WASHINGTON: This week, the House Armed Services Committee gave advocates for the Army National Guard about half of what they wanted. Next week, a staffer told me, the Senate Armed Services Committee may look at giving the Guard the other half. But because Guard backers have taken very different approaches in each chamber, it’ll be up to the House-Senate conference on the National Defense Authorization Act to put the two half-loaves together into the whole package the pro-Guard lobby wants – and the Guard has been disappointed by conferences before.

“This clearly is just the first foray in our battle to maintain the integrity of the our National Guard,” Maj. Gen. Edward Tonini, adjutant-general (i.e. state commander) of the Kentucky National Guard and head of the Adjutants-General Association of the US (AGAUS) wrote in en email. “The ultimate details will be resolved in conference.”

Tonini’s AGAUS and the powerful National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) want two things from Congress. First, they want legislators to create an independent commission to review the Pentagon’s proposed cuts to the Guard – the most controversial of which is transferring all the Guard’s AH-64 Apaches to the regular Army –  and to offer an alternative plan. Second, until the commission reports back, they want Congress to ban the Pentagon from reorganizing or even preparing to reorganize the Guard in any way.

One bill in the House, H.R. 3930 sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson with 199 co-sponsors, includes both these elements. What the HASC passed Tuesday night, however, was a watered-down version of Wilson’s language. The freeze on any reorganization is still there. But instead of a congressionally chartered blue-ribbon commission, the HASC NDAA just requires a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, due less than a year from now on March 1, 2015, at which point the freeze would end.

“It’s a positive step,” NGAUS spokesman John Goheen told me when I asked about the HASC bill. “What we’re fighting for is an independent look at this, [and] what the HASC has come up with, in terms of a compromise, is in fact an independent look, it’s a step in the right direction.” But, I noted, the GAO puts out studies all the time, none of which has anywhere near the clout or mandate of an independent commission. “It’s still progress,” said Goheen.

Half a loaf is a lot better than none, said former NGAUS legislative director Bill Skipper, now a consultant. “The leadership of the House more or less said a month ago there wasn’t going to be any kind of language on this subject, they’ve had to give —  give just enough for the Senate to be able to pick it up in conference,” he said. “This is textbook Politics 101.”

“I personally prefer an independent commission,” Tonini told me, but the GAO could do a good job if it consults the right people: governors and state adjutants-general like himself, not just the Army and National Guard Bureau leadership in the Pentagon. “We could have either or both in the end…. they should both come to the same conclusion.”

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Senate National Guard Caucus chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy has introduced a bill that would create an independent commission. The president would appoint half its members, Congress the other half, and the commission would have almost two years – until February 1, 2016 – to study the matter. It’s this language that Leahy’s Guard Caucus co-chair, Senate Armed Services Committee member Sen. Lindsey Graham, may offer as an amendment to SASC’s version of the annual defense policy bill.

But the Leahy-Graham language does not include a total freeze on reorganization. To the contrary, it authorizes the military “to prepare for the transfer of not more than 72” of the Guard’s Apaches – almost half – to regular active-duty units. (The Defense Secretary must make various pro-forma certifications first). Since the Pentagon never planned to make the actual transfers until 2016 anyway, authorization to do prep work is all they need in the 2015 bill.

What Guard advocates presumably hope is that the NDAA conference will keep the independent commission from the Senate language but strip out the authorization to prepare for transferring aircraft. What they fear is that the conference will keep the Senate language on transfers but drop the independent commission, going with the HASC’s GAO report instead. What they’ll actually get is an open question.


  • Gary Church

    “-until the commission reports back, they want Congress to ban the
    Pentagon from reorganizing or even preparing to reorganize the Guard in
    any way.”

    If the Guard thinks they are not going to get payback for these games they are playing they are wrong. They might want to think about letting go and asking for something in return for the attack helicopters they are clutching to to their breast so fiercely. They are just glorified super expensive flying pick-up trucks. It seems to me they could have twice the number of Blackhawks for the same money.

    • Joshua Martinez

      You still talking about Apaches?

      • Gary Church

        Talking about whatever I want to talk about.

