I wanted to start off by reflecting back to last summer when I joined President [Bill] Clinton in Normandy to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landing. I went to the site of a very important event in National Guard history -- Omaha Beach, where citizen soldiers of the United States Army's 29th Infantry Division landed at Normandy. Most of them had never been battle-tested, but when dawn came on June 6th, they hit the beach -- cold, wet, seasick -- and they never faltered. Their motto was "29, Let's Go."
The 29th helped make history at Normandy, and today they're making history again. As we speak, citizen soldiers of the 29th are serving with the Multinational Force and Observers on the Sinai Peninsula. They're the first National Guard unit ever to serve in an overseas peacekeeping operation, but they won't be the last.
In the post-Cold War era, we want the Guard and the reserves to play a more central role in the total force. We want them to play a larger role in a wide range of noncombat missions, and we want them to beef up and join our active forces in combat missions. This is part of a larger effort to shape our forces for today's security requirements.
Overall our forces, both active and reserves, will be leaner, more flexible, more mobile and more ready to respond when the call comes. We're doing a number of things to build this force. First, we are committing the resources needed to protect force readiness and quality of life. This year we're spending 7 percent more for O&M [operations and maintenance] in the face of a force structure reduction of almost 6 percent. For the reserve components O&M has increased 7 percent as the end strength is reduced by about 3 percent. Our FY 96 budget request will continue to protect O&M.
In addition we've added $25 billion to our planned defense budget over the next six years for quality of life initiatives, such as pay increases and housing improvements.
We're also cutting our business and overhead costs to get more defense for the dollar. Congress has enacted acquisition reform legislation, and our department is replacing military specifications with industrial performance standards. Now we'll be able to buy our weapon systems with less red tape and greater efficiency, thereby getting more value for every defense dollar we spend.
Finally in that category -- reducing overhead -- we will continue to close unneeded military bases, which means we will have one more round of base closing -- BRAC [base realignment and closure process] 95 -- which is coming up in about another month.
The Guard and Reserve will continue to play, then, a more important role in the total force. At the height of the Cold War reserve components made up about 35 percent of the total force end strength of military personnel. By the year 2000 that 35 percent will have gone up to 49 percent.
Our defense plans are built around the requirement to respond to two major regional conflicts nearly simultaneously. If we ever have to do that, the Guard and Reserve will make up about one-third of the total combat power of the deployed U.S. forces. And any time we conduct a significant operation -- even lesser operations -- we will look to the reserve components.
For example, nearly 5,000 Guard and Reserve personnel served in support of the Haiti operation. They provided medical service, military police, tactical airlift and many other key functions.
When I was in Haiti just a month or so ago I talked with many of our forces down there. Everywhere I went I came across members of the reserve components -- all of them doing their job, nearly all of them there as volunteers and all of them proud of what they were doing.
Besides the ones I saw down there many other reserve components personnel have been called up for backfilling the active forces that did go down.
We want to rely more on the Guard and Reserve in these kinds of missions. That means we're going to have to do two things. First, we're going to have to give Guard and Reserve personnel the most realistic training and readiness feasible. Second, we're going to integrate them more with active units in combat and in noncombat operations.
Let me expand a little bit on each of these two points.
We plan to increase the training, readiness and equipment of the contingency force units. These are ones that are designated for quick deployment -- for combat airlift, logistics, port security and other missions.
The Guard is also providing quick-reaction forces. I would like to specifically applaud your Standard Bearer program. I think this program is visionary, even ingenious. By organizing these voluntary Guard units for longer disaster relief or other missions you are helping us get the most out of our people. You are also turning 15 Army National Guard brigades into what we call enhanced readiness brigades to reinforce active forces in a conflict, and to deploy quickly in case a second major conflict erupts.
We're now determining exactly how these brigades will be used and how to make them ready. But our goal is to have the first enhanced readiness brigade ready to go this coming summer and bring the others up over the next five years.
On top of creating special ready-to-go units we also want the Guard to participate more in peacetime operations. Instead of drilling at home in simulated scenarios, citizen soldiers would fulfill their annual training requirements by participating in real-world missions. Guard and Reserve personnel could work with the military forces in emerging democratic nations to build roads, schools and other basic infrastructure, and they could help democratize and professionalize these militaries by participating in military-to-military exchanges and exercises.
For the most part, reserve components have trained at home, and they were called upon to round out or backfill the active units sent on deployment. In the future, like the Guard unit sent to the Sinai, reserve components will train overseas by assuming many peacetime roles now performed solely by the active forces.
This is not a pie-in-the-sky concept. We have a lot of experience in this area. The best example of this is an effort that has been going on in SOUTHCOM for a number of years. The U.S. Southern Command has used Guard and Reserve forces throughout the Cold War to advance our national security goals in that area. This continues today.
Half a dozen Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130s are in the theater at all times. They fly support for a variety of missions -- search and rescue, military airlift, Army airborne training and counterdrug operations.
On top of that, Guard and Reserve units have been participating in the exercises called Fuertes Caminos. These began during the '80s as road-building projects in Panama and Honduras.
Since then, SOUTHCOM has expanded the number and variety of tasks that they do. Guard and reserve units build schools and health clinics, dig fresh water wells and carve farm-to-market roads through jungles and mountain passes. In their stateside training the Guard construction battalions often must tear down what they build in training to leave no trace. In SOUTHCOM training these Guard units leave behind not only the infrastructure, but an enormous amount of good will.
But there's a more important, more practical, reason to build these roads and buildings. Namely, it's good training. These exercises make our National Guard soldiers more ready and more capable to respond to actual deployments and operations. They teach citizen soldiers how to drop into remote locations and build what needs to be built to support military missions. They've learned how to put up buildings quickly under tough conditions -- just as if they had to construct a task force headquarters in the field. This builds experience and builds confidence.
