Thank you. I am delighted to be here today. ... Last February I took part in your legislative conference in Washington. I was also pleased to be in attendance at a very successful legislative reception you held in conjunction with the conference -- at which you presented the first-ever Eagle and Militia Awards. It's a real tribute to EANGUS and to your Eagle award recipient, [Mississippi U.S. Rep. G.V.] Sonny Montgomery, that there was such a large turnout of members of Congress. Believe me, I know the Hill. Members of Congress are very selective in choosing where they spend their time!
This is the third year that I have attended your conference as the assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. I've now been in office for 2 1/2 years -- and what a couple of years it's been! Even though our country has not been at war, it's been one of the busiest, highest optempo and most complicated periods of peace our military has ever known.
At the same time, we achieved the bulk of a major military downsizing in which we successfully protected both the readiness and capability of the armed forces. Taken together, these factors have produced a period of unprecedented changes and turbulence -- yet we've come through it -- I think -- with flying colors. Today, we're the world's only remaining superpower, and our armed forces -- both active and reserve -- are the envy of the rest of the world.
Personally, I look back with great satisfaction on the last two years as a period in which we significantly expanded the acceptance and understanding -- both in the military and in the civilian world -- of the contribution the National Guard and Reserve makes to this nation's security.
As we focus on positioning our military for the challenges of the next decade and beyond, I would like to share with you today the goals that I will be working in the next two years on behalf of the Guard and Reserve as well as a number of specific ongoing efforts we're engaged in to try to turn these goals into reality.
Goal No. 1: I want to maximize the National Guard and Reserve contribution to the total force -- not only in war, but also in peace.
Ladies and gentlemen, the idea of citizen soldiers is as old as the nation itself; however, it was only 25 years ago this month that then-Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird introduced the concept of the Total Force. Today, we no longer think of the Guard and Reserve as our forces of last resort; rather, they are recognized as indispensable to our ability to defend the nation from the earliest days of a conflict.
Although the wartime role of the Guard and Reserve forces has been and will remain critical, I want to underscore that peacetime support is equally important. In a certain sense, it may be even more important in the future. So long as budgets remain tight and the tempo of day-to-day military operations remains high, peacetime support to the active forces is the way to demonstrate our worth to the American people and to our top policy makers day in and day out. In my judgment, it's the key to solidifying the next 25 years worth of support for the Guard and Reserve.
As you know, Secretary [of Defense William] Perry has been pushing the peacetime support theme hard for the last year and a half -- due in large part to the tremendous operational work both he and I have seen performed by the Guard and Reserve in these days of turbulent peace.
Take for example, the Air National Guard fighter airlift and tanker units I visited at Aviano Air Base in Italy. These personnel are helping to enforce the no-fly zones over Bosnia and Iraq as well as providing humanitarian assistance in these troubled parts of the world.
Or the Army National Guard members working on RetroEur -- preparing equipment for return from Europe to the U.S. -- or the volunteer battalion in the Sinai -- standing 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.
These are the kinds of contributions that reinforce my belief and Dr. Perry's belief that the reserves can and should play a greater peacetime role in our national defense in the future. As a result, Dr. Perry has directed a major new initiative -- to begin yet this fiscal year -- in which National Guard and Reserve personnel will be further integrated into projects that have specifically been identified as priorities of the services and of the geographic commanders in chief with a primary focus on relieving active perstempo.
For FY [fiscal year] 96 and FY 97, the secretary has provided $25 million per year to help cover incremental costs over and above normal training costs, such as costs for additional days of active duty associated with work and training outside the U.S. or increased transportation costs. Three-week rotations funding for traditional CinC [commander in chief] programs has also been supported in the FY 96 budget, including the planned use of additional active duty days for Guard and Reserve personnel to support military-to-military contacts, joint and combined exercises and bilateral training programs.
So the message from the top is: The Guard and Reserve in the future will have more opportunities to participate ... than ever before.
Goal No. 2: I want to continue to promote the mission readiness of the Guard and Reserve to support the National Security Strategy.
