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Reserve Affairs Chief Rebuts GAO Report

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 3, 1996 – DoD's reserve affairs chief repudiated General Accounting Office criticism of reserve component combat abilities during recent Senate testimony.

GAO had questioned the combat readiness of Army National Guard combat brigades and whether Air National Guard continental air defense units are needed in the post-Cold War world. Richard Davis, director of GAO's national security analysis, National Security and International Affairs Division, referred to findings in the GAO report, "Army National Guard: Validate requirements for combat forces and size those forces accordingly."

Deborah R. Lee, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, called the report "flawed" before the Senate Armed Services Committee's Readiness Subcommittee.

"While we agreed with most of the findings and recommendations of the GAO report, unfortunately, the investigation was conducted very early in DoD's process of implementing readiness initiatives," she said. "We were still learning just which approach to take or which methods to. Weve come a long way since then."

Lee said the Army's Forces Command has established a training goal of having all combat platoons attain a "performed to standard" evaluation in 70 percent of the agreed-upon critical tasks. Some enhanced National Guard brigades have already met or exceeded this goal. She said the remainder will be there once they achieve necessary reorganizations, new equipment fielding and other scheduled enhancements.

"With respect to enhanced brigades, I can assure you that DoD and the Army can provide the warfighting commanders in chief with ready combat forces in the reserve component which they, and the country, can rely upon," Lee continued.

At the height of the Cold War, 1,100 active and reserve component fighter aircraft flew the continental air defense mission. Now 150 Air National Guard airplanes perform the same mission, Lee noted. The nation's air defense mission doesn't need a dedicated force, but it does need fighters to defend its sovereign air space, Lee said.

Since the implementation of the Total Force Concept in the early 1970s, Lee said, reserve component forces have become true partners with the actives. "Reserve forces are no longer just follow-on forces whose mission is to back up the regulars in the event of all-out war," she said. "Instead, the Guard and reserves are integral elements of virtually all military operations, whether in peacetime, wartime or contingencies and operations other than war."

For example, Lee told committee members, reserve component units and individuals volunteered or were called up for the Haiti and Bosnia operations. They also have served with military liaison teams throughout Central and Eastern Europe and assist those nations in their transition to democracy and civilian control of their militaries, she said.

"Volunteer Army Guard and Reserve battalions stand watch in the Middle East; the Naval and Air Force reserves are contributing like never before," she noted. Reserve forces lift some of the downsizing burden off the shoulders of active forces by relieving the operations tempo of active troops, Lee said, adding, "Its also a better deal for the taxpayer than if we were to maintain higher levels of active duty personnel."

In response to concerns GAO raised about readiness funding, Lee emphasized readiness is a top DoD goal with a high level of funding and management attention.

"Reserve component readiness is funded according to the concept of mission readiness," she explained. "Each unit's readiness account is funded so it can be ready when needed. Early deployers receive more resources than later deployers."

The budget also provides funds for pilot projects that increase peacetime use of personnel in overseas missions and projects, Lee added. "Such programs reduce stress on the active component and provide more realistic training for the reserve components," she said.

Recruiting and retention is the second aspect of readiness, she noted. "The environment is tough, but we're doing OK," Lee said. "To ensure we address emerging problems quickly, I have convened a Reserve Component Recruiting and Retention Task Force with representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the active services and reserve components. Their job is to analyze the current state of programs supporting recruiting and retention, and to explore new and innovative ways to maintain National Guard and Reserve strength."

Quality of life issues are important to success in recruiting and retention, Lee said. Therefore, she added, people are the reserve components' first priority.

"DoD has adopted quality of life improvements for all military members -- active duty and Guard and reserves -- as a key component of our readiness strategy," Lee said. "These improvements include everything from pay raises to benefits to employer support and family care programs."

The mobilization insurance and dental insurance programs, two key quality of life initiatives, are set to begin in October, she noted.

"The third area of readiness is full-time support of people who perform training, administration and maintenance functions that allow drilling reservists to get maximum benefit from inactive duty training and annual training," Lee said.

Another readiness focal point is the Army National Guard Combat Reform Initiative in the fiscal 1993 Defense Authorization Bill, or Title XI. This was born of the Persian Gulf War. The initiative called for the active Army to be more involved with Army National Guard readiness and training.

Title XI includes 19 separate initiatives geared toward improving training readiness and increasing the effective responsiveness of the reserve components. The Army has expanded the initiative to include the Army Reserve.

Lee said Army objectives include increasing active duty experience and leadership skill levels in the Guard and Reserve; strengthening medical, dental and physical personnel standards; and holding the active Army accountable for reserve component readiness.

Lee said the reserve components are not fully equipped to meet the two major regional conflicts strategy, although their posture is improving. "We have budgeted $1.1 billion for new reserve component equipment in fiscal 1997, and we expect to redistribute $6 billion worth of equipment this year," she said. "I'm confident that when all of the planned enhancements are in place by fiscal 1999, all brigades will be capable of deploying within 90 days of call-up."

"A mission-ready National Guard and reserves is an essential part of our post-Cold War strategy," Lee said. "As a result, reservists will play an expanded role in war and also be more engaged in these turbulent times of peace."

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