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Media Roundtable with PDASD RA Duehring

Presenters: Mr. Craig W. Duehring, PDASD (Reserve Affairs)
August 31, 2001 2:30 PM EDT

Thursday, August 30, 2001 - 2:30 p.m. EDT

McGraw: Good afternoon, folks. My name is Dick McGraw. I'm Torie Clarke's principal deputy. This is another of our series of people in the Department of Defense that were decision-makers, another roundtable meant just to introduce you to them and them to you. Not expected to generate news or to make news, but to get acquainted.

With us today is Mr. Craig Duehring, who is the principal deputy [assistant secretary of Defense for] reserve affairs. He's also the acting assistant secretary, as the assistant secretary has not yet been confirmed by the Senate.

I don't have anything further to say. And Craig, if you've got something to say, feel free.

Duehring: Well, thank you very much for the kind introduction.

I just want to say we're going to have to have a little -- a change in policy in here today and procedure that I've worked out with my friends that came in with me today. If you ever hear me making any change or policy or any grand statements, I just want you to be prepared for the fact that at that point they will roll up a piece of paper and it will fly and probably bounce off an upper portion of my body. And if you think that's a pretty good procedure, you might want to adopt it for subsequent speakers. But be sure and brief them ahead of time.

Well, I thought what I would do is give you just a little background information about me and who I am, since this is kind of a "get to know you" session, from what I understand. I was raised in Mankato, Minnesota, in the farming country up there in the Midwest, and I went to local schools up there. My family has kind of a long history in that region, going way back to the earliest settlers.

My great grandfather joined the militia shortly after coming over from Germany, and he and his brother went off to fight in the Civil War as part of the Minnesota regiment, and fought in places like Corinth, Vicksburg and Savannah, Charleston and a few other places down there. Now, to counter that, my wife's family fought just on the other side, facing the other way, since she's from Selma, Alabama. So we kind of fight the war over and over again every once in a while.

I also have several family members who have been in the National Guard, beginning with my father, who served a tour as a young man, and my sister-in-law, who was in the Army Reserve right there in Mankato, and many other members of the family who served in various branches of the armed forces, one of whom lost a leg in Iwo Jima, and others had tours of duty in World War I and World War II all around the world.

Well, I went into the Air Force in late 1967 and became a pilot and went straight to Southeast Asia; spent two tours as a forward air controller over there, came back; had multiple tours, mostly in the flying business, and a lot of time in Europe; had about 13 years in NATO, about four years in three different locations in Asia. And my last tour was as the United States air attache to the Republic of Indonesia.

I left the service two years early because I felt a calling to do something more for my country. I thought that I had probably reached the peak of what I was able to do in the United States Air Force, so I went back home and ran for office. I ran for Congress in the 2nd District of Minnesota in 1998; was not successful; came back here, mostly for economic reasons; worked for the Patrick Henry Center for about seven months; left that; got into the campaigns here, the Bush campaign and also the George Allen campaign; and eventually ended up here in front of you today.

So that's a real quick and dirty statement of where I came from and who I am. And I'll be happy to take some questions, whichever ones you have.

Sir?

Q: My name is Mike Hedges. I'm with the Houston Chronicle, Mr. Duehring. Can you tell us something about efforts to get employers to work with the military to get Reservists and National Guard members the time they need to serve in those branches? I understand that's a little bit of a push you are making. What -- is there anything new on that score, or can you update us on that?

Duehring: Well, we actually have a program as part of the Reserve Affairs Office, called the National [Committee for] Employer Support for [to] the Guard and Reserve [ http://www.esgr.org/ [link no longer available] ], which dates back to about 1972. And we have, I would say, a little more than two-dozen people involved in this office.

Now think about the importance of the employer in this whole equation of supporting the Guard, the National Guard, and the Reserve forces. As one person explained it to me, if you lose the employer, you lose the support of the employer; you lose the Reservist or the Guardsman. If you lose the Reservist or the Guardsman, you lose your force. If you lose your force, you lose the war. It's as simple as that.