Readiness is another important theme Dr. Perry has promoted during his tenure as secretary of defense. In fact, he's made it our "Job One."
Let me update you on two key aspects of readiness I've been tracking lately. The first relates to Army and Air Force military technician reductions included in the FY 96 budget. I've been working hard with the Army and Air Force to come up with alternatives to reducing the military technicians as part of the overall DoD civilian downsizing effort. I've briefed Secretary Perry about the serious readiness impacts if this reduction goes forward, and I have also been working closely with the Congress.
Both the House and Senate have restored some of the technician cuts and the associated funding -- albeit at differing levels. And I anticipate that they will work out a compromise in joint conference that will get us through the next year.
The next step is to get the situation fixed for the future. I'm optimistic that the ongoing budget process will provide some relief to technician levels. and I've been working closely with the defense committees in an effort to get them to break out technicians as a separate category of civilian personnel to ensure that they don't get, once again, swept up in an overall civilian downsizing effort.
Another readiness priority of mine is finding the most effective way to deliver high quality, standardized training curricula to the geographically dispersed population of the National Guard and Reserve.
My office has taken the lead in establishing a total force distance learning action team within the Department of Defense to determine ways in which distance-learning technology can help bring the schoolhouse to every armory and unit across the country. With participants from all services and components, this group will soon report its recommendations to the depsecdef [deputy secretary of defense] -- recommendations which will address such issues as identifying distance-learning requirements, defining interservice training technology standards, establishing long-term funding and obtaining consensus on a workable strategy for adopting this approach to training across all of DoD.
Goal No. 3: I want to improve the quality of life of reservists to ensure that we continue to attract and retain top-notch people. Active duty quality of life has received a lot of attention this past year. I want to raise the visibility of National Guard and Reserve quality of life issues in the coming year.
First, let me talk about employer support. As "full-time part-timers," most of our people have to balance reserve responsibilities with obligations to civilian employers.
Through the ongoing work of the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and its new initiative, Strength in Partnership, we will continue to work to relieve, as much as possible, any conflicts between reserve service and civilian employment. Just two weeks ago I participated in the first-ever NCESGR national conference, which brought civilian and military leaders together in Atlanta to talk about the pressure points in the employer-reservist relationship.
The Strength in Partnership has three major goals: First, that employers and supervisors understand the changed roles and missions of the Guard and Reserve in the post-Cold War world. Second, that reservists understand their employment rights and obligations and act responsibly toward their employers and supervisors. And third, that military commanders understand the importance of a good relationship between employers and reservists and help to minimize the stress on it.
For employers, NCESGR -- through such things as its publications, its ombudsman and its network of Mission One volunteers -- is an important resource. We aim to be more aggressive in the future on our public relations campaign. We also aim to do a better job of listening to actual employer concerns. NCESGR's newly formed Employer Action Council is a fresh forum that will help us do just that. The first meeting of the council this spring produced a full plate of recommendations for which I already have my staff developing an action plan.
As you know, recent updates in the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act clarify rights and responsibilities of both employers and their employees who are members of the reserves.
This is a very important piece of legislation for us. A portion of USERRA which is particularly important for all to understand is the new requirement on reservists for prior notice to their employers and documentation of scheduled training. Through DoD guidance, we are also requiring the services to establish a point of contact at the field level in Reserve and Guard commands to respond to employer questions and concerns about the scheduling of training and duty requirements.
Finally, we are continuing to work with Congress to explore ways to provide tax credits to employers of activated guardsmen and reservists to ease the economic burden on business. This is an uphill battle, but one that is well worth the effort.
Right up there with employer support, there is no greater distraction for a reservist than worries related to his or her family. I hear this over and over again when I talk with our folks in the field.
On this quality of life concern, I believe we've made some real progress. I am proud to point out that DoD published its first-ever instruction on reserve family programs within the last six months. This instruction establishes command responsibility to develop family readiness plans and requires family briefings as a part of mobilization training; distribution of information on all benefits and entitlements to reserve members and their families; development of family assistance programs; and establishment of a single point of contact at the unit level for family requests for information and referral.
