Sketching: A new paradigm
Senior defense leaders outline new plans, vision for the National Guard at the 124th NGAUS General Conference
While headliners at the 124th NGAUS General Conference here presented past, present and future assessments of the National Guard, “transformation” talk was woven into every keynote speech in preparation for changes in the years ahead.
Specifics about those changes, however, remained elusive for a force concerned about its future missions, frontline participation in the war on terror and its overall relevance in the field and on Capitol Hill.
David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, cited major shifts regarding the future of the Guard and active forces to confront current and future defense challenges.
“The issue, in the end, becomes one of whether the reserve components are to be a mirror of the active force or ultimately to be a complement … and to draw on the strengths and special qualities that reserve components especially bring to bear,” Chu said.
Insisting that the country is involved in the “single most important transformational event in the American military in the last generation,” Chu outlined a framework around which transformation should occur.
That framework will determine how reserve components can relieve constraints on the force as a whole, contribute to emerging missions and also affect missions the Guard and other reserve components have undertaken in the past.
The first peg of that framework, said Chu, addresses the issue of lowdensity/high demand units-“units and capabilities that are critically short in our force as a whole.”
Two reasons surround those shortageseither a lack of skills in portions of the active force or lack of platforms that should be in the active force, he said.
“We might use reserve component personnel in order to provide higher staffing levels in terms of crisis or war,” he said, to relax those particular constraints. “The Air Force has been a leader in this, using crews from the reserve components augment units in the active force.”
Chu added that other applications, from Army engineering to transportation and air defense, could be included.
But he acknowledged that while equipment might parallel the active force, it may not be up to date to achieve optimum capability. If reserve components were given the upgrades they need, he said some constraints would be lifted.
“In some cases it’s a matter that we don’t have the right number of people with the skills we need in the force as a whole,” he said. “Some of that is a matter of adding units, but some of it also be a matter of exploiting the civilian skills that are much more easily accessed through reserve component status.”
Chu also stressed that new missions might receive assistance by “more imaginative” technology-utilizing reserve forces to assume intelligence capabilities that now might exist outside of an active theater of operations.
In addition, he said active and reserve forces must be rebalanced through a bit of experimentation of new ideas.
“These experiments … often call on skills in which the civil society of the United States has great strength,” he said.
As these ideas depart from the “mirrorimage” 11 approach to a complementary one, however, some questions from a Guard perspective must be answered.
Retired Maj. Gen. Richard Alexander, NGAUS president, still wants to know what will happen to the Guard, especially if it becomes a “complementary” force.
“We need to reaffirm the role of the Guard, that role being the primary reserve of our armed forces, and the means by which the governors maintain control of their militias,” he said, “to in fact provide ready forces for the nation’s defense at home and abroad.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Herbert Temple, a former National Guard Bureau chief, said Chu outlined some positives for the Guard.
“Why not complement the active forces by being the innovator?” Temple asked, stressing the Guard’s ability to be prepared and deploy anywhere on short notice as part of the objective force. But he also said it would be better if the Guard knew what the objective is going to look like.
Andrew Krepinevich, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and an expert on military transformation, said that Chu’s comments are directly associated with the roots of the Guard as a multi-role force, but it will likely signal a change of mission.
“What you see is at least the sketching out of a very different paradigm,” he said.
While he believes the core issue is a more effective division of labor-with the active force having a more expeditionary role and the Guard a bigger role in homeland defense, Krepinevich emphasized major growth areas for the National Guard.
As large and heavy mechanized Guard units make way for smaller mobile forces, he said, the active component has to make changes as well.
“There is the distinct possibility of increasing the importance and the role the Guard plays for the national defense,” Krepinevich added. “If you oppose it and a crisis does come, that could end up injuring the Guard much more in the long run.
Although Chu’s approach is just a framework, Krepinevich said the Guard would have to decide whether or not to get behind it.
“I think Chu is wise to say `let’s sit down and work through this together,”‘ he said.
If the active force increases its expeditionary role and the Guard increases its role as a homeland security force, however, congressional issues will remain a big factor.
“If ‘complement’ means to support, and strip the Guard of warfare capability, we wouldn’t have much of a role,” said Jon Eisberg, NGAUS deputy legislative director for Army activities. “But I don’t think we would be stripped; Congress knows the Guard is shoulder-to-shoulder with the active component.”
Eisberg also stressed a better definition of mission.
While the NGAUS supports a position that maintains relative force structure and appropriate levels of personnel, Eisberg said he thinks Secretary of the Army Thomas E. White’s transformation plans are in line with the Army chief of staff.
Going a step beyond Chu, White outlined specific plans for Guard units.
“Just like our predecessors, we have recognized the need to transform and have considered how best to do so in order to master those challenges,” he said.
But this time, it’s more urgent.
