Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Prominent Role Calls for a Prominent Voice

On Monday, November 28, 2011, the Senate approved an amendment to the annual Defense Authorization Bill that would give the National Guard its first seat on the nation’s highest military council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The amendment, which was introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC)[1] and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and has 71 cosponsors, will make the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a permanent member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff serves as the military advisory board to the President, Secretary of Defense, and the National Security Council. As it stands currently, the JCS Chairman has two assistants for National Guard and Reserve matters. This means that the National Guard and Reserves do not have a direct voice in advising civilian leaders on military and defense issues. The historic absence of a Reserve Component vote on the JCS has become increasingly tenuous as the Reserve Component has transitioned from a strategic to an operational force. 

Since 9/11, the role of the National Guard and Reserves has increased to over 800,000 activated service members. Of those members, over 400,000 serve in the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard. With the greater responsibility and presence in today’s national defense, both at home and abroad, the National Guard and Reserves should have a prominent voice when advising our nation’s leaders on matters concerning the military and national security.  

The effort to bring the National Guard to the forefront is a part of a series of reforms introduced by Senator Leahy and Senator Graham. Their National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act, also known as “Guard Empowerment II,” is part of a legislative attempt by the Senate National Guard Caucus to give the Guard a more meaningful voice in Pentagon circles where key policy and budget decisions are made that affect the Guard.  In addition to establishing a seat for the National Guard on the JCS, the bill will help reestablish the position of the Vice Chief of the Guard Bureau at the three-star level; enhance the Guard’s representation at the senior levels of U.S. Northern Command; and help clarify the disaster response command relationship among the Guard and the U.S. military commands. [2] 

The Reserve Officers Association believes that the voice of all Reservists and Guardsmen needs to be present at the highest levels of national security decision-making. Given their operational posture over the last decade these service members are entitled to have a larger say at the Pentagon and on the Hill. By allowing a seat for the National Guard on the JCS, there is more voice for Guardsmen as well as greater input on domestic matters and homeland security. The Senate’s passage of the amendment may be a step in the right direction for Guardsmen, however will it serve as a motivation for the Reserve to gain a voting seat as well? If equal sacrifice deserves equal representation, then it seems prudent that both Reserve advisers be elevated to voting members of the JCS. This stronger presence of Guardsmen and Reservists will only allow for a stronger national defense, both domestic and overseas, as well as the assurance of the necessary resources and incentives for recruitment, retention and preparation in today’s world.

[1] Senator Lindsey Graham is only one of three U.S. Senators currently serving in the Guard or Reserves. He is a colonel with the Air National Guard. He also was ROA’s Minute Man of the Year in 2004.


Nicholas Krawec said...

This legislation seems to presume that the neither the Chairman of the JCS, the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, Chief of Naval Operations and Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, provide an adequate voice for the Guard or Reserve components in defense and national security matters. Is there really any evidence of that? Granted, the members of the JCS are active duty military, but I would suggest that, given the fact that the JCS Chairman has assistants for Guard and Reserve matters, and each service branch has a chief of its reserve component, presumably with access to their service's chief of staff, the Guard and Reserve do have a voice in defense and national security matters, through the services' chiefs of staff. I am not prepared to make the quantum leap to the conclusion that we need to expand the seats on the JCS to include seats for the Guard and Reserve components. Do we add one seat on the JCS each for Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and for the reserve components of each of the services?

Donald Curtis said...

While I understand where they are coming from, the Senators seem to think that the National Guard should be the representative to represent all of the Reserve and National Guard Forces. I don't believe a change is necessary.

Joe said...

The recent decision to grant sitting membership for the NGB on the JCS was purely political and completely unnecessary. Each of the services is already represented equally well; there is little need for additional bureaucracy within our government or military, yet ill decisions always seem to ignore this fact. Rather than arguing about a set for the Reserve, we should work to eliminate the seat for the Guard as it simply does not make any practical sense.

Anonymous said...

It was some years ago, during an informal meeting, that I heard senior staff officers of the National Guard Bureau saying their Chief has said the only Army component should be the National Guard. They also said he promoted elevating the Guard to the JCS level as a key step in becoming the only military component for Army and Air Force. It appears the years have not dimmed the desire of this chief nor of the Guard to achieve it. The inclusion of the Guard on JCS level presumes all other reserve components are lesser and have no voice and should be subservient to the Guard. If the Chief of the National Guard is on the JCS level, where do the states fit in the picture? Currently the National Guard is first priority to the state, correct? Would that change the priority? Would the state no longer be required to fund parts of Guard activities? Would the chief on the JCS still be appointed by one or more Governors?