Expanded Missions of the National Guard Demand Expanded Authorities
Today the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves issued
its second report. This report was mandated by a section of the
fiscal year 2007 defense authorization bill that was inserted after
conference negotiations stripped various provisions taken from the
National Guard Empowerment Act. The legislation sanctioned the
commission to examine 17 proposals intended to bolster the
institutional authority of the National Guard Bureau and enhance
the resources of the National Guard. The commission has responded
thoroughly and thoughtfully, and its findings should serve as a
starting point for deliberations when Members draft and debate this
year's defense bills.
The National Guard Empowerment Act
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. The legislation was supported by the National
Guard Association, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard,
and the Adjutants General Association. These four Members have
introduced similar versions of the legislation in the 110th
Congress (S. 430 and H.R. 718).
This legislation would promote the National Guard Chief to the
rank of full General and appoint the Chief to the Joint Chiefs of
Staff. It would also create additional general officer positions in
the National Guard, require the Deputy Commander of the U.S.
Northern Command to be a member of the National Guard, and provide
greater transparency regarding funding for National Guard
The commissioners reported that they "agree with the proponents
of the legislation that significant reforms are necessary to update
and improve the status, structure, and activities of the National
Guard Bureau and its leadership." The report goes on to state that
the "Commission believes that many of the proposals in the
legislation have considerable merit and should be considered for
adoption in whole or in part."
Report to Congress
The theme of the most recent commission report is an accurate
portrayal of the antiquated role of the National Guard in a
post-9/11 world. The commission report includes the stark finding
that Pentagon leaders' decision-making processes do not fully
consider the interests of the Guard. This negatively impacts the
National Guard's ability to meet current and emerging missions.
The report states, "The Commission believes that the goal of
reform should be to ensure better national security outcomes by
modernizing the authorities given to the National Guard and
providing it with influence, stature, and participation
commensurate with its current expanded and critical role. Reform
efforts should ensure that the Guard is integrated with other
military entities--not set it apart."
The report outlines several key recommendations that should be
implemented into law this year, including:
- Require the Secretary of Homeland Security to generate civil
support requirements in partnership with the Secretary of
Defense. Since 9/11, National Guard units have served in major
combat operations overseas and participated in domestic
missions such as the response to Hurricane Katrina, Operation Noble
Eagle, border security, drug interdiction, disaster preparedness
and response, and weapons of mass destruction civil support.
Without clearly established requirements, the National Guard will
not receive the funding, equipment, or training necessary to
perform its domestic missions.
In January, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a
report that reiterated this long-standing problem. This report
notes that since 9/11, the multiple federal and state agencies that
would have roles in responding to large-scale terrorist attacks and
natural disasters still have not completed and integrated their
plans. As a result, the homeland defense equipment and training
requirements of the National Guard have yet to be clearly
delineated. Congress must ensure that this is completed as soon as
- Elevate the rank of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau
to General. The current Chief of the National Guard Bureau,
Lieutenant General Steven Blum, shoulders tremendous responsibility
for nearly one-half million Army and Air National Guard
personnel--nearly 40 percent of the U.S. military's total force.
Over 60,000 members of the National Guard are currently deployed to
Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries; 6,000 are assisting the
border security mission of the U.S.; and many others are conducting
homeland security and crisis response missions in states and U.S.
territories. The Army National Guard is the eighth largest army in
the world today. In recent testimony, General Blum rightly compared
his duties to those of other four-star officers, such as the
commandants of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
The National Guard has only three generals with a rank of three
stars and none with four. Given the number of National Guard
troops, its mobility and strike assets, and its unique role in
homeland defense missions that require an integrated civil-military
response, the Guard should have a reasonable share of high-ranking
positions, and the Chief should hold the grade of General.
- Fill the Commander or Deputy Commander position of the U.S.
Northern Command with a member of the Reserve Component.
Requiring the Northern Command deputy commander to be a member of
the National Guard or Reserves, stationed in Washington, D.C.,
would greatly improve coordination with the Department of Homeland
Security and other federal agencies. The dual missions and
capabilities of the National Guard require constant communication
and coordination with other agencies on a state and federal level.
The GAO's January report highlighted the void that exists due to
the absence of a formal mechanism for facilitating planning of the
Guard's role in large-scale events. Ensuring that a member of the
Guard or Reserve holds a senior position at Northern Command would
help alleviate this shortcoming.
- Require the Department of Defense to budget and program for
civil support, in coordination with the Department of Homeland
Security.Overseas missions have badly depleted the Guard's
domestic supply of vehicles, weapons, and communications gear,
leaving Guard units with only one-third of the equipment needed to
fulfill their homeland defense missions. Forty-five percent of Air
National Guard units lack the necessary equipment to deploy
overseas, while 88 percent of stateside Army National Guard units,
or nine out of every 10, are very poorly equipped, according to
The Government Accountability Office has confirmed that response
plans for catastrophic events, such as those described in the
national planning scenarios, are uneven and incomplete, impacting
the National Guard's ability to respond to domestic emergencies.
Ensuring the planning, programming, and budgeting for civil support
missions will facilitate planning for the National Guard's role in
large-scale, multi-state events and provide the necessary
Congress should give serious consideration to the commission's
findings and recommendations and use them as a starting point to
examine the merits of pending legislation. This year's defense
authorization bill should include provisions that update and expand
the authorities of the National Guard and provide appropriate and
modern tools to ensure the Guard can effectively carry out its
Mackenzie 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.