34 percent of the total capability of the Air Force on about 7 percent of the budget," Wyatt said. "That's probably the most cost-effective arm of the Air Force that we have."
Wyatt said one of the biggest issues the Air National Guard faces in remaining a relevant operational force is the recapitalization of older aircraft.
"That's the same problem that the United States Air Force has," he said.
"Our goal is to continue to be an equal partner through the Air Force's recapitalization and modernization process.
"The proper way to do that, when recapitalizing the Air Force, is to embark upon recapitalizing the Air National Guard at the same time that we do our active component proportionately and balanced across all three of the components so that the Air National Guard can remain relevant and remain an operational force." Preparing for the future, the Air National Guard must build upon the lessons of the past, he said.
"Today's Air National Guard integrates seamlessly into the Air Force global operations because we have the same equipment with similar capabilities and Air Guard Airmen maintain the same standards of training and education as our active duty brothers and sisters," Wyatt said.
"With continued support from Congress, we will continue to improve and enhance our ability to support civil authorities through prudent investments and dual use capabilities."
McKinley broke down some of the fiscal year 2012 requirements the Guard is looking for.
"Overall we can say that the budget request for fiscal year 12 meets the critical needs of the Army and the Air National Guard in the era of persistent conflict overseas and on-going threats to American lives and property here in the homeland," he said.
"As the FY12 budget was developed, we worked closely with [the office of the secretary of defense] to ensure adequate funding for the entire [Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and high-yield Explosives] enterprise, including standing up the remaining eight new Homeland Response Forces."
Carpenter said Soldier resiliency is also vital to the continuation of the operational force and the Army National Guard looks to achieve this through comprehensive Soldier mental health initiatives and Soldier and family outreach programs.
Carpenter emphasized the importance of keeping the Guard and Reserve operational.
"General Casey has made the statements, ‘We've served together, we've bled together and we can't go back'," Carpenter said.
"We have to be ready, we cannot sit back and wait for something and then respond, so from that standpoint the operational Reserve is critical for this nation," he said.