By: Mickey McCarter
Homeland Security Today
President Barack Obama is set to sign the National Defense Authorization Act (HR 1540), which among other things places the chief of the National Guard Bureau on the Joint Chiefs of Staff despite the opposition of other military brass.
When campaigning to become president, Obama pledged that he indeed would make the commander of the National Guard a member of the Joint Chiefs to improve integration with forces drawn from US states with regular national forces and to address their specific needs.
Since Obama’s election, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) led a high profile campaign to place the National Guard Bureau chief on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They introduced legislation similar to that presented in previous Congresses and vigorously recruited cosponsors for their measure until passage in the Senate seemed assured.
They then included the measure in the finalized defense authorization bill, which the Senate passed this week. The House passed the bill Wednesday after a bipartisan effort there included the measure as well.
Leahy released a statement Tuesday hailing the promotion of the chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs once it became clear the provision would enjoy wide support in the authorization act.
“The Guard now will have a voice and a policy role suited to the vital role the Guard has assumed in our security structure,” Leahy said. “The Guard has grown to become a front-line, 21st Century force, but it has been trapped in a 20th Century Pentagon bureaucracy. These reforms go a long way toward fixing that problem. I am pleased that we have come so far in recent years, but much more remains to be done. I thank my partner and my friend Lindsey Graham for all of his hard work on this effort, and we appreciate the many senators on both sides of the aisle who have helped make these advances possible.”
Graham said, “We stand on the verge of historic change as the National Guard takes its rightful place as a full, permanent member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Since 9/11, the Guard and Reserve have been indispensable to fighting the War on Terror and protecting the homeland. They have been called up to duty, taken away from their work and families, and sent to far-away lands for long tours to protect our nation. Their voices need to be heard and they have earned a seat at the table where our most important military decisions are made. This long-overdue change in policy is a fitting tribute to our citizen-soldiers and the sacrifices they have made on our nation’s behalf.”
Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), who helped include the provision in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) along with Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), said placing the Guard chief at the level of the Joint Chiefs would ensure that the Guard is properly manned and equipped for its missions abroad and at home.
“Today, the National Guard serves this nation with distinction as it has throughout history,” Miller said in a statement Wednesday. “I have long advocated empowering the Chief of the National Guard to be that voice by giving them a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This would allow the Chief of the National Guard to directly advocate on their behalf regarding their challenges, training, manpower and equipment needs.”
The Senate Armed Services Committee held the only hearing on the subject on Nov. 10, where the Joint Chiefs of Staff uniformly express their admiration for the chief of the National Guard Bureau but flatly dismissed the idea that he should join their ranks.
Among the reasons for rejecting the idea, the top officers of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps, along with the Joint Chiefs chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, argued that National Guard forces already were represented on the Joint Chiefs as part of the total force for both the Army and the Air Force. They contended that the National Guard Bureau chief had no real budget authority and placing him on the Joint Chiefs would create confusion as to the Army and Air Force chain of command.
But Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley patiently refuted the arguments of his fellow officers and said chain of command would remain clear and that he really did have billions of dollars at his command. Advocates also pointed to the increasing workload of the National Guard in responding to natural disasters and terrorism domestically, asserting that putting the national chief on the Joint Chiefs of Staff would improve coordination of national resources to meet the requirements of those catastrophes.
McKinley applauded his pending promotion to the Joint Chiefs in a statement released along with Graham’s statement Wednesday.
“If passed, the 2012 Defense Authorization Bill would have a significant impact on the National Guard and our Nation as a whole. It will ensure our civilian leaders have the best possible insight regarding the National Guard’s homeland defense and civil support missions,” McKinley said.
Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston, the adjutant general of South Carolina, agreed with the idea that the National Guard chief would now be in a better position to integrate the needs of states and their armed forces with national priorities.
“This is a great day for our nation and our military,” Livingston said in a statement. “We face difficult times in terms of the variety and magnitude of foreign threats while dealing the reality of limited resources. The inclusion of the chief of the National Guard Bureau on the Joint Chiefs of Staff brings the citizen soldier to the discussion. The citizen soldier has proven himself to be the innovator with civilian skills, the tie to the community and the proven hardened combat troop that is so critical in these tough times. This tradition of citizen responsibility is one of the essential threads in the fabric of our nation. It has made our nation great and will propel us into the future.”
Defense Authorization Act To Place National Guard Bureau Chief On Joint Chiefs Of Staff
By: Mickey McCarter