And because the Guard and the Reserve are so closely affiliated with their communities, and of course most of them have full-time jobs, we have to try to prevent problems that might occur when we have an involuntary call-up, or perhaps are looking for volunteers. So we try to get ahead of those problems by finding out who the employers are, talking to them, explaining to them, you know, what is expected, what we'd like for them to be able to do, what's going to happen to their people. We try to give them as much warning as possible as to when their people might be called up and how long they might be gone.

To do this, we have programs, Boss Lift, we call it, and that's where you take the bosses out to the organizations and actually show them what their people do. We have briefings with the boss, similar to what I was just mentioning, where you just sit down and talk to these folks. Public service announcements we run continuously. We get about $41 million a year free time with the media for public service announcements. We have an ombudsman service. Think of it as a phone bank of people sitting there waiting to answer a 1-800 number, which could be an employer, it could be somebody -- a member of the Reserve or the Guard saying, "I have a problem." They'll call in and say, "How do I resolve this?" We get about 7,000 calls a year on this line, so we defuse a lot of problems.

I should mention that on the 16th of October, we're having our annual Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, which will be given by Doctor Chu to five organizations that we have selected as being some of the most outstanding employers in our program. And this year it's the Electronic Data Systems, EDS; the Boeing Company; Southwest Airlines; the City of Bedford, Virginia; and BAE Systems. Now, we have a press release [link no longer available] available on that. We can get more information out to you, if you'd like to have that.

In addition to this office, we have a national board, which is chaired by Mr. Tom Irwin, who is the vice president of Operations for TWA airlines. He has under him a board at the national level, bringing in bosses from some of the major corporations.

So he works the bigger problems, at the macro level. Below him we have boards in each of the states, a total of 4,500 people involved on a volunteer basis to work with the employers and to work with our guardsmen and our reservists to try to prevent problems from coming up before they arise. So we take the employers very, very seriously as part of our family.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Sir, I'm Kathy Rehm with American Forces Information Service. With all the publicity, I mean really building up since the Gulf War, in increased use of the Guard and Reserve, how do we make the Guard and Reserve more attractive for recruiting efforts?

Duehring: Well, actually, they've been fairly successful in their recruiting efforts. Let me just look back here at some of the information I brought along with me. The Army National Guard made their recruiting goals last year. They're expected to make it again this year. The same for the Army Reserves. The Navy Reserve had a problem last year. This year they expect to meet their recruiting goals. The Marine Corps, they always seem to come through. They are making -- they made their goals last year. They're going to make it again this year. The Air National Guard made it last year. They're going to be close this year. And the Air Force Reserve did not make it last year, but they're very, very close. And again it's just too close to call at the end.

The National Guard and Reserve attracts perhaps a different kind of person, somewhat different from what you would find in the regular active duty force. These are people who still have close ties with their communities but feel a need, a desire to go out and serve their country. And I think if we appeal to this patriotism, we get the right people, the people who will stick with us through thick and thin. Interestingly enough, you know, we talk a lot about end strength issues and recruiting issues, but one of the remarkable success stories of both the Guard and Reserve are the people who continue, continue to reenlist. Very, very high rates.

So that it makes our recruiting a whole lot easier. And the people we get, as I mentioned, are folks who have this loyalty to community, loyalty to states, loyalty to family, but for one reason or another just can't get involved full-time in the regular uniformed services [active duty].

I just came back from a conference at Indianapolis with NGAUS [National Guard Association of the United States, http://www.ngaus.org/ ]. That's the National Association for Guard and Reserves. And I was very much impressed by the 3,500 members who showed up for this, and what a sense of family that I felt. It was like a family reunion. It was cousins, uncles, aunts, you know, all coming together, a lot of camaraderie, a lot of people knew everybody else. People who get into the Guard and Reserve tend to stay there. And if that's a message that I can bring out today, I think it would be a very important one. It is a home. It's people with like interests, with the same goals.

