In the July issue of National Guard magazine, which has not yet hit the news stands, Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, Chairman of the National Guard Association Board, recommends merging the Army and Air Force Reserve with their National Guard counterparts.
One of ROA’s key accomplishments over the years is that ROA has helped save the National Guard and Reserve from being merged several times, the latest during the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve. There is a periodic cycle with such a merge being suggested almost every decade.
ROA’s members used a 10-point, fact-based argument in 2008 to convince the commission that such a merger was not feasible. This position was ultimately adopted by the commission. The most salient of reasons to reject the concept of a merged force is the Guard is a state force, while the Reserve is federal, a merger of the two causing all sorts of competition over resources and authority for each mission. The full 10-point argument is listed at the end of this blog.
The CNGR did, during its deliberations, consider recommending merging the Federal Reserve and the National Guard. One version proposed a total merger affecting only the Army Guard (ARNG) and Army Reserve (USAR); another left the USAR with only its IRR and IMA forces; still other versions eliminated the Air Guard and folded them into the USAFR. Hearings of the CNGR and evidence presented to it did not lay a foundation for these proposals, especially the merger of the ground forces.
Over the course of the Commission hearings, the issue of a merger was occasionally raised by questions from the Commissioners. The concept was not endorsed by most witnesses with the exception that in May, 2007, Dr. James Currie, a distinguished former member of the USAR and an historian, did respond favorably when asked if the merger issue had merit.
As Gen Bunting points out in his article, this is an issue that has come up before, most notably in the mid 1960’s under Secretary of Defense McNamara. It was ultimately rejected then. The issue largely lay dormant until now as the Reserve Components evolved and transformed over the past nearly half century. They are now an operational reserve and a key component of national security with distinct missions, organizations, and personnel.
During the CNGR deliberations in the summer of 2007, ROA established an official Resolution (07-33) opposing the merger of the Reserve and Guard. Here is the text of that Resolution:
WHEREAS, both the federal Reserve force and National Guard have long and distinguished records of service and success in their contributions to the defense and security of the United States; and
WHEREAS, both the Federal Reserve force and National Guard have unique missions and strong traditions associated with their respective components; and
WHEREAS, the President and Combatant Commanders require the accessibility and force multiplier offered by the Federal forces of the Reserve without state restrictions; and
WHEREAS, the Guard can augment Federal forces but remain state centric, and
WHEREAS, there is no demonstrated cost savings or other efficiencies that have been demonstrated by supporters of a merger; and
WHEREAS, the Reserve and Guard play distinctive roles in support of many areas that takes advantage of specific unique training and strengths; and
WHEREAS, the distinct differences between the federal Reserve force and the National Guard appeal to different recruitment sources with which a merger would reduce the appeal to a potential pool of the population;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, chartered by the Congress, urge the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve to recommend, and the Congress to maintain, a separate federal Reserve status for the United States Army Reserve and the United States Air Force Reserve and that they reject any effort to merge these entities with the Army National Guard and Air National Guard.
While the NGAUS article’s suggestion is fiscally driven, ROA’s resolution states there have been no demonstrated cost savings or other efficiencies proven in the merger concept. Any actual savings would be minimal at best since current force structures are valid. The only difference would limited overhead, which would be very limited and might actually increase state costs for those with large reserve populations.
Their article does not address any potential negative consequences for a merger, either, nor give any reason why Reserve Leadership doesn’t want it. The article simply ignores the opposing point of view.
Another thing noted about this NGAUS article is that NGAUS used a 1997 CBO report to make these recommendations and a reference from the LBJ administration. Given the massive changes since 1965 and even 1997, particularly in the use of the Reserve and Guard in the Operational Force, referencing outdated force structure ideas is fruitless.
The Congressional Budget Office recommendation from 1997 suggesting a merger recommended forming one Army reserve component. This was part of CBO’s deficit reduction recommendation, to save $2.2 billion. As we enter another time of proposed cuts to defense, it isn’t surprising that the concept of a merger would again be mentioned, yet the savings depend on cutting command structure, and eliminating guard divisions -- and again, have not been demonstrated.
Since 1997, a lot of streamlining has occurred in the realigning of Army Reserve Command as it dropped in strength to its current 205,000. The Army National Guard has actually grown. The roles and missions between the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard are different, with the Army National Guard be combat arms and homeland security, and the Army Reserve being combat support, with many Active Army functions being placed solely into the Army Reserve. Traditionally the Army Guard had no interest in the missions assigned to the Army Reserve.
While the Air Force views its three components as a total force, there are still differences between the Air National Guard and the Air Reserve. Title 10 assignments differ from Title 32 and state level command, with potential conflicts existing between control by the Pentagon and the state governors. Assets for the most part would be owned by the Active Duty Air Force, complicating state utilization. The Air Force Reserve's current organizational structure of a three component Air Force works. They have an outstanding record of readiness and are responsive to day-to-day needs, based primarily on volunteerism. The Air Force Reserve also has a number of unique programs that cannot be legally absorbed by the Guard. These include: Individual mobilization Augmentees, Management of retiree population, Individual Ready Reserve and the Standby Reserve.