These missions also are very important in advancing U.S. security policy in the hemisphere. Our citizen soldiers work with host nation militaries on these projects. In doing so, we're helping these new democracies develop properly structured and trained armed forces -- militaries that meet their nation's national security needs and militaries that serve and benefit their democratic governments.
The Guard and Reserve are now essential to SOUTHCOM's mission. Of the 60,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who took part in SOUTHCOM activities last year, more than 22,000 came from Guard and Reserve units from 38 states and Puerto Rico.
The SOUTHCOM CinC [commander in chief], [Army Gen.] Barry McCaffrey, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, "These highly motivated and well-trained individuals in units bring unique capabilities we depend on. These citizen soldiers are tremendous role models for societies where the reserve concept is unfamiliar."
The U.S. Guard and Reserve personnel training with SOUTHCOM are helping to advance peace and stability in the region. At the same time they sharpen their own readiness.
Guard and reserve units are also getting realistic training while improving life right here in America. Through a number of projects such as Guard Care they are conducting medical, engineering, aviation and other training missions in their own communities.
In addition to giving the Guard and Reserve more realistic training we want them to be more integrated with the active forces. This means more joint training and operations.
Last summer I went out to McChord Air Force Base [Wash.] to observe the so-called Air Mobility Rodeo, which was going on there. The services from 12 different nations participated and competed in teams. It also brought active and reserve components together in about a 50-50 ratio.
I talked to many of the different crews when I was out there, and they all had the same story. There was a seamless interface between the active and the reserve components. What was also interesting to me, talking with the units, was learning how the reserves learned from the active units. And then I talked to active units and I discovered how they learned from the reserve units as well. Indeed, in the competitions the reserve units were right up there at the very top, competing with their sister units -- the active units -- and competing very, very aggressively.
To achieve the greater integration of the reserves into total force missions we need to develop more flexible ways to draw on our reserves to meet the CinCs' operational and peacetime requirements. There's no better model than the way the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard have been working closely with active Air Force units. They've been doing this now for well over a decade. Air Reserve component units have flown a major percentage of the Air Force s airlift and refueling missions. Plus the Air National Guard has now assumed full responsibility for defending the airspace of the United States.
Citizen airmen have also flown airlifts and airdrop missions in Bosnia. During my last visit to Aviano, when I sat down to talk with the air crews I was surprised to learn that about one-third of the ones I was talking with were reserve components. They were in A-10s and F-16 fighters. And they're doing the job, again, with the same seamless interface which I observed at McChord. They provided fighter coverage to enforce the no-fly zone over Iraq, and they provided airlift support for operations in Rwanda, Haiti, Guantanamo. Despite this high operating tempo, practically all of the participation of the air reserve components has been voluntary.
The creative use of the Guard and Reserve forces by SOUTHCOM and by the Air Force provide excellent models of how the reserve components can be used in peacetime missions and in combat operations. But to put this plan into practice we have to ensure several things.
First of all, the commander in chief of the regional and unified command should establish the requirements so that reserve assets can be used efficiently to help with the mission. Gen. McCaffrey, the SOUTHCOM CinC, is not just thoroughly involved in tapping the reserve components for missions in Latin America, he is setting the pace for others. This is a lesson which I will be passing on to the CinCs when I meet with them early next week. So the CinCs have to play their part.
Second, the services and commands need to incorporate reserve operations into their budget planning. The Air Force, by far, has led the way in this area. The major commands plan in advance how they are going to use Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units, and the Air Force budget is approximately $100 million annually for that purpose.
So the CinCs have to do their part, the services and command have to do their part, and the Guard and Reserve have to do their part. We must be flexible, then, in Guard and Reserve training schedules.
Right now, by law and by tradition reserve component personnel devote one weekend each month and one two-week stretch each year to training, for a total of 39 days. I believe that we should be able to apply those 39 days in a variety of ways so the reserves can deploy for longer than two weeks -- whenever that is appropriate.
Fourth and finally, we need to plan the use of the reserve components better. Most active units react on short notice. To incorporate Guard and reserve units into peacetime operations, our CinCs must program ahead of time, since citizen soldiers need the time to plan and to schedule their unit training activities.
SOUTHCOM, for example, holds a conference twice a year where active and reserve units sit down together and plan their operations for the coming year. This has worked very well.
Where do we go next? There are several steps that need to be taken to better integrate the reserve components in peacetime operational missions. For starters I will write to the CinCs and service chiefs endorsing this concept. And in particular, as I've indicated to you, I plan to speak with the CinCs this very week on that subject.
I have also taken the initial step to identify some seed funding for establishing pilot programs among the services. The ones that are most successful could get incremental increases in funding each year.
Finally, I will ensure that this new concept is fully integrated into the department's planning, programing and budgeting system.
There are a lot of details that must be sorted out. We need the support of the military service chiefs and the senior field commanders. Debbie Lee [assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs] and I will be working closely with the chiefs and the commanders, and with you, the adjutants general, to determine how to turn our plans for the Guard and Reserve into reality.
We can make these plans because we know, for openers, that our citizen soldiers are up to this task. We saw that most recently when the National Guard responded to the devastating floods in California. We've known about the Guard's courage and capabilities for many years, and the citizen soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division certainly proved it at Normandy.
Today, 50 yards above the beach where the cliffs part, a stone monument overlooks the scene where this unit fought, prevailed and sacrificed. The inscription on the monument includes these words: "Sleep comrades, forever young. We salute you. Remember us."
We do remember them. I believe they would be very proud of the National Guard today. We have an opportunity to put these men and women to the best use in the service of their country. So in the words of the 29th Infantry Division, "Let's go."
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the 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