Several years ago I came across a description of what homeland security looked like before our War for Independence:
[Early] settlers of the Thirteen colonies faced a variety of threats including Indians, Spaniards, Frenchmen, Hollanders and pirates. Lacking the resources to support fulltime soldiers, they met their defense needs with less costly militia. Twelve of thirteen colonies passed legislation requiring each adult male from 16 to 60 “…to own a modern weapon, train regularly with his neighbors, and stand ready to repel any attack on his colony.”
The military organization we know today as the National Guard came into existence with a direct declaration on December 13, 1636. On this date, the Massachusetts General Court in Salem, for the first time in the history of the North American continent, established that all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to join the militia. The North, South, and East Regiments were established with this order. The decree excluded ministers and judges. Simply stated, citizen-soldiers who mustered for military training could be and would be called upon to fight when needed.
Laws often evolve from well-intentioned actions, yet sometimes prove themselves to be ineffective. Given such odds, how could this possibly work?
The United States Army Reserve is a comparative newcomer, “formed [on] 23 April 1908 to provide a reserve of medical officers to the Army.”
Today’s post was written by Major Shane Crofts. He argues it is time for the two forces to merge.
Major Crofts serves as the Logistics Management Officer for the Wyoming Army National Guard. This essay reflects his opinions, and does not reflect Army National Guard or DOD policy.
My idea is to merge the Army National Guard (ARNG) and the United States Army Reserve (USAR) into one force. In reality, this would mean integrating all USAR forces into the ARNG of the state the USAR resides.
There are so many similarities between these two Army reserve components that most outside observers don’t know the difference. Both are trained, equipped, and organized the same way. Each force consists of citizen-soldiers, employed full-time across all walks of life, who train periodically (typically one weekend/month and two weeks/year).
The only real difference is the authority creating the two forces. USAR soldiers serve on Title X, under federal control at all times. National Guard soldiers serve their Governors in Title 32 status, until mobilized for federal missions.
Army Reserve soldiers, many of them residing in the same communities as National Guard soldiers, normally don’t get mobilized for domestic missions — like disaster response — unless called upon for a national emergency by the President. Conversely, National Guard soldiers can be immediately called upon by their respective Governors in a State Active Duty status for local emergencies.
Combining these forces would increase the number of military responders available for domestic missions by 70%. In fact, after the initial turbulence of making the change I am suggesting, (which would be substantial), the efficiencies created by merging these forces would save taxpayer money, and greatly enhance our ability to respond to domestic emergencies, manmade or natural.
The National Guard traces its roots back to the Massachusetts militia formed in 1636. As such, it is the oldest branch of our military. National Guardsmen have participated in every campaign in America’s history. In addition to the distinguished overseas service of many National Guard units, guardsmen also serve a key role in Homeland Defense, and in domestic response to natural disasters and emergencies. In this capacity National Guardsmen have been called upon to fight floods and forest fires, search for missing persons, perform counterdrug missions with local law enforcement, provide security at major events, and assist law enforcement with crowd control and riot response.
The National Guard consists of 355,000 soldiers located in more than 3,300 communities around the nation, and has more than 4,600 personnel deployed every day in support of domestic operations. As a force comprised of citizen-soldiers who live and work in the communities they serve in, Guardsmen routinely get called to support civilian authorities. This unique dual-role capability of supporting federal and state missions is the historical core competency of the NG.
The United States Army Reserve was established April 23, 1908 by Title 10 of the US code as a strategic reserve of the US Army. As with the National Guard, the role of the USAR has been greatly enhanced since transitioning to an operational reserve after 9/11.
The USAR consists of more than 205,000 soldiers located in 1,100 Reserve Centers around the nation. Close to 16,000 Army Reservists are deployed around the world, and almost 200,000 soldiers deployed since 9/11.