    • Mike


      Will you help this old airborne ground ponder out a bit? If I remember right doesn’t the Apache goes for about $52 million and the Blackhawk for about $5.9 million? Also, if I remember right the Apache has two GE T-700’s with a ceiling of about 13,000 ft and the Blackhalwk has one with a ceiling of about 7,000 feet? And can’t the Blackhawk also carry missiles like the Apache plus a whole bunch of equipment or solders in the rear?….

      So, as an old helo man, what do you think the big stink is between the Guard and the Army over giving up the Apache’s for the Blackhawks?

      I must admit, that I don’t know a lot about these two weapons systems as my exposure was the incredibly dependable old Huey with M-60’s in each door… Perhaps if you have a minute you could bring me up to speed, aye?

      • Uniform223

        I am obviously not Gary nor do I support his views ( most of them ) or opinions but I do understand what he is trying to get at.

        Trying to compare a Blackhawk to the Apache isn’t comparing apples to oranges, it would be like comparing a minivan to a corvette. Both are cars and vehicles but different purposes.

        As I recall before the AH-1 Cobras came out when the US Army tried to weaponize the UH-1 Huey as a gunship to support air assault operations. Though they filled the role they were not up to par for the required mission at hand. When the meaner AH-1 cobra came out, it played in a different ball park. Though they had the same engine and rotor blades, it physical performances were better than that of the Huey. You can weaponize the Blackhawk to an extent but it wont be the same as the purpose built Apache, especially to the upgraded most recent variant the AH-64E Apache Guardian.

        Personally I think the US Army taking away ALL the Apaches from the Guard and bringing into the active components would be a mistake. No one wants a long drawn out insurgency but truth on the matter is, that shit will happen regardless. Whether it be because of full scale armed conflict with a peer nation or organization with equal capability or insurgency, you need a reserve component to fall back on.

        • Gary Church

          I would hope we have learned our lesson and will not be nation building and fighting insurgents anymore. Enough is enough.

      • Gary Church

        Mike, I think the stink is about a community that does not want to change; I saw it whenever a new airframe came in and the old one was phased out. The attack helicopter community has funding and people who want to get promoted and finish out their careers without it all disappearing on them. Unfortunately attack helicopters were from the beginning a career ladder based on solving a problem that did not exist. From the very special conditions in Vietnam that saw the cobra they hung despite not being very effective The A-10 is far superior to any attack helicopter and that said, the A-10 is on it’s way out because it cannot survive in an environment against MANPADS that can no longer be decoyed or jammed.

        Helicopters are flying pickup trucks for carrying troops and material from A to B. That’s it. As fighter planes they suck. They are great for rescuing people or auto cannon massacres of people that cannot shoot back but as weapons platforms- a waste of money and resources. We seem to forget what our Stingers did to Russian HInd’s in Afghanistan.

        • Mike

          I know only to well what our stingers did to the Russians.. Thanks Gary (and 223)… My guess is that you (223) were of The same generation as us. We were the lucky ones who returned to the civilian world in one piece. Thanks guys for the help input.

        • PolicyWonk

          “the A-10 is on it’s way out because it cannot survive in an environment against MANPADS that can no longer be decoyed or jammed…”

          Of course, we haven’t committed any troops to battle against a sophisticated opponent in decades. While your point w/r/t MANPADS is taken, the USAF seems to think the JSF, and the B-1, et al, are wonderful ground support weapons because they can use smart bombs.

          Those of course, will become instantly useless if/when GPS is jammed, knocked out, etc. Then all these high-flying assets will either have to get down into the dirt or our troops will be slaughtered.

          So far – no one has offered an alternative to the one platform we have than can fight and has demonstrably survived in that very environment.

          • Mike

            Sadly, that may come sooner than we want to consider because of the Ukraine…. Next time we have a chance to help the Russians out of something like the financial rubble of 1987, perhaps we will reconsider, aye?

            If we should commit the 101st and those other allied Airborne soldiers, let us hope that our planners have quietly brought up a bunch of A-10’s along with those 15’s and 16’s….

            First off, let us hope that Vlad blinks….. History says he will, but then again that’s the same guy who just got divorced, took on a much younger mistress and has been seen running around with his shirt off…. Very predictably, he has painted his Russian masculinity into a corner…. :(

          • Gary Church

            “-or our troops will be slaughtered.”

