[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                    February 8, 2008

Defense Department officials call Guard- Reserve report 'fundamentally flawed'

      WASHINGTON, D.C. (American Forces Press Service) -- Core elements of a congressional commission's report aimed at overhauling the U.S. military's reserve forces are "fundamentally flawed," Defense Department officials said.

      The Commission on the National Guard and Reserves delivered its final report to Congress and Pentagon officials.

      The report included 95 recommendations on transitioning the reserves into a feasible and sustainable operational reserve.

      At the crux of the Defense officials' objection to the report is a recommendation that would in effect make the National Guard a domestic response force for civil emergencies, essentially eliminating its go-to-war mission.

"We believe that the National Guard has a primary role to play in domestic disaster response -- but that mission assignment should not be to the exclusion of National Guard's traditional war-fighting missions overseas."

Paul McHale,
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and 
America's Security Affairs

      "That is sharply at odds with the position that we have taken in our strategy for homeland defense and civil support," said Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and America's security affairs, speaking to  journalists at the Pentagon. "We believe that the National Guard has a primary role to play in domestic disaster response -- but that mission assignment should not be to the exclusion of National Guard's traditional war-fighting missions overseas."

      The recommendation is that the Defense Department shift capabilities useful for state-controlled responses to domestic emergencies to the National Guard, and shift capabilities in the National Guard that are not required for state missions, but are required for its federal missions, to the military reserve components or active-duty military. This would in effect place nearly all civil support capabilities within the National Guard and move wartime missions to the federal military.

      "What the commission is recommending is that the National Guard become a domestic disaster response capability exclusively. We think that's wrong," McHale said.

      Alongside McHale at the briefing was National Guard Bureau Chief, Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum.

      He said that the active-duty military could not feasibly fill the gaps left by removing the Guard from its wartime mission. Right now, the Guard makes up 40 percent of the combat power of the U.S. military.

      "We would unhinge the volunteer force, and we would break the total force," Blum said.

       Department officials also are at odds with the recommendation to place active-duty military forces under the command and control of the governors of the states in which they are deployed.

      "Fifty different governors will command our active-duty military forces in a patchwork quilt of command and control that would guarantee an inability to achieve unity of command and unity of effort in a crisis," McHale said.

      That recommendation, he said, is at odds with the federal system of government and Article II of the Constitution.

      "There can be only one commander-in-chief, and  that is the president of the United States," McHale said. "To decentralize that command and control to 50 separate state governors invites confusion."

      Another recommendation by the commission would cut reservists' drill pay in half. The commission recommends reducing the 29 duty status codes the  reserves now have to only two -- either on active duty or not.

      The problem is that reservists now get four days pay for a two-day drill period. The commission recommends one day's pay, for one day's work. The drilling reservist would receive, for the same duty, half the pay he is currently receiving. Or they would have to put in twice as many duty days to receive the same pay.

      "We believe that is a mistake,"  McHale said. "We believe it is precisely the wrong message to be sent to National Guardsmen and Reservists who at  this point in our history are deserving of our appreciation and respect. Their compensation ought not be cut."

      The pay cut could have also an impact on recruiting and retention, he said.

      Department officials disagreed with the harsh criticism leveled at the disaster preparedness of the nation by the commission chairman, retired Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro.


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