A Solution - By Maj. Gen. James Hoyer

March 2017
Chairman’s Message

By Maj. Gen. James Hoyer
(read online digital version)

Those of us in the National Guard miss no opportunity to tout the many ways our force benefits the nation.

We point out how it has become combat-hardened by more than 15 years of war. And we mention how quickly and skillfully our soldiers and airmen respond when emergencies either natural or manmade disrupt the communities where they live and serve.

One factor often lost in this discussion may be our most integral asset, which is our inherent cost-effectiveness. The Guard battles insurgents and flood waters with unmatched professionalism, but it does so very cost effectively for the taxpayers.

A few years ago, the Reserve Forces Policy Board determined that the cost of a reserve-component member is about one-third that of a service member in the active component. This remains a crucial part of the solution to the continuing challenge of finding adequate resources to maintain our nation’s military.

The demand for its manpower is ever increasing while the size of the force is constantly under threat by the budget. It’s time to remove the budget caps on defense spending, address waste and inefficiency, and focus on providing proper and stable funding for the force of the future.

NGAUS supports the proposal earlier this year from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, to increase the size of the U.S. armed forces, including a boost of the Army Guard to 360,000 soldiers and the Air Guard to 110,000 airmen. We also support the stance of Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army chief of staff, regarding the Total Army and its necessary reliance on all of its components.

Unfortunately, it looks like President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request won’t cover all the costs associated with Senator McCain’s proposal. A way to provide more ground combat power with fewer dollars would be to rely more on the Army Guard.

Adding structure to the Guard does nothing to diminish the overall combat readiness of our Army. Guard officers and noncommissioned officers are as capable as any in the force. In addition, the Guard brings a multimission capability for emergency response and homeland security.

The Guard also brings a broad range of civilian skills that are valuable to advise and assist units, irregular warfare and cyber missions. And the Guard provides an option for continuum of service for service members and families contemplating leaving the active component.

The right mix of structure across components allows for money in the budget for other critical areas such as modernization, readiness and programs to care for military families.

The nation maintains a large presence in the volatile Middle East. Our profile will grow in Europe where Russia’s aggressiveness has shaken the nerves of our allies.

The Korean Peninsula and South China Sea are more volatile than ever.

In short, we’re unlikely to see a drop in demand for military forces in the foreseeable future and our forces must be capable for a wide range of diverse threats. The Guard brings unique and cost-effective capabilities to the mission.

The nation leveraged the training and patriotism of Guardsmen when it went to war following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That was a wise decision.

Now, facing ever-growing threats and fiscal challenges, it’s time to leverage the Guard in new ways to take advantage of its cost-effectiveness and broad range of capabilities.

This is a departure from how we have operated for decades. But the old ways may no longer be feasible in today’s world. This is a time for innovation, for new solutions.

NGAUS offers this way forward and asks that it be given a thorough review.

The author is the NGAUS chairman and can be contacted at chairman@ngaus.org.