A 1993 agreement left the USAR with combat support units, and the NG with combat arms units, and a dual focus of wartime and domestic support. The core competency of the USAR is providing support units to the Army for federal mobilization, and its units include: theatre support, civil affairs, engineering, training divisions, and chemical and biological detection companies. It has more than two-thirds of the Army’s medical brigades, civil affair units, dental units, combat support hospitals; and nearly half of the Army’s Military Police, medical and supply units. Many of these support units are considered critical dual use units identified by the National Guard Bureau as essential to every state to support state missions. In fact, every one of National Guard Bureau’s “Essential 10” capabilities resides in the USAR.
This proposal offers substantial benefits to the Army National Guard. Force structure brings resources, and the ARNG would stand to increase its presence in every state. The ARNG would presumably absorb the Army Reserve’s budget ($8.1 Billion in 2011), and take control of its 6 installations and 1,100 Reserve Centers. In addition, the ARNG would be the beneficiary of 16 operational commands, and 6 training commands, most of them commanded by two-star Generals. While current commanders will likely remain in place, these highly-sought after commands would enhance career opportunities for NG officers in the states in which they reside.
This idea will be unpopular to some people. The US Army Reserve has struggled to maintain relevance since the elevation of the Chief of National Guard Bureau to a four-star General three years ago. A recent National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) gave the Chief of the NGB full membership in the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). The US Army Reserve remains subordinate to the Army Chief of Staff.
The USAR has reorganized several times since 9/11 to reduce “overhead”, and has been reduced to a few two-star billets. The National Guard consists of 54 State Adjutant Generals, fully supported and resourced by 54 Governors and Congressional delegations from each state and territory.
The Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve, commanded by a 3-star General, and consisting of five General Officer positions, and eight Regional Support Commands, commanded by a two-star General would be rendered obsolete as peacetime headquarters whose functions would be assumed by the Joint Forces headquarters in the gaining states. Reducing headquarters and peacetime “overhead” will create efficiencies, ultimately providing cost savings.
The Army also will likely oppose this concept. National Guard soldiers are somewhat less accessible as a strategic reserve, since a Governor can theoretically reject federal mobilization of his/her NG forces. In light of proposed budget and manpower cuts across the Army (up to 90,000 active duty soldiers proposed), the idea I am proposing in this essay should be considered.
While virtually transparent to the two organizations’ civilian “customers,” the internal transition could be painful across the board. There will be impacts on manning, equipping, funding, facilities, and training. Lifecycle management would be extremely important as headquarters and senior level positions are eliminated, and support personnel working in those headquarters transition to NG headquarters.
The two services wear identical uniforms, yet speak different languages, and have entirely different cultures. The change I am proposing would need to be carefully planned and phased over 3-5 years, modeled after a corporate merger, with the idea of gaining efficiencies, but without the hostility of a takeover.
An extensive awareness campaign for all stakeholders is key, primarily focused on US Army Reserve soldiers to ensure they view the change as a positive opportunity rather than a negative reorganization. It is also critically important to retain the historical lineage and honors of Army Reserve units.
Ideally, all USAR soldiers will be retained, and have increased career opportunities, while also greatly increasing the number and distribution of military first responders available to a Governor faced with a disaster. In a constrained budget environment, the Department of the Army must look to create efficiencies by eliminating duplicative recruiting, training, mobilization, overhead, and facilities. A successful merger will be measured by initial attrition and retention rates, command climate surveys, and success with recruiting goals. Ultimately cost savings and increased readiness will be achieved.
Considering the costs associated with a large standing Army, a strong reserve component is more important than ever. National Guardsmen and Reservists have contributed to every war our nation has ever been involved in, and are also a critical piece of the Homeland Security enterprise. This merger is an idea that has been suggested and dismissed before. But as we transition to a post-war environment, and face diminished resources, we should again consider the merging of the US Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. It’s the right thing to do for national and homeland security, and it’s the right thing to do for our most important resource, our nation’s young citizen-soldiers.