Most Apache units, both active-duty and Guard, have spent the last decade operating in two-gunship teams like this one, not the larger formations required for conventional wars.

The most bitter controversy in the Army National Guard debate is over the administration’s proposal to transfer all Guard AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to the regular active-duty Army.

WASHINGTON: In the emotionally charged debate over the Army National Guard, the “don’t cut our Guard!” side has been much louder than the pro-cuts camp. That’s why it’s interesting to read this pretty low-key letter from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defending the cuts.

The simple fact it’s Hagel’s signature on the letter speaks to the administration’s desire to de-escalate, because the people he’s writing to had wanted an answer from the president. Dated June 2nd, Hagel’s letter is the administration’s public — but unpublicized response — to a high-profile appeal signed by all 50 state governors and addressed directly to Barack Obama. (Our particular copy is addressed to Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama).

“I am responding on the President’s behalf,” Hagel writes. “I have also received a letter from 50 Adjutants-General” — the technical term for the top-ranking Guard officer in each state — “and have directed the Deputy Secretary of Defense to respond.” Note how Obama delegates to Hagel, and Hagel to Dep. Sec. Robert Work, in what’s clearly a deliberate attempt to downplay the issue.

SecDef Hagel Defends Guard Cuts to Governors – 2 June 2014

So what does Hagel say? Politically, the most important lines are:

“I do not support an independent commission on the structure of the Army at this time. I am, however, committed to engaging the Council of Governors earlier in the defense decision-making process to share ideas and information.”

An independent commission to settle all questions about the size and mission of the Army National Guard, similar to a previous one for the Air Guard, is the leading demand of the stop-the-cuts camp. The idea’s made some progress in Congress. Naturally the administration wants its cuts to go ahead without waiting for what it sees as constitutionally uncalled-for meddling. But Hagel’s rejection is very mild — note the escape clause “at this time” — and it’s coupled with a vague but conciliatory promise to give the governors more input in the future, if not any actual power.

Such gestures aside, however, Hagel spends most of the letter making the case for the Army Guard cuts — and, by extension, for a host of politically unpopular cutbacks that Congress is already rejecting. “We simply cannot afford the current size of the Army,” the secretary writes, but you could easily substitute “the Air Force,” which wants to cut A-10 attack planes, or “the military’s pay and benefits system,” whose growth the administration wants to slow with lower pay raises and higher healthcare fees.

As the automatic cuts called sequestration crunch the bunch, Hagel writes, “we focused the reductions on force structure” — that is, on the number of troops and units — because “we must invest properly in modernization and readiness.” The bottom line of Hagel’s argument, one widely echoed by Democrats on Capitol Hill: “If we retain too many units, we will be unable to adequately train and equip them, resulting in a hollow force which none of us wants.”

Comments

  • Curtis Conway

    “at this time” — The Defense of our nation does not need to be moving in a direction where heavy combat power is moved from ‘access by the states’, to ‘full control by strong central federal government’ acting the way it is today! DoD has turned into a committee of ‘yes men’, many of which are in violation of their Oath, and driven by politics, or are just instruments of the industrial military complex!

    Bring on the congressional committee and sooner rather than later. To do otherwise testifies to the danger represented by the actions sought by those who are threatened by that committee.

    • Elihu Root

      The Feds have plenty of “heavy combat power” to include aircraft carriers and nukes. Maybe parts of the Navy should be apportioned to the states as they were prior to 1916. Sound ridiculous? Of course it was…which is why it ended.
      Thanks for the conspiracy theory, though.

      • Curtis Conway

        In 1913 power from the states was diminished by the 17th Amendment. Now the senate is controlled by those who have the money to influence public opinion. Unless your head is in the sand, and/or you never watch the news, then you see some of the most disturbing things you have ever seen in your life concerning the direction of the federal government in this country. The federal government is supposed to meet its primary responsibility of DEFENDING the nation as a whole. The states are supposed to take care of their populations and participate in that defense with forces partially manned, sponsored and maintained by the states. I keep reading and hearing about the GOVERNMENTS money and forces. If you want to meet your government go in the bathroom and look in the mirror. This is the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, a Democratic Republic, not a pure democracy where the majority rules, or led by a Ruling Class, regardless of what the current administration demonstrates by their example. That is why the Bill of Rights exist to defend the Rights of everyone, including the minority side of any argument, guaranteeing those rights granted by the Creator, not government, to our Citizens, not every human being on the planet. Otherwise is Tyranny.
        We are upside down, and the federal government is removing even disaster relief capability form the states (transport aircraft). Heavy combat forces are migrating to the Active Duty controlled solely by the fed, with no thought to the sates. Looks like Rome all over again. This is why I support a joint committee to study and make recommendations as to forces levels and distribution there of across the states. We have to work smarter not harder, and the Guard & Reserve should continue to be a central part of our defense as it traditionally has since our founding.

      • Curtis Conway

        And NEVER capitalize fed. The fed is supposed to be a servant of the people, not the other way around. The fed is manned by temporary employees who are elected, unless you are one of the bureaucrats . . . who happen to make more than the average citizen across this country doing the same job, but does not have to suffer the consequences of not performing, and you and I pay for that lack of performance anyway with no recourse.

