December 13, 2006 | Executive Memorandum on National Security and Defense
Recent demands on the National Guard have been extraordinary by historical standards. For example, the Army National Guard has mobilized 85 percent of its force since September 11, 2001, and provided nearly half of U.S. ground forces in Iraq during 2005. From flying civil air patrols and providing airport personnel after 9/11 to responding to Hurricane Katrina to ongoing counterdrug operations and now augmenting the Border Patrol, the National Guard is continuously supporting state security and overseas missions. It is essential to any large-scale domestic emergency response. The Army and Air Force simply could not fulfill their Title 10 responsibilities without the National Guard.
The National Guard is tasked with missions that include the global war on terrorism, homeland defense, and disaster relief, but for years it has been slighted on resources and equipment and as a partner in decision making with the active Army and Air Force. One vivid example occurred as the Army and Air Force were preparing their fiscal year 2007 service budget requests. The Army cut its National Guard personnel levels by nearly 17,000 soldiers and the Air Force cut personnel levels by almost 14,000 airmen without first consulting with the National Guard Bureau, state adjutants general, or state governors.
Recent Congressional Action. In April 2006, Senators Christopher S. Bond (R-MO) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), co-chairmen of the Senate National Guard Caucus, and Representatives Thomas M. Davis (R-VA) and Gene Taylor (D-MS), co-chairmen of the House Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, introduced the National Defense Enhancement and National Guard Empowerment Act (S. 2658 and H.R. 5200). The legislation was endorsed by the National Guard Association, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard, and the Adjutants General Association.
The Senate Armed Services Committee leadership accepted a modified version of the bill as part of the annual defense authorization act during floor consideration. The revised legislation contained four major provisions: promoting the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to the rank of general (four stars); designating the Deputy of U.S. Northern Command as a member of the Guard; redefining the Guard as a joint bureau of the Department of Defense (DOD); and tasking states to identify emergency response gaps. However, all four provisions were dropped from the final defense authorization bill. The bill instead directed the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves to study the feasibility of the proposals.
What Congress Should Do. Congress should carefully consider the National Guard's needs when deciding policy and provide adequate funding for equipment, personnel, and training. Specifically, the 110th Congress should:
Conclusion. Congress has been attentive to the needs of the National Guard over the past five years, and the 110th Congress should continue these efforts by making these three legislative changes to enhance the National Guard's role in the 21st century.
Mackenzie M. Eaglen is Senior Policy Analyst for National Security in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.