And more importantly, when you talk to someone who is in the Guard or Reserve, this is the kind of a person who has made a conscious decision that there's something else in the world more important than self. You can go through life just thinking about number one, never having to worry about putting yourself in harm's way for someone else or for something that is a higher calling. When you make the decision to join the Guard or the Reserves, you acknowledge the fact that you might be called upon to give up your life. That you are willing to devote everything that you have, your very self, to support your country, the higher calling, freedom, the forces of freedom around the world. And I think that this makes the guardsman or the reservist very special and very close to the fabric that is really America.

I hope that answers your question or gets close to it.

Sir?

Q: John Liang with InsideDefense.com. You've pretty much stood up all of your weapons of mass destruction civil support teams. How are you planning to maintain and keep them -- maintain their readiness?

Duehring: Well, we just had a discussion about that with the deputy secretary a little bit earlier today, and we were reviewing the costs associated with it. You know that we have stood up nine teams, and I was told today I think that the 10th team, Georgia, will probably be certified in about two weeks.

And that's just a guess on our part right now. Then we'll be looking at the next set after that, until we get to the grand total of 32 teams.

There are costs associated with it, the initial start-up cost running about $5 million per team. The continuing cost year after year is about half that, about 2.6 million per year. We will -- it is a significant cost, but when you think about the payback, especially from the threat of terrorist attack, we have to do something.

And as the logic dictates, a lot of the resources that we in America have to combat this type of terrorism or to even detect it and figure out very quickly what the problem is, because -- oh, if you have a lot of people getting sick in one area, you don't know where it's coming from. Is it coming from the water? Is it coming from the air? Is it coming from something they touch? This is what we have to do determine.

The assets are most likely available in the armed forces. We've been working on these programs or parallel programs to this for years, especially in NATO, because I was -- you know, I was over there for so many, many years, and we wore the protective gear, and we learned how to put the armbands on. Of course, technology has caught on and advanced past that now. And I think that the idea of this team, this civil support team for weapons of mass destruction, is a pretty good fix.

Is this going to be the -- how it's going to look eventually? Are we going to always end up with a 22-man team in exactly 32 locations? I don't know. It's certainly under discussion. I expect that there will be modifications as time goes on. And perhaps there's cheaper ways to do it. We're certainly looking into that.

Q: What parts of the cost are you reviewing?

Duehring: I'm sorry?

Q: What portions of the costs to keep -- you say you're reviewing the costs --

Duehring: Yeah. Actually, what I'd like to do is maybe get you a little more information on that, because the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for civil support is -- has that information, and I'm afraid if I try to get it off the top of my head, I might give you something that's inaccurate. And so -- [We are reviewing the entire out year cost projections for the teams, in every budget category.]

Yes, sir?

Q: The --

Duehring: I'm sorry. Oh, I'm sorry. I just saw his hand go up a little faster. I'll come right down.

Q: Thank you. The Air National Guard squadrons over the last couple of years have been rotating in and out of the -- into Turkey for the northern no-fly zone duty and to Saudi Arabia for the southern no-fly zone.

Duehring: Right.

Q: You have relatively few of these Air National Guard squadrons available to do the rotation, so some of them have been called upon two or three times. Is this getting to be a strain for the pilots in these units, and is that one of the reasons why the Air National Guard is having trouble meeting their recruitment quotas this year?

Duehring: Well, interestingly enough, pilot retention is a lot better than I expected it to be, because I had heard, you know, some of the same things that you're referring to. And I have to say that I've only been here a little over a month, and one of the first questions I asked was specifically, you know, about pilot retention. And the pilot retention in the Guard and Reserve is actually considerably higher than it is in the regular -- the uniform services.

We've taken a lot of steps to try to alleviate that problem. The air expeditionary force is a tremendous improvement, where we now are able to predict a year or more in advance when people will be deploying.

And we have one part of that cycle that is predominantly Guard and Reserves, and they won't be called upon again for about 15 months, is the plan.

Q: So the plan is a rotation, then, 15 months before the next rotation for that squadron?

Duehring: Exactly. Yeah, we didn't want to do a 12-month, because can you imagine being the unit that gets deployed every Christmas? You'd probably have some retention problems there.