The services are now engaged in the implementation of this guidance, and it should come as no surprise to this group that the National Guard leads the way. Not only are there 54 full-time State Family Program coordinators, but the position descriptions of recruiting and retention personnel are being rewritten to include responsibility for family assistance and support.
Another reserve component quality of life issue I think we ought to tackle is the commissary benefit. The current arrangement -- permitting 12 visits per year and requiring a special punched commissary card -- strikes me as one of those second-class citizen benefits that's ripe for change.
We recently asked the Quality of Life Task Force, chaired by [former Secretary of the Army] Jack Marsh, to consider adopting a proposal for a test of unlimited commissary benefits for reservists. I am happy to report that the Quality of Life Task Force has adopted this test of increased access for Guard and Reserve members as a quality of life issue.
We have also conveyed this recommendation to the Senate Armed Services Committee in the hope that they would consider including a provision in the authorization bill. The Senate did, in fact, include a provision in the FY96 DoD authorization bill to allow full access to commissaries for ready reservists who earn a good year toward retirement.
Another worry that can be a major distraction to Guard members and their families is the worry of financial loss. In that regard, we recently developed a proposal for mobilization insurance. If enacted, this proposal would give members of the Guard and Reserve an optional, self-funded insurance policy, which would kick in when they are called up by the president -- ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 of income protection per month of an activation. I'm pleased to report that both the House and Senate National Security subcommittees on personnel recently adopted similar proposals. So this initiative is moving forward.
Goal No. 4: I want to leverage our military capabilities and readiness training so that we can continue to be partners with civilian communities through our civil-military efforts.
The idea of civil-military cooperation is to leverage our military capabilities and readiness training so that while we are training for war, we can also contribute to America by providing useful services to civilian communities and people -- just as we have done through our training in Central and South America for more than a decade. The civil-military program was established by Congress in 1993 with bipartisan support.
The centerpiece of our efforts to date has involved medical and engineering units, which are giving us double value for the money we spend by performing annual training -- that's the military value -- while also helping real people with real problems right here at home -- that's the community value. We are also conducting several pilot programs involving youth at risk, which were specifically directed by the Congress.
There are wonderful examples of civil-military pilot programs going on across the country. Let me offer you just one.
Several weeks ago, a highly successful medical project -- called Arch Angel was conducted in St. Louis, Mo., as a part of a civil-military program called Careforce. The exercise tested the ability of civilian and military emergency personnel to respond and work together as they would in a major disaster.
The program not only provided medical readiness training, but it resulted in physical examinations and immunizations for more than 3,000 schoolchildren. The Missouri Air National Guard was the sponsor, but the exercise included Air National Guard medical trauma care teams from five additional states -- California, Tennessee, Alaska, South Carolina and Oklahoma.
For those of you who follow the Washington press, you know that civil-military programs have taken a lot of criticism in the last several months. The critics basically charge that these programs hurt readiness.
Well, I'm here to tell you civil-military programs do not detract from readiness. Let me repeat what I said earlier: Readiness is this administration's top priority, and civil-military cooperation is consistent with that priority. In fact, the central goal and primary foundation for the program under the law is enhancement of individual operational readiness skills and unit mission capabilities.
Right now, it is still unclear what direction the Congress will take on the civil-military program. This program was terminated on the House side and largely supported on the Senate side, so it will be a conference item.
My only hope is that the final judgment will be an informed one rather than one based on exaggeration and distortions. In that regard, I hope that those of you who have participated in civil-military programs will share your firsthand experiences. And I hope that EANGUS, as an organization, will continue to be part of the discussion of the role civil-military programs can play in Guard and Reserve component readiness while also adding value to American communities.
So there you have it. These are my goals for the National Guard and Reserve. Clearly this administration views a strong Guard and Reserve as an essential partner in our post-Cold War military strategy. And I give you my word that I will continue to work to ensure that the Guard and Reserve continue to provide what I call "compensating leverage" -- that is, looking for smart, mission-effective ways to use the National Guard and Reserve to control peacetime costs and to compensate for a smaller active force.
Once again, thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. God bless.
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. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html