Then there is the question of the Naval Services, with the Navy Reserve and Marine Forces Reserve, as there is no National Guard counter parts. It is unlikely that the National Guard Bureau is interested in wetting its feet with responsibility for new service components.
The case has not been made for a merger of the Guard and Reserve. No defense proponent has called for it; no comprehensive supporting case has been presented to the CNGR. Chiefs of the USAR and USAFR oppose a merger; no Guard leader has called for it. The various Reserve Components are now actively engaged in two ongoing conflicts and performing well. No added operational or cost efficiencies from a merger have been identified. Currently, the President and Combatant Commanders have immediate access to their Federal Reserve – this should not be limited by interjecting Governors and politics into our national security. Both the Guard and Reserves have distinguished histories of service and should be allowed to continue that service.
ROA advises and educates on national security, with unique expertise on issues that affect the 1.5 million men and women now serving in America’s Reserve Components – this includes the Guard.
A SEPARATE FEDERAL RESERVE AND THE NATIONAL GUARD SHOULD BE MAINTAINED – ESPECIALLY IN TIME OF WAR
Factors to Consider When Considering any Merger Proposals.
- No major defense figure has called for a merger - not the President, not the Secretary of Defense, none of the Service Secretaries, nor the Joint Chiefs, no Combatant Commander, and no Reserve Chief – Guard or Reserve. Indeed, the Reserve Chiefs of the USAR and USAFR oppose a merger. Guard leaders have not publicly opposed a merger, but in private, many Guard leaders do not support it. The lone call for a merger has come from an academic who rendered distinguished service while in the USAR, but whose testimony was dated, inaccurate and speculative.
- The various Reserve Components – Guard and Reserve – are serving well as currently organized. They both have distinguished traditions of service that should not be trampled without a definitive rational to do so. No case was made that national security would be better served with a merger – not on cost, personnel utilization, mission, efficiencies, operational lines, or any other grounds.
- A merger may limit the President’s accessibility (ability to mobilize and use) to the Federal Reserve. There is some history reflecting non-cooperation between Governors and the President when the latter has wished to utilize the National Guard. The USAR is now a Federal asset and if they became a State asset (Guard), the President may ultimately gain access to them, but politics and the going through a Governor may well delay this access with highly negative consequences.
- Combatant Commanders would be limited. They need ready access to expeditionary forces, not ones that must leave 50 percent of their assets in a State.
- Both the USAR and USAF and ARNG and ANG have huge mission mandates already. And they are performing well based on most accounts. This is the classic case of don’t fix what ain’t broke.
- The Army Guard and the Federal Reserve are fundamentally different: the Guard is largely made up of combat formations and the USAR of combat support and combat service support performing functional missions. The USAR’s primary mission is to support Federal missions CONUS or OCONUS without regard to State borders or State permissions. The ARNG’s primary mission is a State mission with its secondary mission being a Federal mission. When a Federal mission is presented to a State, it State force must be federalize in order to conduct Federal missions outside of the State’s border and requires permission of the Governor. Merging the two forces would only further confuse Title 10 (Federal) and Title 32 (State).
- Guard units are unique to their State. The Federal Reserve frequently – usually – draw their personnel from across State boundaries and regions. Guard personnel are not easily transferable between States (of course, a Guard member always has the possibility of joining another State Guard if they move). The Guard and Federal Reserves, although following many similar standards, also have unique processes and personnel practices, for example, relating to promotion of unit members. Career pathways for Federal Reserve members may be limited if they folded into a State system. For example, a Captain in Pennsylvania may find a slot as a Major in New Jersey, and hold out the hope being a Battalion Commander in Maryland, and a Brigade Commander in Delaware. This upward mobility may not be as readily available in a State that would not have the same progression of size of units within a branch.
- Many people who are now in either the Guard or the Reserves, want to be in those entities – they don’t want to be in the other entity. A merger may well have a negative impact on recruiting and retention.
- We are at war. The units of both the Guard and the Reserves have become operational and operate at a high optempo relative to the old strategic reserve. With all the dramatic upheavals in individual lives and in the stresses on the various organizations and components of the Reserve Components, now is NOT the time to engage in discussion of a merger. It detracts from a difficult mission and adds excess burdens to already heavy ones.
- Merging of the Guard and Reserve at a minimum would involve – if we talk of ground forces only – nearly 600,000 personnel! With the Air Reserves added to the equation we are talking three-quarters of a million personnel. We all applaud efforts to be efficient, modern, and husband the public’s resources. But reorganization through merger of the Nation’s Reserve Components is a mammoth undertaking. It should not be confused with the relative ease of reorganizing or disbanding a civil or private entity of much smaller size and scope of operation – geographic and mission.