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Friday, March 02, 2007

NGAUS Notes: 3/2/2007

Commission Blasts Pentagon Treatment of Guard
The National Guard needs more money and Pentagon clout, an independent panel looking at Guard empowerment told Congress in a report yesterday. Arnold L. Punaro, chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves (CNGR), said the situation is part of a homeland security apparatus so fragmented that it could doom a response to a major disaster. “We are, in fact, putting our citizens at greater risk and our economy at greater risk by taking these traditional Washington-stovepipe-bureaucratic approaches,” he said. “The problem is so bad that it’s going to compel the leadership to do something about it.”

Central to the problem, the 13-member panel said, is a Guard that is expected to perform like an operational force, yet is still treated like a strategic reserve. “That’s a huge paradigm shift,” said General Punaro, a retired Marine major general. “And yet our commission has found that [the Defense Department] has not made any of the underlying changes in the laws, rules, regulations, policies, procedures, funding and equipment to make it truly a ready operational reserve.”

Among numerous recommendations, commissioners called for elevating the Guard Bureau chief to a four-star general, enhancing the Guard’s homeland security role and giving governors and Guard officers command of federal forces during domestic emergencies. But the CNGR stopped short of recommending a Guard seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is a provision of the empowerment bill before Congress.

NGAUS sees the commission acknowledging the problem as progress. More information on Guard empowerment and the CNGR is available at NGAUS.

Gates Addresses Guard Readiness, Mobilization
Equipment readiness and shorter, more predictable mobilizations spaced further apart are Pentagon priorities for the National Guard, the defense secretary told adjutants general in Washington, D.C., Tuesday.

Robert M. Gates has already made changes that have impacted the Guard since he was sworn in Dec. 18. They include Guard mobilizations that will not exceed 12 months and a goal of five years between deployments.

“The goal is to distribute more fairly and more effectively the burden of war among our active and reserve components by providing a more predictable schedule ... for troops, their families and their civilian employers,” he said. But, he added, “We are not there yet.”

Mr. Gates was speaking for the first time to state Guard leaders, who were assembled for an Adjutants General Association of the United States meeting at The National Guard Memorial. He also addressed concerns about the Guard’s equipment readiness, which have been exacerbated by deployed units having to leave equipment behind in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Unlike active-duty units,” Mr. Gates acknowledged, “these Guard formations must always be on call in case of a domestic emergency.”

He said resetting the Guard and Reserve is a “top priority.” DoD has asked for almost $9 billion in fiscal years 2007 and 2008 to address the equipment readiness issue, he said. Mr. Gates also told the adjutants general that he is inclined to support promoting the National Guard Bureau chief to four-star general. “If his responsibilities are such that they warrant a position of four stars, I will support that change, and that is my inclination,” he said.

Army Secretary Resigns in Wake of Walter Reed Controversy
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced this afternoon that he has accepted the resignation of Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey in light of allegations of shortfalls in care of outpatients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Published reports in February shed light on shortcomings in outpatient care for troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army officials announced yesterday that the hospital commander, Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, had been relieved of duty.

In announcing that Mr. Harvey had resigned, Mr. Gates expressed disappointment that Army leaders were not taking the situation seriously enough. “I am disappointed that some in the Army have not adequately appreciated the seriousness of the situation pertaining to outpatient care at Walter Reed,” he said in a brief statement at the Pentagon. “Some have shown too much defensiveness and have not shown enough focus on digging into and addressing the problems,” he said.

He also said he is concerned that some Army leaders hadn’t communicated well enough that caring for wounded troops is their top priority. “Addressing [troops’ and their families’] concerns about the quality of their outpatient experience is critically important,” Mr. Gates said. “Our wounded soldiers and their families have sacrificed much, and they deserve the best we can offer.”

In contrast to his criticism of Army leaders, Mr. Gates praised the Walter Reed staff for “their professionalism and dedication to providing caring treatment. The Walter Reed doctors, nurses and other staff are among the best and the most caring in the world,” he said.

Legislative Staff Seeks Analyst
NGAUS is seeking a legislative analyst to work at association headquarters in Washington. The ideal candidate will: have a bachelor’s degree; be familiar with the congressional process and the military; and be able to analyze Guard-related issues. The candidate must also possess strong computer skills and be familiar with Web content management software. The association offers a competitive salary and benefits. Interested candidates should submit a resume to retired Brig. Gen. Richard Green, NGAUS legislative director, via fax: 202-682-9358 or e-mail: Brig. Gen. Richard Green.

NGAUS History
In early 1970, NGAUS honored the two active National Guard officers serving in Congress—Rep. (Col.) Sonny Montgomery, D-Miss. and Rep. (Lt. Col.) John O. Marsh Jr., D-Va.—at a luncheon in the Capitol. The Army Guardsmen were presented with reproductions of paintings from the National Guard “Heritage Series” by Col. James B. Deerin, NGAUS executive director.

Guests were colleagues who served on the House Armed Services Committee and Defense Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. “Guard officers throughout the country are proud of their two lawmaking comrades, but prouder still because they are participating Guardsmen who take their duties seriously,” said Colonel Deerin.

Although unable to remain for the full luncheon, Sen. John C. Stennis, D-Miss., took time to praise the two Congressmen/Guardsmen for their dual contributions to the defense of the country, by serving both in Congress in the National Guard.

This Week in Guard History
Mar. 3, 1969: —A former Air Guard pilot in Massachusetts’ 102nd Tactical Fighter Squadron, Capt. Russell “Rusty” Schweickart, is one of three members of Apollo 9, which entered Earth orbit this day. During his flight on Apollo 9, he set a number of “firsts” for NASA.

He became the first man to transfer from one spacecraft to another (command module to lunar module) in orbit; he and another astronaut took the lunar module for a test flight and then became the first to “link up” two separate craft when they redocked with the command module; and Schweickart became the first man in space to test the Portable Life Support System suit. While this was his only flight in space he stayed with NASA working on the SkyLab project until his retirement in 1979.

Produced weekly by the NGAUS communications department. Comments and questions should be directed to NGAUS. NGAUS members can sign up for electronic delivery of NGAUS NOTES at NGAUS.

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