            No. If you are saying we must have billions of dollars of jets flying overhead in order to fight then you might be disappointed in how vulnerable to missiles those assets are. We managed to fight wars before GPS. Not a good argument Wonk.

          • PolicyWonk


            And here I thought it was (and remains) a pretty good one.
            How are we going to do ground support if we lose GPS, and have no A-10’s?

            That is the crux of the issue at hand.

            And yes – we fought wars without GPS before, and used ground support aircraft to do so. And we also suffered far greater losses. What platform alternatives do we have to the A-10’s, that are more likely to survive in the absence of GPS?

            So far, the answer has been: None.

          • Bob

            Laser guided weapons? Aircraft inertial NAV updates? Loss of GPS is not a slamdunk against our current fleet.

          • PolicyWonk

            Inertial isn’t as good a GPS, and if the GPS is gone, then the aircrafts location, which far better than dead reckoning, doesn’t have the precision to keep weapons from causing a “blue on blue” problem.

            And lasers dont’ work well in dusty/cloudy/smoky environments, which are what battlefields are all about.

          • Bob

            Laser guided weapons (and other guidance, as well) has worked well enough in recent conflicts. See Desert Storm. Question: are cas platforms using gps guided weapons for cas?

      • Gary Church

        Actually Mike, they both have twin T-700’s and have similar performance. Same horsepower, about the same rotor disc loading. One carries weapons and one carries troops or cargo. The reason the Apaches are so expensive compared to the Blackhawk is the maintenance on the sensors the Apache carries. And weapons require alot of special handling and maintenance that costs money. If you took the weapons and sensors off the Apache and put them on the Black hawk there would not be much difference all things considered and the operating cost would go up to about the same as the Apache. The difference is if you want to take all those systems off a Blackhawk once they are installed it costs money to do that because of the man hours that go into turning wrenches and testing it. I am not saying the blackhawk would be just as good as a Apache; the Apache was designed for it.
        What I am saying is the Blackhawk can mount weapon systems if they can get away with it which looks to be a rare situtation in the future and that makes Helicopter transports far more valuable than attack helicopters that will probably take losses and then be taken out of the battle.

        • Gary Church

          Oops. I meant it costs money installing and testing when you put the systems on a Blackhawk.

          • Mike

            Thanks Gary,
            Nothing like getting the real story from one who has spent lots of time “turning the wrenches” and who knows, first hand, why they fall out of the sky….. If they both have twin engines, then I could expect their ceilings to be similar and up around 13,000 ft….. The only time I’ve been that high in a helo was as a civilian trying to rescue crash victims….. God knows it get dicey when the air is that thin… :(

        • Bob

          Where is this completely multi role Blackhawk going to come from again? You can’t just bolt on/ bolt off all of the Apache systems onto a Blackhawk. We have come way past Vietnam. Attack helicopters don’t just add a 7.62 into a mount Ina Huey anymore.

          • Gary Church

            But you can put those systems on a Blackhawk. Nightstalkers baby.

          • Bob

            My understanding is that those systems are fairly permanent on those MH’s, and aren’t the “bolt on/off” plug and play that you alluded to above.

  • Joseph White

    I think the National Guard needs those Apaches. If, in the unlikely case, our fearless teleprompter in chief decided to declare martial law and sends in the Army to clean up his new kingdom, the National Guards, which don’t answer to him, can defend their states from the tanks that the Army will use. Blackhawks are good, but they aren’t tank killers.
    I’m just old fashioned enough to believe that the states should have control over their own National Guard units, and not DC.

    • Dukes

      Not quite. The National Guard does answer to the President. That’s why enlisted Guardsmen swear an oath both to obey the orders of the governor and the President. Who wins if the two conflict?

      Of course, your comment is based on the underlying assumption that active duty troops have no loyalty to the Constitution and just can’t wait to come and take your guns and freedom. Get real.

    • Mike


      You might want to get off the political crap and think a little straighter….There’s not going to be any martial law and the country is doing one hell of a lot better than when the draft dodger and the AWOL phony fly boy where running this ship. You do remember the financial panic and stock market crash of 2007 (the biggest since 1929) don’t you?