So this involves -- there's a matrix of, you know, the type aircraft that are used, and so that they have assigned people to what they call an Air Expeditionary Force, and they're numbered one, two, three, four, five, six, on down the line, and they know that Unit One is going to go, and then number two, what have you. If they end up with a shortfall, they have plans to go out and, you know, fill-in from other units. And also, they have some they keep in reserve for contingencies elsewhere in the world, so these are still fresh forces that could go.

Q: Just so I understand, individual pilots know that they're in Air Expeditionary Force Two, say --

Duehring: Correct.

Q: -- but do they know the date of deployment for that force?

Duehring: Absolutely.

Q: Fifteen months in advance?

Duehring: You bet.

Q: There's no security down side to that?

Duehring: Not that I can see. They're still a contingency force, and then what the operational mission is, they'll determine -- you know, the CINC involved will make a determination.

You might want to check with the Air Force to see if there's been any tailoring of that plan. But right now we have a lot of volunteers that go, tremendous number of volunteers, more than I thought. So we're able to meet the requirements quite nicely.

Q: So they know they're going somewhere, they may not know exactly where they're going? Is that --?

Duehring: I'll take a (hazy?) on that, because I don't really know if that's -- how often that changes. [Will defer to the Air Force to answer].

Q: Okay.

Duehring: I'm sorry I put you off.

Q: That's all right. Secretary Rumsfeld has indicated that he's likely to ask all the services to find cuts or efficiencies to help pay for transformation. Do you anticipate some of that falling under the Guard and Reserve? And if so, can you talk a little bit about where you might find some of those savings?

Duehring: Well, there are always places that you can save. We're looking at, you know, a wide number of options. Let me just say, we haven't been tasked to do that yet, but a wise person always plans for the future. And there may be ways of reorganizing; looking for redundancies -- the usual things that you might expect that we would be doing along those lines. But until we actually get a tasking to reduce by X amount, it's difficult to say, well, yes, that would give us a reduction, but how much? Is it worth spending another two weeks investigating it, because we don't know if we're going to have to reduce 5 percent, 10 percent, and in what areas?

The inevitable question that comes up is -- and I might as well just jump into it -- is, you know, closing bases, you know, if that should ever happen. We have no tasking for that at this point. But we do know that, first off, if that ever comes around, they would address that across the board without trying to differentiate between or among organizations initially.

And part of our job here on Reserve Affairs is to make sure that people realize that you cannot just close a National Guard operation and then move those people to another location, like you would in the uniform services. A National Guard is obviously going to be aligned with a state, so if you were to close Base X in Tennessee, we'll say, you can't expect all those people to move to Idaho to continue -- you're probably going to lose all those people. So, you know, is that worth it? Is that really what we want to do? I don't know. That's an evaluation we'd have to make. The Reserves, as well, tend to recruit from an area around the facility that they train at, that they drill at.

So our job, then, is to make sure that we sit at every table where every decision that is made concerning the armed forces of the United States always includes considerations for the National Guard and the Reserve forces of the United States.

Q: This is a very general matter. There's talk of -- you know, there's nothing in stone, and as you say, there's been no orders to do this yet, but there's talk that the Armed Services may contract a little bit in this reorganization. Do you feel that if that happens, it creates a vacuum where the Reserves and the National Guard would actually expand to fill that? Or would you be part of the contracting? Do you have any sense for where you'll be in a few years in terms of relative to the size you are today?

Duehring: Well, you know, I think if we look back at what's happened to the Guard and Reserves in the last 10 years, we can kind of project what might happen in the future. You know, up until the fall of the Berlin Wall, you had the uniform services, the regulars, up here, and you had underneath them the Reserves that filled in behind them as the others deployed forward. It was truly a Reserve, a back-up type plan.

Well, after Desert Shield, Desert Storm, we found out how well our Reserve and our Guard worked. We brought them into the day-to-day operations more so than we ever have done before, until we've reached a point where they're totally integrated with every mission. You know, there's many things that -- there's many areas where the Guard and Reserve accomplish close to if not exactly at 100 percent of the mission. Intelligence, for example, heavily weighted towards Guard and Reserve. Air defense of the continental United States, 100 percent, you know, in the Guard and Reserve.

