Guard Chief: Historic Assumptions Need Reconsideration
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, Apr. 19, 2013 Traditional assumptions about force structure deserve reconsideration in the current fiscal environment, the chief of the National Guard Bureau told a congressional panel April 17.
Along with the services’ top reserve component commanders, Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, who also is a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on the fiscal 2014 budget request for National Guard and reserve forces.
"All of our historic assumptions deserve reconsideration as we calculate the optimal force to meet the threats of the future," Grass said in an interview after the hearing.
"This isn't just a budget drill to meet sequestration targets," he added. "As the Defense Department confronts the budget question, the National Guard's cost-effective, proven force provides options to consider."
During the hearing, senators asked Grass about the possible furlough of National Guard military technicians in the nation’s 54 states and territories and the District of Columbia as part of the ongoing sequestration issue. After the hearing, he elaborated.
"Our military technicians represent more than 50 percent of our full-time work force," the general said. "Without them, planes don't fly and trucks don't roll."
Grass added that furloughs will affect the National Guard far more than most people realize, because National Guard military technicians, who wear uniforms while on duty, provide critical training and maintenance and support the readiness of more than 400,000 traditional Guard members who are not currently deployed overseas or mobilized for domestic operations.
"Just as noncommissioned officers are the backbone of the armed forces, our military technicians are in many ways the backbone of the National Guard," Grass said.
In his testimony, Grass reminded the senators that the National Guard is America's dual-use defense asset.
"The National Guard serves with distinction as the [Defense Department's] primary combat reserve component and as the governors' first-choice force in times of crisis," Grass -- who represents the more than 460,000 soldiers and airmen in the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard -- told senators in his testimony.
"A core competency of the National Guard is to rapidly, robustly and competently expand the nation's full-spectrum military capability to defend vital national interests in the most affordable, lowest-risk manner possible," Grass said.
Other testimony highlights include:
-- The National Guard Bureau has evolved with the permanent appointment of its chief to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and has identified its enduring priorities, including ensuring that the National Guard provides the best possible capabilities to the Defense Department.
-- The State Partnership Program remains one of the National Guard Bureau's most important programs and has resulted in joint deployments with National Guard members and partner countries.
-- Operational force: The Army and Air National Guard remains an operational force. "Today's citizen-soldier is likely to have deployed at least once since 9/11, with an expectation that he or she will deploy again," Grass said. "With recruitment and retention at record levels, it is clear they are willing and able to carry the load."
-- Accessible force: "Throughout history," Grass said, "the National Guard has answered every call, participated in every contingency and supported the full spectrum of international responses. As a part-time force that has met or exceeded established readiness and proficiency standards, the National Guard is a crucial operational asset."
-- Military first-responder: The National Guard responded to more than 100 natural disaster missions in 2012 and supported events such as the national political conventions and international summits.