Defense Officials to Implement Guard, Reserve Changes
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May. 17, 2007 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has charged his staff to take action on 20 of 23 recommendations made by an independent commission for changes in the reserve components.
Gates presented alternatives to the commission’s other three recommendations to department leaders.
In a May 10 memorandum released yesterday, Gates tasked Defense Department leaders to respond within two weeks to his call for action based on his office’s assessment and endorsement of the recommendations made in March by the Commission of the National Guard and Reserves.
Four of the recommendations are in line with current policies or practices, so no additional action needs to be taken. Nine of the recommendations can be implemented by making changes within the department. Three require changes in law. Four require coordination with the Department of Homeland Security. Gates offered alternatives to three.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs Thomas F. Hall called Gates’ two-week response requirement “warp speed” for the Pentagon.
“Essentially the department is in agreement with the 23 recommendations,” Hall told reporters at the Pentagon.
Key policy changes call for revising how the department determines funding and resourcing for the reserves, including its civil support requirements.
Hall said the department’s budgeting and resourcing methods for the reserves are based on decades-old policies.
“We need tanks and things for dual use, but what we really need to look at are ambulances and helicopters and the things to respond to a disaster. And frankly, that's my focus right now,” Hall said.
“How do we identify what those civil support requirements are? We've not had a methodical way to take a look at those within our budget,” he said.
“I think we need to have an entire new equipping strategy for the Guard and Reserve in light of today,” Hall said.
In the memorandum, Gates charges the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the undersecretary of defense for policy, the National Guard Bureau chief, and the commanders of U.S. Northern, Southern and Pacific commands with advocating for reserve-component civil support requirements and required resources. He also calls for a legislative proposal requiring an annual report to Congress outlining civil support requirements and resourcing.
Gates agreed with the commission’s recommendation that the National Guard Bureau chief not be made a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hall said that would make the Guard a de facto fifth service and could cause a competition for resources between the Guard and the chiefs of the Army and Air Force.
“We feel it takes apart, rather than puts together, what we have carefully crafted,” Hall said, referring to a National Guard force integrated into its active component.
Instead, the Defense Department’s recommendation is that policy changes name the National Guard Bureau chief as an advisor to the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We feel that's a better way than creating a so-called fifth service,” Hall said.
Gates also proposed a legislative change that will not limit the grade of the National Guard Bureau chief, currently a three-star position, opening the position up as a possible four-star billet after review.
Gates disagreed with the commission on making either the U.S. Northern Command’s commander or deputy position a mandatory reserve-component officer’s billet. Instead, he calls for a policy change to modify officer military education and assignments that will allow any position in the military to be filled with the best qualified officer, regardless of component. This eventually could include even combatant commands, Hall said.
“I have a vision, and I'll admit it's mine -- and that is one day, when we really get total integration, we will have the joint education, the joint assignments, the joint qualifications for any of our National Guard, reserve or active-duty officers, that they can be fully competitive to be either the combatant commander or the deputy commander,” Hall said. “I think that would be the day … in which we will have achieved what we need in joint education and jointness to make them qualified for that.”
In response to the commission’s charge that governors have no formal channels for dialogue with the Defense Department regarding use, manning, training and equipping of their National Guard assets, Gates is directing an executive order that will establish a council of governors that would advise his office and the secretary of homeland security.
On the other hand, he disagreed with the commission’s recommendation that governors direct federal troops responding to their states in the event of an emergency.
“The secretary did not agree because this is a matter of governance,” Hall said. “It is his belief … that the commander in chief, the president, should determine who best commands forces in any situation.”
Gates called for protocols to be developed that will allow for federal forces to assist state emergency-response personnel, emphasizing a “unity of effort.”
All legislative amendments are expected to be included in the department’s legislative program for fiscal 2008.
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 U.S. Northern Command, the departments of Homeland Security and Defense, and state governors.
In March, the commission reported that changes are needed to pull together the nation’s security team and break down “institutional stove pipes” between agencies.
Commission chair Arnold L. Punaro said he was pleased with Gates’ action on the recommendations.
"The fact that the secretary's review and approval of our recommendations were accomplished so quickly is a clear reflection of the secretary's decisive leadership and support for the needed reforms," Punaro said.
The commission's final report addressing changes to improve how the National Guard and reserve components are organized, trained, equipped, compensated and supported to best meet U.S. national security objectives will be delivered to Congress and the secretary in January.