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Commission Reports on Strengthening America’s Defenses

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2007 – Changes are needed to pull together the nation’s security team and break down “institutional stove pipes” between agencies, the chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves reported to Congress today.

Initially the commission was to report on the proposed “National Guard Empowerment Act” which aimed to increase the authority of National Guard leaders. Instead, the commission broadened its report -- Strengthening America's Defenses in the New Security Environment -- to include DoD, U.S. Northern Command, the departments of Homeland Security and Defense, and state governors.

The broadened report will help solve problems the reserves now face, said retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold L. Punaro, commission chairman.

The primary problem, Punaro said, is that the different agencies involved, each with a stake in homeland defense, don’t work well enough together. “You need everybody on the same team. We don’t have that right now. We’ve got stovepipes,” Punaro said.

“In the age we’re in right now, with the threats we face, particularly here in the homeland, we cannot use this sandlot pick-up team approach,” he said.

The report contained 26 findings and 23 recommendations in six general areas. Only eight recommendations would require changes in legislation, Punaro said.

Defense Department officials first need to update the department’s laws, regulations, policies and procedures to accommodate a ready, operational reserve.

“DoD has declared that we have this operational reserve, but they haven’t made the changes necessary to ensure that such an operational reserve is sustainable,” Punaro said.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 550,000 Guard and Reserve troops have been called to active duty. Given current conditions, “it is not sustainable,” he said.

For example, the commission reported that DoD does not now budget or program for the Guard’s civil-support missions because the agency sees them as a derivative of its wartime mission.

But, homeland defense missions are not a subset of warfighting requirements, Punaro said. “That is a fatally flawed assumption. In these areas, we are not ready. We are not prepared,” he said.

In addition, Northern Command should be the advocate for civil-support requirements, Punaro said.

To give the Guard a bigger voice at the DoD level, the commission supports making the Guard Bureau chief’s position a four-star billet and designating it as a senior advisor to the chairman of the joint chiefs, the report states. The commission reported that it does not support giving the chief of the National Guard Bureau a seat at the table with the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The report also calls for one of the two top positions at NORTHCOM to be filled by a National Guard or Reserve officer.

One of the most critical issues DoD faces is equipping its reserve forces, Punaro said.

“The equipment readiness of our Guard and Reserve today is totally unacceptable,” he said. “Right now in the National Guard, for the units that remain here in the continental United States, 88 percent of those units are not ready due to equipment deficiencies.”

“This is a terrible situation and needs to be corrected,” Punaro said.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Guard’s adjutants general this week that, in the next two fiscal year budgets, his department is asking for $9 billion to reset and reequip the Guard. Many units face severe shortages after returning from deployments with either missing or broken equipment.

“Reconstituting and resetting the Guard and Reserve … is the top priority for the Department of Defense,” Gates said.

Gates’ goal is a National Guard that is fully manned, trained and equipped and capable of taking on a range of traditional and non-traditional missions at home and abroad, he said.

Governors should also have a say in how their resources are used and should command any federal resources coming into their states for civil-support missions, the report states. It recommends convening a bipartisan council of 10 governors, appointed by the president, to meet and advise the defense secretary and other senior officials.

The commission’s final report, due to Congress in January 2008, will provide a more comprehensive look at reserve-component mobilization, pay, employer and family support issues.

Contact Author

Biographies:
Robert M. Gates

Related Sites:
Commission on the National Guard and Reserves
Report: Strengthening America's Defenses in the New Security Environment



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