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Published:January 31st, 2007 16:03 EST
Commission Hears Testimony on Future of Guard's Top Post

Commission Hears Testimony on Future of Guard's Top Post

By SOP newswire


WASHINGTON, Jan. 31, 2007 " The Commission on the National Guard and Reserves heard testimony here today from three top leaders concerning how best to empower the Guard through its top leadership position.

Congress directed formation of the independent commission, charged with recommending any needed changes in law and policy to ensure that the nation`s Guard and reserve forces are organized, trained, equipped, compensated, and supported to best meet national security requirements.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey and Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum gave the commission their views on the way forward for the top National Guard position, which Blum currently occupies, as well as on the Guard`s organization and funding.

Blum told the commissioners that while there has been some adaptation by the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies in acknowledging the more significant role the National Guard plays in national security, that role needs to be formalized and written into the National Guard`s charter.

DoD and DHS are adapting, although not formally. It`s ad hoc and hit-and-miss, " Blum said. He also said the National Guard`s top officer should have a formal relationship with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense.

Pace agreed with Blum that the National Guard Bureau chief`s relationship with the chairman and secretary of defense should be formalized, but said the Guard chief should be an advisor, reporting to the chairman, as opposed to being a member of the Joint Chiefs. Pace said most of DoD`s top staff and combatant commanders reach out to Blum in an informal manner because they value his expertise and input.

The truth is that all of those folks know that Steve Blum knows a lot of stuff, so we have informally reached out, " he said.

Rewriting of the Guard`s charter to include a relationship to the secretary of defense through the chairman, Pace said, would allow for formal lines of communication between the Guard and combatant commanders.

I would encourage that in whatever is rewritten in the charter that we recognize the unique capabilities of the chief of the National Guard Bureau, " Pace said.

Among the questions the commission is considering is whether the Guard would be better served with a four-star general in charge. Blum, who wears three stars, said it comes down to scope and responsibility of the job. "

His role is increasing in responsibility, he said, and he noted that he manages a force that in terms of budget and personnel is larger than the United States Marine Corps.

Pace said that based on the Guard Bureau chief`s current job description, a three-star billet is sufficient, but that the commission should review the position to see if additional current and future obligations are comparable to a four-star general`s responsibilities.

And if the position of advisor to the chairman is added, he said, then additional resources also should be allocated.

If we are going to add those kinds of tasks to his ruck sack, then we also resource him, " Pace said. I don`t know how much in office staff and resources he will need, but if we want to make him available to all of those decision-makers, then we should resource him and not take it out of his pocket. "

Pace conceded that the Defense Department did not go a good enough job in the past of resourcing the Guard, but that DoD officials have taken those lessons learned and are applying them to current practices. He said systems now are in place that will systemically ensure that officials are appropriately looking at resourcing units.

We need to do this right. I am comfortable that we recognize what we`ve done wrong in the past, and we have systems in place, " Pace said.

Pace said seating the Guard chief with the Joint Chiefs would create a rift in joint cooperation.

If you make this individual a member of the Joint Chiefs, you create two armies and two air forces, " the general said. You will do major damage to the synergy that we`ve gotten. We are there, and should not take a step back. I would recommend in the strongest terms I know how, ˜Do not do that.` "

In his opening statement to the commission, Harvey cited progress in joint cooperation since the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act became law in 1986. The law streamlined the military chain of command and required the services to work more closely together. He said proposed legislation aimed at, among other things, making the Guard Bureau chief a member of the Joint Chiefs is unnecessary, but that he understands the motivation behind it.

(The legislation) would confuse command and control relationships and lines of authority that the department has formed over the past 20 years since Goldwater-Nichols was enacted, " Harvey said. I believe that the legislation stems from decades of neglect of the needs of our reserve forces. This partially resulted from a strategy that was based on using the reserve components as a strategic reserve.

However, just as our strategy has dramatically changed, so has the department`s entire approach to organizing, training and equipping our reserve forces. ¦ Quite frankly, the proposed solution is intended to solve a problem that does not exist, " Harvey said.

The commission is due to submit its recommendations to Congress on March 1.

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service