So I don't think that we'll ever be able to break them out and separate them. They're going to be part of the decision-making process, and any decisions that are made will involve them automatically, because we're so thoroughly integrated.

Let me just go into a different area, if I can, and talk a little bit about information technology. Information technology is one of the areas that my boss, Dr. Chu, has asked me to look into, to see if we can't, you know, make even more progress or more rapid progress in assimilating the changes that are going on in the IT area around the country today. And one of the trade-offs might be a more efficient utilization of forces, so that when the time comes we may be able to, you know, carry out some sort of change of mission more easily, because we perhaps don't need as many bodies as we used to.

You know, just two days ago I was down in Austin, Texas, at the Dell Computer Company. We had a signing ceremony by Mr. Michael Dell, who's the chairman and CEO of Dell Computer, signing a document in support of employer support for Guard and Reserve. And he made a nice speech about, you know, how he supports the Guard and Reservists down there in his operation, which is a very large operation.

And then I had a chance to actually spend a few moments with him one on one and talk about what he thought the future of information technology was vis-a-vis the Department of Defense, and how we could keep up.

And one of the points that I hadn't really thought about was, they have gone to a system where 85 percent of their training now is done via computers. It's done virtually. They hardly ever get people together in a classroom to instruct them anymore; they have interactive courses that come about on the 'net. They have, perhaps, videotapes. I don't know if they go back that far. They're a computer company, so they probably have everything -- you know, something appears at the individual's desk. Why can't we do things like that as well?

Why do we have to have as many instructors as we do? Why do we have to bring people in and burn up valuable drilling time just to train them, when they could be training back at home?

So, as we experiment and as we explore the information technology area, I think we will find real savings that will pay great dividends to the American people and to the efficiency of our forces.

Sir?

Q: Is there any indication yet that the economic slowdown has had any effect on your recruiting, in a positive or negative way?

Duehring: I've not seen any information on that whatsoever, so I'd have to say from my perspective, no. Just haven't seen anything that's addressed that at all.

Sir?

Q: Beyond the civil support teams, sort of in the realm of homeland defense in general, also given the increased importance of homeland defense, what are your top two or three areas of concern or areas you're going to focus your efforts on?

Duehring: As far as homeland defense.

Q: Yeah, as far as supporting that.

Duehring: Well, you know, the homeland defense arena is a very wide arena that encompasses much more even than the Department of Defense. And in my briefings, I've been told that it starts with the vice president, who is coordinating activities among the various agencies on down -- we certainly have a part to play in the broad spectrum of homeland defense; you know, are you including missile defense, for example, from the rogue states out there.

And certainly the organization that takes the lead here in DoD is SOLIC, Special Operations, Low-Intensity Conflict. And because of the changeover in personnel and the interest that Reserve Affairs has because so much of the program involves our own people, we've taken perhaps more of a prominent role than we normally would have in this particular area. And I would like to defer to the people from SOLIC to find out exactly which direction they're going to do -- which direction they're going to go, because our involvement at this point has been pretty much limited to the civil support teams, getting them set up. So the overall planning beyond that really is just a bit out of our area.

Q: I guess the reason I was asking is, another sort of mission you are going to be taking on, if I understand correctly, is -- NMD -- is in the land-based portion of the National Mission Defense, either in Alaska or in North Dakota.

What sort of work are you doing towards that, getting that set up?

Duehring: Well actually, at this point, in Reserve Affairs, we have not been, that I'm aware of. And there is an office that handles, you know, the Ballistic Missile Defense, and they might be a better person to talk to about where we're going with that. And once again, as they reveal their plans to us, or if they have a planning conference, you know, we're going to be very much a part of that.