“Unlike our predecessors … we do not have the luxury of preparing for a global war, we are fighting a global war, even as we are transforming for the next war,” he said.
White outlined the Bush administration’s new defense strategy.
“Our armed forces must be capable of simultaneously defending forward in four critical regions; swiftly defeating the efforts of adversaries in two regions of the world; decisively defeating one of those two opponents; and securing our homeland throughout,” he said.
This “4-2-1-1” strategy is the structure around which the future of the National Guard will be built, he said, and it began with United States Northern Command, or Northcom, which stood up Oct. 1.
In addition, White outlined the Army National Guard Restructuring Initiative that “restructures a sizable portion of Army National Guard combat formations to better support our combatant commanders”requirements.”
“These are first and foremost war-fighting formations that are prepared for fullspectrum operations, from major combat to our duty here in the homeland,” White said.
Mobile light brigades and multi-functional divisions are the foundation of this new structure.
These lighter, but enhanced brigades will provide “situational awareness” over existing brigades and will include a onethird reduction in the Guard’s tracked vehicle brigades, according to White.
“These restructured units will work with existing Army National Guard Combat Brigades … to create formations that are much more versatile and responsive in supporting the complex needs of the commanders, both at home and abroad,” he said.
The restructuring initiative will begin in 2008, with the conversion of brigades and reconfiguration expected complete by 2012.
“Secretary White was very informative with his explanation of Army and Guard transformation,” Alexander said. “It is apparent from the perspective of Army leadership we will maintain our ability to support missions abroad as well as at home.
We’re confident transformation will enable that to take place by being structured with units that mirror those in our active component, which is essential to our inter-operability.”
White specified Northcom was representative of the future of the Guard, and Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart, new Northcom commander greeted the nearly 2,000 conference attendees and outlined his approach to his command that began Oct. 1. For him, a strong connection to the Guard is imperative.
“We can’t have a Northern Command, we can’t provide for the homeland defense and the homeland security of this great nation and this area of responsibility without the Guard,” he said. “We can’t do that.”
And he extended that answer to missions from Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom to regime change in Iraq.
Although future Guard missions weren’t specifically outlined, White intimated the Total Force approach as the foundation of Northcom.
“We nominated from all services and from the Guard and reserve of the services … for all key positions,” he said. “And we selected, in our view, the best of breed, the best athlete.”
He also touched on equipping the Total Force to address the challenges particularly faced by the Guard.
White also stressed that personnel must continue responding to disasters such as floods, fires and hurricanes.
But he also reaffirmed the Guard’s everemerging and assumed role as a homeland security force.
“We need to work harder on the front end of that game when it comes to terrorism, so that we’re not just sitting there in a reactive mode,” White said, “but that we’re working together on the front end so that we can, in fact, be proactive, so we can deter, so we can protect.”
While Chu, White and Eberhart expressed different degrees of transformation, Krepinevich said it is clear that transformation is the foundation around which the future force-active and Guard-will be built. And he stressed that the changes represent a complete change in thinking, which is no small task.
And as White asserted, transformation is taking place in the middle of a conflict.
The idea of the Guard as a complementary force is moving forward-highlighted in recent testimony by Secretary of Defense
“The mobilization of the Guard and Reserve have helped to reduce the stress on some of the key units,” Rumsfeld told the Senate Armed Services Committee. He also testified that more reservists would be needed as plans push forward in the war against terrorism, particularly as war talk with Iraq continues.
As far as treating the Guard and Reserve as separate entities from the active force, however, Pentagon officials say they want to treat the active and reserve components as equals-signaling transformation is an all-encompassing process.
“I don’t make a distinction between transformation for active forces and transformation for Army Reserve or National Guard forces, because I believe that these represent America’s Army forces,” said Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command, in January. “I think some of the experience we have gained in Afghanistan provides a testament to the validity of the approach.”
Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 100,000 Guardsmen and Reservists have been called up, and their duties extend from Kosovo and Bosnia to Afghanistan overseas, and included a lengthy mission providing security at the nation’s airports.
“We are confident that if we are to succeed in meeting the challenges I’ve outlined over the months and years ahead, that we must move … to [a structure] that in the future emphasizes a continuum of service,” Chu concluded, stressing a possible move from traditional reservists activation from 39 days a year to varied utilization.
“It is a continuum that may be as little as a few days in the case of an information technologist, whose services we don’t particularly need this year, to perhaps as much as nearly full-time as we have indeed done with so many volunteers during the current mobilization,” he said.
Lacking other specifics, Chu said they are engaged in a review of legal and other steps as they “make a continuum of serve ice the norm for the Department of Defense.”And he said he looks forward to those changes when the president’s budget is presented to Congress in February 2003.
To read the speeches in full, please visit the NGAUS Web site, at www.ngaus.org. I
Copyright National Guard Association of the United States Oct 2002
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