      I’ve served both military masters and they ALL answer to the same final boss, the President… One is full time and first in and the other part time and second in and that is pretty much the difference… You ever serve?

      • brianw517

        You already know how lock step and spit out the Kings talking points!

        • Mike

          Yes, and you are such a genius that you can’t even write a complete sentence correctly…. Military service teaches you to do that…. I’m guessing you decided to miss that opportunity.You have no idea what real oppression is.. :(

          • Uniform223

            Few people know how good the “average” US citizen has it. To give up even just the simple things willingly or to have them taken from you, is when you truly realize it.

            Real freedom is what one does with the choices they make. Be it defiance or submission.

          • Mike

            Amen 223… Well said, well said indeed!… I learned and did a lot of things I never imagined I could during my Army days and when I came home, I walked down from that plane, stepped to the side, and in my dress uniform and polished jump boots, went down on all fours and kissed the ground that I was home and in one piece…. Then I put in for my G.I. Bill and walked onto my local University Campus and enrolled… Stayed there until I graduated and never lived in poverty again…

    • Anthony Teasley

      You need to educate yourself on the national guard my my friend. The National Guard is part of the overall defense structure of the United States. National Guardmen swear an an oath to the president of the United States same as soldiers in the Active Army. The weapons they use are also part of the overall defense structure, moving resources from the National Guard to the Active Army is a fairly common practice. Please stop repeating Tea Part conspiracy theories.

  • Clarkward

    While I would be pissed if I was a NG Apache pilot, it makes a certain amount of sense to give them the Blackhawks which are very useful for disaster recovery ops. On the other hand, stripping the Guard of their built-in attack helo capability rings of what Germany did pre-WW2 by removing air defense from the army and putting it in the (highly Nazified) Luftwaffe. If the army had dissented, the Luftwaffe held all the air power and antiair power.

    • Dukes

      So if the only the noble Heer could have kept their air defenses, then the Wehrmacht wouldn’t have obeyed the orders of a psychopath and marched across the world on their genocidal killing spree. Sounds exactly like what’s going on today.
      Sure, there’s tension between the Army and the National Guard, but we won’t be pointing guns at each other anytime soon.

      • Gary Church

        Yelling Hitlerism is the last resort of fools. America is not Germany- it takes a very homogenous culture to be led down the path of fascism. Our culture is homogenous in only one sense- our consumerism. Fortunately being deprived of smart phones and cars is not enough to make Americans turn on each other. In fact, it is the opposite. This is a problem for entities that want to manipulate us. They do the best they can by dividing us into right and left with all the ridiculous social issues and culture war games but it won’t work. I was in the former Yugoslavia for a little while and the hate there is almost supernatural and goes back centuries. We do not have that weakness. We turned on each other once and that was enough. It will never happen again.

        • Clarkward

          I accused no one of being Hitler, I compared the shuffling of parts of the military in Germany pre-WW2 with what is happening now. This country is weaker than you think, driven by the rampant consumerism that you speak of and the pandering for votes that goes on with a great deal of borrowed money. What happens when the government can’t borrow enough to maintain its spending? The middle class is dwindling, shrinking the tax base. I am not rushing out and buying MREs and ammo, but stating that eventually, the government will fall, because it refuses to acknowledge reality re: spending vs. income. Eventually, that bill comes due.

          • Gary Church

            If you think the government is going to “fall” then you should be buying MRE;s and ammo.

      • Clarkward

        Dukes, your straw man is yours, not mine. Don’t put it in my yard.

  • Tholzel

    The National Guard was originally formed as a counter to the Federal Government should it try to run roughshod over States rights. But the Feds have been sappaing the Guard fron day one. First it was funding, then command structure, now this emasculation. Whatever happened to the Constitution?

    • Dukes

      The Guard is older than the federal government, so they couldn’t have sapped funding since “day one.” In the past century, the Guard has received more funding, more command structure (now each state gets an Army AND Air TAG, a Joint Force HQs, and the Chief NGB sits on the JCS), and is more relevant than ever.
      Now the Army wants to reorganize the 98% federally funded National Guard to do what’s in the best interest of the “common defense.” If a state doesn’t like that and feel the defense their receiving is inadequate, they’re more than welcome to go back to raising revenue to organize, train, and equip their own forces. The Constitution is still there.

