Lessons Learned Should Fix National Guard Resource Woes
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2007 The Defense Department has learned from its mistakes in resourcing the National Guard and now has systems in place to prevent those mistakes from happening again, the nation’s top military officer said here yesterday
Despite problems in the past, Joint Chiefs Chairman Marine Gen. Peter Pace told the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves that he is confident defense leaders are considering the Guard’s unique resourcing needs.
“I think the performance of the Guard and reserve has clearly indicated to all of us that we would ignore their needs to the national defense’s peril and to the disrespect of the great Americans and their families who serve in the Guard and reserve,” Pace said. “We need to do this right. I am comfortable that we have recognized what we have done wrong in the past and that we have systems in place now to make that work.”
Much of the National Guard’s resourcing woes came to light in recent years as the force was moved from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve. Officials agreed, though, that deployed Guard units are equipped and trained to the level of their active-component counterparts. Primarily at issue are the equipment and funding the Guard needs to handle its many other missions in the United States.
National Guard Bureau Chief Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum told the commission that 88 percent of the National Guard units in the U.S. are “poorly equipped.”
Pace said three things are now happening to prevent reserve-component forces’ needs from being overlooked in resourcing talks.
First, the Department of Homeland Security is identifying gaps in resources needed to respond to homeland emergencies. Once gaps are identified, the department will determine which agency is best suited to respond and what resources are needed, Pace said.
Second, a new force generation model will ensure National Guard units are resourced similar to their active-duty counterparts on a cyclical basis. The model ensures that a specific number of brigade combat teams are available to deploy within a specific timeframe.
Under the plan, four to five brigade combat teams will be available to deploy each year in a six-year cycle. At the same time, other units will be undergoing training and working through equipment and personnel issues.
As both active-component and Guard units near their deployment window, training and resources become critical, Pace said.
“Then we will be able to look at the unit and its equipment and personnel status and training status and do all the things that you need to do, … just like we do on the active-duty side,” Pace said.
The model will “force us to look at the resources … to ensure that the Guard and the reserve are properly getting resourced,” Pace said.
Finally, lessons learned in the budgeting process were applied in developing the 2008 defense budget to ensure Guard and reserve input, Pace said.
“We did not do a good enough job getting the Guard and reserve into the process early enough (in 2006) so that not only were they properly resourced but they knew they were going to be properly resourced,” Pace said.
The departments of the Army and Air Force learned those lessons in the 2007 budgeting process and applied them well in the 2008 process, Pace said.
“This year, to the best of my knowledge, … everyone is saying, ‘We did learn our lessons, and we are paying attention to that,’” Pace said.