Friday, January 17, 2014

"Disrespectful and Simply Not True"

Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett’s (President of the National Guard Association) statement came in response to Odierno’s Jan. 5 remarks at the National Press Club in Washington, where he said the National Guard would not be capable of taking on more of the active-duty force’s responsibilities if the active force structure falls much below the 490,000 floor that the chief set for 2015.--Defense News

I'd been on a rant about the state of the USAF but things are not going very well for my friends on the green side of the house either.  Specfically MG Hargett is reacting to the following statement from GEN Odiernon, Army Chief of Staff:

The capabilities are not interchangeable,” Odierno said, “there’s a reason why the active component is more expensive. It brings you a higher level of readiness, because they’re full time. “They are trained and ready to do things at a higher level because they spend every day focused on that,” Odierno said. “Our National Guard, [which has] done an incredible job in the last 10 years, trains 39 days a year.”--Defense News

"Yare, yard" as the Japanese would say.  The Army National Guard earned the moniker of "weekend warriors" probably at the end of the Vietnam war.  "One day a month, two weeks a year" was the catch phrase for Guard recruiters.  During the 1970s through the 1990s, the National Guard became the place to mothball legacy systems and have a decent manpower pool to augment contingency operations by the active duty.  This model though is exactly opposite what the nation's founders had in mind.

The American Revolution was fought by the Continental Army and Minuteman (citizen soldiers).  This model provided the founders with a way to fight wars without maintaining large standing armies.  The desire to avoid large standing military was based on two reasons.

Up until colonial times, monarchs maintained large standing armies by letting them take over farms.  The armies would live off of the larder of the farms, eating crops, killing livestock, hunting game and raping the women and children.  In return the farmers got nothing but the monarchs saved their wealth. Avoiding the tyranny of monarchs is one of the framing principles of the Constitution.

The other reason was by having a part-time military concept, it decentralized war-making power to the various governors instead of just the President.  The founding fathers had seen how a monarch could wage war on a whim and destroy his country in the process.  They wanted to avoid that potentiality and kept the standing Army small.  It also was a safeguard to insure the US government did not overly interfere with the states.

The latter reason is the one most 21st Century citizens fail to understand.  The Army and Air National Guard exist to insure state sovereignty and to make it difficult for Washington to wage war unilaterally. World War II caused this to be largely ignore since the manpower and equipment needed far exceeded the ability of the active forces.  National Guard units were mobilized across the United States to fight in Europe and the Pacific.

Let me make a point here that really bothers active military planners.  The Army and Air National Guard have TWO commanders-in-chief.  During federal activation, the National Guard falls under the President of the United States just like every other armed service.  However, when not under federal activation they report to the governor.

The duality provides a check and balance between the interests of the federal government and the interests of the citizens (represented by the governor).  Therefore, the active military planners know they have to go through those pesky governors who may not agree with their war plans.

The National Guard became, after World War II and certainly Vietnam, a reserve contingency force.  Its equipment was not current and its soldiers and airmen were considered less capable then their active duty counterparts.

Things began to change after Desert Storm and fall of the Soviet Union.  Many forget that President George H. Bush was the first to start reducing the active force structure closing many overseas installations that were considered holdovers from the Cold War.

The troop drawdowns sent many Desert Storm veterans into the Guard and Reserves.  At the same time, the Guard started to receive the same versions of weapon systems as were being used on active duty.  The two seemingly unrelated factors changed the face of the National Guard.

When the active Air Force struggled to maintain enough aircraft and personnel for Operations Northern Watch and Southern Watch (the no-fly zones of post Desert Storm), they looked to the Air National Guard which was now flying the same F-16s that they were.  Thus was born the air expeditionary force.

It took the Army and Army National Guard much longer to embrace this concept mainly because of the incredible logistics it takes to move ground units into theater.  When Operation Enduring Freedom first began, it took Army Guard units months of mobilization stateside before they could be sent in theater.  Primarily to insure Guard units skills were up to those of their active counterparts.

So there resides the first inaccuracy of General Odierno's criticism.  Since at least 2002, the National Guard has been training more than 39 days a year.

The second inaccuracy is the Army National Guard is there not for the active duty as much as the governor.  During catastrophes, emergencies and riots, the National Guard responds.  The active duty cannot due to federal regulations as well as it would take them away from supporting overseas contingencies.  Reducing the National Guard means adversely impacting the ability of governors to deal with state emergencies.

The National Guard was also picked to receive specialized units to deal with homeland security events because these units would NOT be deployed for contingencies.  Each state has specialized units for dealing with a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) event.  These units form the nucleus of larger response packages for events such as pandemic infections.

National Guard soldiers often perform the same tasks at the civilian jobs as they do in their unit.  Maintenance personnel, IT professionals, medical personnel, vehicle operators, etc often hold jobs that are very similar to their military jobs.  Hence the general's comment that active duty practice their jobs every day, and they National Guard does not, is grossly inaccurate.

I was in Qatar in 2004 as the Air Reserve Component Liaison for CENTAF.  I remember meeting an active duty USAF physician who was struggling because he thought he did not have any ER nurses (based on his manning document).  I pointed out three ANG nurses who all worked in civilian ER hospitals and he was shocked.  The nurses also had more experience than anyone else in the hospital (including the doc).  General Odierno's comments show the same bias.

What is most depressing though is the lack of outrage by governors over the general's comments.  The National Guard Association can testify all it wants but nothing will check the active duty Army short of 50 governors raising hell.

I tend to disagree with Congressman Rangel on most but on one thing he and I both agree.  He has been a strong proponent of reinstating the draft.  He believes that only by having everyone subject to be sent to war will we get more Americans involved in understanding the true cost of war.  At first I found his recommendation insulting to the professionalism of the all-volunteer military.  But as time went on and I heard more and more people forgetting that we were still sending troops into harm's way, I started to agree with the merits of his proposal.

Similarly, having the active duty military making all of the decisions without challenge from the state governors takes us away from the intent of the Constitution.  It makes it easier for Washington to take military action without regard to the rest of America.

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