      • Curtis Conway

        The States provide the Troops. The troops, and the rest of the citizenry, paid the taxes that funds our national defense. The federal government is a creature of the states, not the other way around. Those who look at the ‘sovereignty of the federal government’, at the expense of the states, are elitist and should return to the Constitution that joined the states together.

        • Gary Church

          One nation. We fought a civil over this. The time when each state was it’s own little farming community ended with the railroad. The many poor against the few rich is as old as civilization. Trying to re-frame this in terms of states vs. a central government does not hold water Curtis. The problem is not the federal government- it is super corporations that own our government and make our democracy ineffective.

          • Mike

            We’ve been here before. It was right after the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression when the Super wealthy almost brought this country to it’s knees….. We let it happen again from 1982 until 2007 when the same super wealthy almost destroyed us again with the Crash of 2007 and that Depression…

            Now the voters are reacting again, just as they did in 1932…. Obama being the new FDR may give some racists heartburn, but that is of little importance to me….. Now is the time when we need more and more political leadrs willing to stand up for the Average American Citizen…. Americans are listening to the politicians and those that have sold their souls to the Conservative Ultra Wealthy (CUWs) are one by one being voted out of office….

            The greatest period of prosperity in the history of America for ALL AMERICANS happened between 1932 and 1982….. And now, it is happening again, despite the Billions being spent by the CUWs to try to stop it.. They were not able to stop it after 1932 and they will not be able to stop it now….

          • Curtis Conway

            The old story is the robber barons keeping everyone in the “I owe my soul to the company store” mode. This strong central federal government has tried to recreate the old model under a democratic hat. THAT is why we are not a pure democracy . . . we are a Democratic Republic where the Executive is SUPPOSED to live within the bounds of the law like everyone else. This administration does not, and the example they are setting shows up in the news every evening as we see more aberrant behavior by the public thinking they can just follow that model of leadership (if you can call it that).

          • Curtis Conway

            As for the ‘civil’ as you describe it . . . we solved that legal problem in the Constitution of the United States and paid for that moral debt to the tune of about 800,000 lives, and there are those today who do not believe that is enough blood, and continue to stir that pot for their own gain, political or otherwise. I wish they would just grow up and go to work.

  • 1776

    This country has spent its wealth on war that has come with no capital gain for over 60 years now. The constitution does not require the U.S. Federal Government to sustain an Army. In fact, it specifically says that if it does, the funding will be limited to two years. We do not have to fight every faction across the world to provide for our own common defense. That’s like making a UFC fighter fight three bouts everyday and never train. Eventually his money will dry up and so will his body. The United States has been blessed with prosperity, both from its natural resources and its founding principles. Both of those have dried up. Also, for all that are deluded about having the national guard being the last line of defense for the states, there is no weapon they have that’s ammunition isn’t stored and controlled on a federal facility. You will have to pay/manufacture that fight on your own dime.

    • Mike


      There has not been a military attack by a foreign military power on American soil since 1941. That has happened because we refused to forget how that happened and have gone forward with the military theory that it is better to fight acts of aggression when they are small on foreign soil, rather than risk another Pearl Harbor. That policy has worked, but it has cost us greatly…
      .There is an important slogan never to forget: “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE!”

      When millions of people stop wanting to become American citizens, i will begin to work about the future of this great country… Until that happens all this crap about “treason” and “don’t tread on me”by very comfortable, non threatened citizens is all hysterical bull crap!… :(

      Today less than 3% of the men under 30 in this country have never experienced the training brought by military service….. Nixon’s removal of the draft and opening of China have brought our great nation into more danger than any amount of military spending since 1941!… :(

  • Sam Silverton

    A strong militia has always been the foundation of our Nation’s freedom. Protect the Guard: Protect the Nation. Learn more @ and sign our NEW petitions to halt the ARI and keep the Apaches in the National Guard!

  • Barry Smith

    The Guard will have a full loaf once the NDAA makes it off the House floor. Stay tuned…