Defense Issues: Volume 12, Number 41-- Guard and Reserve Have Vital Role in New Century
Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here this evening and to speak to such a great group of American patriots. ...
I thought I'd take a few minutes this evening to talk to you about some of the key issues facing the Defense Department and our military today, and the implications of the Quadrennial Defense Review for our reserve components. Since I am the acting director of our National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, I also thought it would be appropriate to mention the challenges we are facing as we seek to maintain employer support for all service members serving in the National Guard and Reserve.
As you well know, the world is a vastly different place than it was just a few short years ago. The good news is that the Cold War is but a distant memory.
The Cold War was a time where one major enemy was able to threaten our very survival as a nation. Despite the danger, it was, in a sense, a more predictable era for military planners than the era we live in today.
You see, the Cold War had clear objectives: contain communism, deter an attack by Soviet forces and prevent nuclear war. The role of the National Guard and Reserve also was quite clear: reinforce/back up U.S. conventional forces during a global war with the Soviet Union.
During this period, the expectations of the National Guard and Reserve also were pretty well understood by community leaders and employers -- many of whom were themselves veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
In the post-Cold War world, we need a different set of objectives -- and forces -- because we face a different set of challenges.
Unlike the Cold War era, our survival as a nation is not threatened. We still face threats though. Our interests are threatened by regional aggression against our friends and allies. We're also threatened by the spread of weapons of mass destruction and by instability from ethnic hatreds.
Since our nation's well-being remains linked to interests around the globe, our military is increasingly involved in a variety of lesser contingency operations, peace operations and humanitarian assistance worldwide.
We are facing a variety of regional dangers in Southwest Asia, the Middle East and Northeast Asia. Moreover, as we saw in Somalia, the former Yugoslavia and more recently in places such as Zaire, failing states threaten to create instability, internal conflict and humanitarian crises.
Subsequently, the optempo [operational tempo] of our military is higher than it's ever been, quality of life is harder to protect, and fewer and fewer of our employers and legislators understand the military or what we are all about.
Today's military strategy -- to win two major regional conflicts that could occur nearly simultaneously -- has changed the roles and missions, size and structure of both the active and reserve forces. As the size of the active force continues to decrease, many roles and missions are being transferred to the National Guard and Reserve.
This strategy is called compensating leverage; that is, our military leaders are looking for smart, mission-effective ways to leverage the Guard and reserves to help compensate for a smaller active force while maintaining a robust defense capability and controlling peacetime costs.
Here are a few examples of the work our reserve components accomplish on a daily basis, much of which occurs during their regularly scheduled training periods:
- Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve fighter airlift and tanker units at Aviano Air Base in Italy are helping to enforce the no-fly zones over Bosnia and Iraq as well as providing humanitarian assistance in those troubled parts of the world.
- The Naval Reserve had an A-6 squadron on the USS George Washington off the coast of Virginia performing carrier qualifications so that it could join its regular Navy counterpart in support of Operation Deny Flight on the USS Eisenhower in the Mediterranean.
- A volunteer battalion in the Sinai stands watch in the Gulf of Aqaba as members of the multinational force to observe, report and verify the compliance of Israel and Egypt with the 1981 Camp David Accords.
- Coast Guard and Naval reservists were a part of the difficult and heroic work following the TWA Flight 800 tragedy, and, finally, Marine Corps Reserve rifle companies substituted for active Marines in Guantanamo Bay [Cuba] so that the actives could spend more time at their home station.
Did you know that today 55 percent of this nation's total mobilization capability is in the reserve components? In fact, there are certain battlefield functions only the reserves now perform, such as Air Force/Air Guard tactical reconnaissance, Army POW [prisoner of war] control, Marine Corps civil affairs, Army water purification and naval mine countermeasures.
Half of the air crews to move troops and supplies to combat are in the Air Force Reserve. At any given time, 365 days a year, Air Force Reserve and Air Guard airlift and tanker assets are supporting operational requirements, providing more than 25 percent of the Air Force's annual airlift workload.
The Air Force Reserve supports the weather/hurricane reconnaissance mission and established the first space operations squadron dedicated to satellite control.
Ninety percent of cargo handling and shipping control is in the Naval Reserve.
In wartime, reservists will provide one-fourth of the Coast Guard's total strength.
I could continue, but I think you get the point. The president of the United States has an inherent responsibility to the citizens of this great country to use our military forces wherever he deems it necessary to support this country's national defense objectives. Because more than half of our national defenses are within the National Guard and Reserve, more and more of our citizen-soldiers are being called upon to perform important defense-related tasks and for greater periods of time.
As I'm sure all of you have heard, the Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review, or QDR as it is known around the Pentagon, is calling for further cuts in both our active and reserve components. If these cuts are approved by the National Defense Panel, it will no doubt mean that our remaining military forces will experience an even greater optempo than they are experiencing today and our reserve components will become an even larger part of the total force equation.
Specifically, the QDR is recommending a reduction of approximately 62,000 troops on the active side and 54,000 from the National Guard and Reserve.
The Air Force cuts are primarily in the active component. This reflects a major commitment to outsourcing and privatization of base operation activities. The continental air defense mission performed by the Air Guard will be significantly reduced, and many older air defense fighters will be replaced by newer models. Viewed from the perspective of the reserve components as a percentage of the total force, the Air Guard and Air Force Reserve will increase 2 percent.
Generally speaking, despite the policy of increased reliance on the Guard and Reserve since the end of the Cold War, employers across the board have been supportive of their employees serving in the National Guard and Reserve.
Employers do not derive any monetary benefit from supporting a reservist. On the contrary, the loss of an employee and the turbulence caused by that loss can be a financial burden to the employer.
So why does he do it? Because the employer wants his or her country to maintain a strong military force and recognizes that the reserves are an integral part of that force -- because that employer is a patriot. But their support can never be taken for granted.
Employer support is critical to recruiting, retention and the accessibility of the force. Accordingly, we must continue to monitor the willingness of employers to support their employees serving in the reserve components, because despite current indications that support is strong, we can't afford to lose it.
Our continuing challenge is to help educate the American public about the importance of military service and to maintain employer support through Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve committee-sponsored programs and activities.
We must make business and community leaders aware of the importance of the reserve components to the total force and to our national security. That's why I'm here tonight, and that's why the Alabama Committee for Employer Support exists.
Likewise, national associations and organizations like the Air Force Association help increase employer support of the Guard and Reserve by publishing articles and editorials about the importance of the reserve components and employer support; scheduling speakers and seminars on employer support at national, state and local meetings; communicating with members about the importance of employer support; and joining with local ESGR state committees in support of their efforts and programs.
There's no doubt: We're asking a lot of our people in the Guard and Reserve, and I'll warn you now, we are likely to keep doing so. Most reservists I have talked to say they relish the prospect of more opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way. At the same time, we know that to pull this strategy off, we need to balance military duty with families and employers. It's a tough management problem, but we're committed to working it hard and getting it right.
I salute the extraordinary performance and personal contributions of the men and women of our armed forces -– both active and reserve. And I salute the people behind the scenes that support our service members ... their families, their employers and volunteers serving in organizations like the Air Force Association and NCESGR. We couldn't do it without you.
Thank you again for the chance to join with you this evening and for the outstanding support you provide to the men and women serving in our armed forces. Keep up the great work. Good night and God bless.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.