Gates Cites High Demand for Guard’s Domestic Mission
By Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2009 The National Guard must be able to meet its domestic responsibilities in addition to its operational missions, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
“The demand for Guard support of civil authorities here at home remains high,” Gates said in a statement to the committee. “For example, the ‘man-days’ that Guardsmen have spent fighting fires, performing rescue and recovery, and other duties increased by almost 60 percent in 2008 as compared to 2007.”
To compensate, the Defense Department has “substantially increased” support for the Guard and Reserve, which for decades had been considered a low priority for equipment, training and readiness, the secretary said.
“Today, the standard is that the Guard and reserves receive the same equipment as the active force,” Gates said. “For [fiscal] 2009, the base budget request included $6.9 billion to continue to replace and repair the National Guard’s equipment.”
Gates said the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve, a panel created by Congress four years ago, has also helped to ensure that both reserve components are better trained, manned, and equipped for this new era.
“We have taken, or are taking, action on more than 80 percent of the commission’s recommendations,” Gates said.
For example, the panel suggested a combined pay and personnel system to fix problems that arise when Guard and Reserve members shift from the reserve pay system to the active duty system. Gates said the Defense Department now is launching that integrated system.
Shortly after he became the secretary of defense, Gates implemented mobilization policies that are more predictable and conducive to unit cohesion.
“I have tried to ease, to the extent possible, the stress on our reserve components,” he said. “We have provided greater predictability as to when a Guard member will be deployed by establishing a minimum standard of 90 days’ advance notice prior to mobilization. In practice, on average, the notification time is about 270 days.
“There is no longer a 24-month lifetime limit on deployment,” he continued, “but each mobilization of National Guard and Reserve troops is now capped at 12 months.”
The goal is five years of dwell time for one year deployed. “We have made progress towards this goal, but are not there yet,” Gates acknowledged.
He added that the ratio of dwell time to mobilization for the Army National Guard this fiscal year is just over 3-to-1.
Finally, Gates said the percentage of Army soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan who are Guardsmen or reservists is currently about half what it was in the summer of 2005.
“Reliance upon the reserve component for overseas deployment has declined over time,” he said.
(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves at the National Guard Bureau.)