States to Benefit From Guard Rebalancing
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2004 Governors will be able to call on at least 50 percent of their National Guard forces for homeland defense missions and other state emergencies because of a plan to realign Army and Air Guard units during the next few years, the chief of the National Guard Bureau promised in late February.
"We will balance our forces, focusing on the right force mix and the right kinds of units with the right capabilities in every state and territory," vowed Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum while addressing the National Governors Association's winter meeting here.
The intent is to have no more than 50 percent of the 460,000-member Guard force involved in the nation's warfighting effort at any given time. That way, between 50 and 75 percent of the force can be available "on a no-notice, immediate basis" for missions on their home turf, the Guard Bureau chief told the commanders in chief of the 54 states and territories.
"We must develop a predictive deployment model that ensures the (Guard) force is managed to permit approximately 25 percent to be deployed to the war-fight; with another 25 percent training to replace those already deployed; and ensuring that a minimum of 50 percent remains available to the governors for state missions, homeland defense, and support for homeland security operations," Blum said.
"To get to this end-state, we are going through a top-to-bottom rebalancing nationwide," Blum explained. "It will result in a more evenly distributed burden sharing throughout the Guard, enhanced capabilities in the National Guard in each state, and a better level of predictability for when the force may be needed."
The model will be based on a goal of no more than one substantial deployment every five or six years for Army Guard soldiers and one deployment every 15 months for members of the Air Guard, he added.
Blum also asked the governors to support legislation that the Defense Department has proposed to expand the authority of Title 32 of the U.S. code.
"The proposal would permit expanded use of federally funded National Guard forces, under the respective governor's control, for homeland defense and support for homeland security operations. This is the best of both worlds for all concerned," Blum said.
The 367-year-old National Guard already has transformed itself into a more reliable, ready, relevant and accessible force for the global war against terrorism, Blum assured the governors as he neared the end of the first of his four years as the Guard Bureau's chief.
"To date, your adjutants general have consolidated 162 headquarters organizations into 54 standing joint force headquarters," said Blum, who initiated the transformation in May 2003.
"In times of emergency, your standing joint force headquarters provides for rapid response and better integration of National Guard assistance from your neighboring states through existing Emergency Mutual Assistance Compacts," Blum explained.
"Additionally, the standing joint force headquarters provide improved access to all Department of Defense assets within your state or territory, should they be needed," he added.
"We do not foresee a reduction in the number of people in the Guard," said Blum. "We do see a National Guard with enhanced capabilities to perform all of its missions."
Guard members have performed extremely well during the war against terrorism, Blum said. "In combat, the performance of our soldiers and airmen has been magnificent," he observed. "They bring civilian acquired skills and life experiences unmatched by their active counterparts, and are even more effective because of this. They are America's home team. And they bring your communities and those values to the fight.
At the current deployment rate, 80 percent of the Guard's forces will be combat veterans as well as homeland security veterans within the next 36 months, Blum predicted.
"The numbers vary daily, and have ranged as high as 75 percent of one state's National Guard being deployed," Blum said. "Governors and adjutants general have told me this is unacceptable."
That is why it is time to even the load among all of the states, he asserted. "I cannot deliver this model today because our Guard force is not properly balanced among the states, nor is it properly balanced among the active, Guard and Reserve (forces)," Blum said.
"But when accomplished," he said, "it will provide you, the commanders in chief, the maximum possible capabilities at your disposal for state missions, homeland defense and support for homeland security missions.
"This model will ensure that no governor is left without sufficient capabilities in the state."
(Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau.)