NATIONAL GUARD magazine
(read online digital version)
It's rare to find a top-notch college sports program without top-notch facilities. Great locker rooms, practice fields and stadiums make it easier to recruit and train the best players. Well, the Army National Guard is a top-notch program, but our facilities don’t match up. The champions who wear our uniform deserve better, and we’re fortunate that we can attract quality recruits to the substandard armories and readiness centers that are too common across the nation.
Frankly, it is a national shame. But beyond that, it’s a readiness issue.
We expect our Guardsmen to roll out at a moment’s notice when disaster strikes, but that requires motor pools large enough to keep the vehicles maintained. No one wants to send unprepared troops to a war zone, but too many of our training grounds are inadequate for maintaining the required standards.
Sometimes it is a matter of respect. Believe it or not, we still have readiness centers without proper latrines for the females who report to drill each month. How can we tell them we value their service when such a basic requirement is unavailable-
It’s a long, sad list. Crumbling parking lots. Inadequate climate- control systems. Leaking roofs. Single-pane windows that bleed expensive heat in the winter and cool air in the summer. Unsecure computer rooms.
Outdated electrical systems pose fire hazards. Outdated plumbing threatens major leaks. About 600 of our facilities—more than 20 percent of the total—are obsolete.
Yet somehow, the Guard puts a championship team on the field.
Just how bad is the problem- That was measured in the Army National Guard Readiness Center Transformation Master Plan. Here is a critical figure from the 2014 report: $20.72 billion.
That’s what the National Guard Bureau team determined it would cost to meet 80 percent of the space requirements for our readiness centers and raise the condition index to “fair” after 15 years of building and repairing. Not good. Fair. The report calls that “affordable readiness.”
To get to the top measure would require $28.48 billion over 15 years, the report concludes.
So this isn’t cheap. But let’s consider what is purchased with that money. For one, the readiness of America’s community-based force would be greatly enhanced, a benefit to the nation on battlefields far away and flooded roads close to home. Readiness, don’t forget, saves lives.
The ability to recruit and retain quality young men and women would become easier. Utility bills would be lower. And the construction work to put up new buildings and refurbish old ones would be an economic boon to the communities where our people live and work.
But the money hasn’t been coming in anywhere near an adequate amount. The fiscal 2017 budget gives the Army Guard $234 million for MILCON. At this rate, it will take 100 years to reach “affordable readiness.”
So is this a pipedream- Maybe. But maybe not.
President Donald Trump has promised to address the nation’s outdated infrastructure, from unsafe bridges and dams to faulty water lines and the fragile electrical grid.
The president might be willing to spend $1 trillion on this.
So why not include Guard facilities- Our facilities are federal assets no less than the interstate highways. Our armories are as much a part of this nation’s fabric as the railroads.
President Trump made infrastructure improvement a regular talking point during his campaign. We expect him to follow through. The Senate already has asked the Army to prioritize investment in Guard infrastructure, starting with those facilities with the lowest readiness ratings.
Some of you are lucky enough to work and drill in new facilities. Good for you.
But if the roof leaks in your readiness center or your armory is too small for proper training, tell your members of Congress. Let them know that infrastructure important to the security of the nation needs immediate attention. Explain that this effort would improve readiness and provide local communities with facilities they can use.
We’re a winning team and we need to be treated like one.
MAJ. GEN. JAMES HOYER is the NGAUS chairman of the board. MAJ. GEN. GREGORY A. LUSK is the chairman of the Adjutants General Association of the United States Infrastructure & Facilities Committee.