You know, the -- I should point out that we have several ways to become involved in all these decision processes that go on around the building. Obviously, Reserve Affairs, as an assistant secretary of Defense position, sits at most of the tables for discussion. In addition, we have, of course, people in the uniform services. Traditionally the Reserves work their issues through their respective uniform service active-duty component. And now the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff actually has two advisers assigned to him, general officers, one from the Guard, one from the Reserve. So they're right there along side of him for any decisions that are made. It's very different from what it was a few years ago, and it will be definitely be part of any decision that's made.

Q: Just kind of a general question.

Duehring: Yes, ma'am?

Q: You know, as you come in the door and you're getting used to the organization, what do you think are some of the priorities for your office? I mean, what are the issues that you see as going to have the biggest impact on the Guard and Reserve in the foreseeable future?

Duehring: Well, I think the biggest one -- and one of my personal goals is to try to bring this relationship between the Guard and Reserves on one hand, and the uniform active force together even more so, to try to get away from the mindset that we had 10 years ago -- and I was part of that. You know, I grew up in that era, too, where the Reserves were something -- they were an afterthought, they were back here, you know, three pages down at tab C. Certainly that has changed completely.

I think that the more that we work together -- and I'll give you an example of this. If you come to my office, you'll see, you know, 100 people working in various positions all over. They are made up not only of civilians, but also I have Air National Guard, Army Guard, Reserve from all the components, including the Coast Guard. You know, we tend to forget about the Coast Guard Reserve; they're an important part. And I also have active duty in there.

Come for a week, if you wish; I defy you to pick out who's who because the level of performance is exactly the same. The experience base is very, very high, more than adequate to meet the mission. And I think that this is going to be the trend for the future, even in command positions.

You know, it was a year ago that the first National Guard division, this was the 29th [49th] Armored Division out of Texas, deployed to Bosnia as the command organization. And I had a chance to sit down and actually talk to the commander of the 49th Division when I was up at Indianapolis and talk about his experiences. They were so successful that, as you all know, the 29th Division from right here in Virginia is getting ready to go. In fact, they're having a press conference on Saturday [press advisory], I think, at Fort Belvoir, and it might be very interesting, to talk about their group getting ready to go over. And I think six of the nine planned deployments for the Bosnia area, the stabilization forces over there, are going to come -- will be headed by Guard or Reserve units. So I'd like to see that continue.

In addition, we are looking at some very practical measures. Information technology I've already discussed. Seamless transition. I've been told that there are 32 different ways to come on active duty, depending upon what organization you're in and where you're going and for how long. Well, Paul Simon came up with 50 ways to leave a lover, and we've just about reached that level. We've got to, you know, try to reduce that number with the goal of making it a very seamless transition. For example, health care -- a big concern to employers, a big concern to the members involved, big concern to us. Is there a way that we can have one common healthcare package, perhaps extending Tricare or the federal health benefit program, or somebody making a payment? We have studies that are underway taking a look at this.

Another area would be to extend the useful life, shall we say, of a member of the Guard and Reserve.

We have an up-or-out system now, and is that exactly the way we should be going? Should we perhaps keep them on longer?

Remember that your traditional Guardsman and Reservist tend to stay in his community. And once he learns how to repair that TF-34 engine, in a few years, he becomes the leading expert in the country on how to repair that TF-34 engine. Should we say, "Well, I'm sorry; you've reached the end of your tenure? You know, you aren't going to get promoted to senior master sergeant, so, you know, we're going to let you go or" -- well, I don't think that's necessarily the case. There must be another way that we can keep these people on board.

So this gives you a little idea of the things that we're looking at right now.

Q: Is the six of nine planned deployments involving Guard and Reserve units -- is that unusually high? Is that sort of the percentage it had been in the past?

Duehring: No, I don't think -- the very first one was just a year ago. This is only the second. And I'm not sure how far out they're looking, but those are six-month periods. Those are six-month periods. So we're looking at what, four and a half years, period?

Q: So there was a policy decision made just to -- obviously, to use more Guard and Reserve over there, I take it. Is that planned in other deployments overseas, other peacekeeping missions?

Duehring: Oh, I don't know. Don't know the answer to that.

McGraw: Thanks, folks, very much for coming. Mr. Duehring has some other pressing appointments; so if that's the last question, thank you.

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