Thursday, September 10, 2015

Redesign of the Army and Army National Guard relationship

Read this morning "Effort to Bring Army, National Guard Closer May Result in Redesign" (article here).  In short, the Army is going through the same thing the USAF, USAFR and ANG went through in the 90s.

A little history lesson is order to better understand the issues.  Redesigning the relationships between the Army, Army Reserves and National Guard isn't just an issue for the components or even DoD.  The very structure of how the US ground forces (and by extension, the US military in general) is dictated by the Constitution.

The founding fathers knew too well that real cost of a large standing military is too often imposed on the people.  In 18th Century Europe, when large standing armies weren't at war they were billeted on private lands.  This meant that the monarch did not have to spend their money on feeding the troops.  The troops were free to hunt all of the game, seize all of the crops find on farms and in villages(along with any wealth or women).

The writers of the Constitution wanted to avoid this situation in America, the Second and Tenth Amendments being just two examples of how they tried to prevent it.  The Second Amendment in particular, contrary to the NRA, is about having a part-time militia that could be called up as needed.  This was both a necessity as well as a design back in the Colonial period.  The Colonies simply could not muster a large standing army to fight the British so they relied on a well armed citizenry.  But early Americans also knew war would eventual end and having a bunch of soldiers standing around was just going to deplete their supplies.

The Tenth Amendment is designed to keep the government in Washington (which the framers were worried could end up being just like the monarchy) from over extending its influence over the states.  The states are the real power of the United States.

The National Guard is the well regulated militia referred to in the Second Amendment.  The National Guard is the governor's military might to insure that Washington doesn't over step its boundaries (such as forcing martial law without the governor's consent).

The plan worked for the most part until World War II.  The amount of manpower and material required to fight both in Europe and the Pacific was enormous.  The cost of maintaining all of those troops and equipment was prohibitive yet you couldn't just get rid of it, hence came the role of the Reserves.  The Reserves are the part-time force of the various branches of the military.  This allowed for the extra tanks, planes, ships, etc. to be placed in a stand-by status (along with troops to operate and maintain it) should it be needed to fight the Soviets.  (The National Guard and Air National Guard are also part of the Reserve Components)  So much for calling up the Reserves!

The huge military command structures created during World War II remained in place even after the post-war drawdowns.  Much like any other bureaucracy, these military structures needed something to do so they articulated the need to maintain a larger number of troops on active duty (this need was conveniently supported by the huge standing Soviet military).  More troops needed to fight a potential war with the Soviets (and later China and North Korea) meant increased spending for the latest weapon systems.

But what to do with the stuff they already have?  Easy, give it to the Reserves!  This is why the ANG was still flying F-51 Mustangs when the active duty Air Force had already switched to jet fighters.  As time went on, the Reserves and National Guard were increasingly equipped with systems that were not compatible with their active duty counterparts.

Then Desert Storm caught everyone off guard.  A major campaign with ground forces maneuvering around the desert, the active duty forces did not have what they needed nor in the quantities needed.  So the Reserve components were activated to fill active duty shortfalls.  The USAF/USAFR/ANG handled this well but not because the active duty recognized the need to keep the Reserve Components compatible.  Rather, this was the result of former USAF personnel who had seen combat in Vietnam joining the Air National Guard.  They were dismayed and used the ability of being a part-time military to lobby lawmakers to legislate state of the art aircraft for the state ANG.

The USAF didn't pay much attention to the lobbying efforts until after Desert Storm.  The ANG was showing up to Operations North Watch and Southern Watch with newer and better maintained fighters than the active duty.

When OEF and OIF kicked into high gear, the ANG was flying more sorties because they had the right aircraft with the right avionics flown by pilots with more hours than their active duty counterparts.  The USAF/USAFR/ANG model had had over ten years of practice to get it right.

When the Army got ready of OEF and OIF, they differences between the USA/USAR/ARNG were stark.  It took Army National Guard units 90 days to mobilize to the CONUS mobility site.  Then it was another 30-60 days to re-accomplish what they had already done but this time under the auspices of the active duty Army.  Then it was another 30 days of orientation in-country BEFORE they could even start doing their jobs.  The system had been turned on its head.  Instead of keeping the ground reserves ready, the active Army had neglected them until they couldn't anymore.

So for the long lesson but now you can understand the article better.  What the article doesn't point out is both the US Army and US Air Force hate their National Guard counterparts because in order to call them up, they have to go through the governor.  This is really what the "re-design" is trying to get around.  The Army Guard is much more important to backfilling the active duty units than the US Army Reserves (which are primarily combat support).

The Army Guard has proven itself time and again in combat but the active duty Army still hates to think that they may not get the critical backfill just because some governor needs his troop for a natural disaster (that won't happen by the way, other units in the National Guard can backfill one another during disaster relief under the EMAC).

In short, the active duty Army has to figure out a way to maintain its OPSTEMPO in the face of continuing budget cuts.  The only way to do that is to somehow grab more of the National Guard for themselves.

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