  • squidgod

    Not sure I’ve ever seen an ALL CAPS signature before…

    • Mike

      Who cares! He is one of the few Combat Veterans that we have had in that role in a very long time….. The man has “been there and done that” and for his experience at threat of his own life, we are damned lucky!… :(

  • Isaiah Harms

    The Executive Branch has only a few duties enumerated by the Constitution – one being defense of the nation. Shirking this duty to pursue hobbies in “social engineering” seems tantamount to criminal negligence.

    It’s like a huge publicly owned corporation with vast amounts of business operations suddenly choosing to fire 65% of it’s accountants because they “hope” they won’t get investigated by the IRS.

    To the business owner that’d be dumb.

    How come the executive branch gets away with it?

  • Allen Brady

    Keep the guard, military, help the vets and get rid of welfare programs where recipients have been on for generations, food stamps should be monitored better, waste by govt, and exorbitant salaries by reps in DC who only work and I use that term loosely, 1/2 a year, and vacation the other half.

    • JJ

      Allen, you are right on target with that thought! Our central government is far too engaged in states business, and not engaged in the defense of our country as it should be.

    • 10579

      Correction,No One in DC works.They are sponges who send our men/women to fight and die while the party and live in there ivory towers.Don’t like Hagel,never have never will. He’s a shill for Obama and as stated a YES man.

      • Mike

        You did notice that he is one of the few combat veterans that we have eve had as a Defense Secretary, didn’t you?

        • 10579

          Yes Mike and I still don’t like him.He’s a yes man and a shill for the administration. When the Gitmo 5 get back to afganistan and start killing people I hope they bring him up on charges along with Obama with crimes against humanity.

  • Derek Sage

    If the states want a bigger guard, then they should pay for it. You should get only what you are willing to pay for.

    • JJ

      Derek, when the federal government needs the manpower to fight wars, it turns to the National Guard. On one point in the Iraq war, over 50% of the combat troops were Guard and Reserve. Why?? Because the Army was out of tune due to reorganizations because of political reorganizations. If the US is attacked on our home shores, who do you suppose is going to be the home land security? Oh well, you liberals will always have the defeatist attitude when it comes to liberty, freedom, and constitutional guide lines.

      • Mike

        Ah JJ,

        Most of the military these days is filled with the poorest kids in the nation, both Federal, Guard and Reserves and a lot of those same kids get help from the government in different forms… 40 years ago when I was on active duty and later for 10 years in the Guard it was the same… Most of us were Democrats from working class families… Today, a lot of the fellows leaving active duty are having a hard time finding any kind of a job, let alone one that pays a decent wage…. Many are having to use the VA for medical care and many are on unemployment… Those are “Liberal” programs brought to law by Liberals, and in each case fought by the Conservatives…

        When throwing around the “Liberal” label, I might point out that the Conservatives where in power from 1982-2009 and during that time we were drug into three wars that we could not afford on falsified intelligence and it was the same poor kids that did the dying while the Conservative, mostly wealthy, were enjoying the civilian life and getting richer. During those 27 years the Middle Class got squashed and living standards and good jobs went away…

        I

        • AMZ

          JJ, not sure why you think this is somehow a liberal issue. If you actually follow the history of this issue you will see that the President’s administration and their people in DoD wanted to hack off a percentage cut from all the forces. This aviation reorganization was a bottom up proposal developed by the US Army Aviation Center that is commanded by a career special operations aviation General. The proposal ensures we keep advanced airframes and divest of the Kiowa while still maintaining enough forces to support the ground force which is our sacred mission. The active Army is dropping down to 8 active CABs from the 10 1/2 active CABS today. Active Army aviation has been on a 1:1.2 deployment to dwell time or less for the last few years. You can’t physically divest the Kiowa, retain the Apache and keep your forces above a 1:1 ratio. I am an active Apache aviator and I have flown with great NG Apache aviators from SC and TX but the size and scope of the budget cuts means we needed a drastic plan to continue to have forces immediately available to support ground troops when needed

      • Derek Sage

        You conservatives never want to pay for what you want…like my brother who “forgets” his wallet when we go out.
        You want it, then pay for it cheapskate. You know “freedom isn’t free” isn’t just about good intentions.

  • SPQR

    For well over 375 years, United States National Guard (formally State Militias) have been the mainstay of our national defense and emergency services. Since 1636, when the first muster of the National Guard occurred to the present, the Guard has answered the call. Today, we are beginning to see a line drawn in the sand to determine, who gets the bigger cut of defense dollars. Be it the Guard, Reserve or Active duty, funds are being cut to fulfill unfunded mandates to unnecessary equipment that the military does not want or need. One major issue that needs to be address is: Does the Army and Air Force need two reserve components to answer the call for defense and emergency services, in times of war or natural disasters? I believe the simple answer is no. Historically, the National Guard is the only branch outside of the active components to have combat arms role and also has proven itself time and time again in just about every conflict that the United States has been involved in. This is especially true with our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. One question that seems to pop up is how to reduce cost of the Army and Air Force Reserve Compoents, that answer is so simple; The structure of the Guard and Reserve should be merged under the management of the National Guard, by doing so, I see a elimination of redundancy that seem to suck up so much or our tax dollars. But does Congress and the Administration have the guts to make it so? That’s the million dollar question…

  • Christoph DeHaven

    Why don’t we return to the days when the Guard consisted of state militias, funded by the states and under command of the governor, instead of another arm of the U.S. Army? That would solve a lot of problems.

  • Elihu Root

    “a high-profile appeal signed by all 50 state governors…”
    Come on, Syd.
    Signed by 50 governors, not 50 state governors. NGAUS is a lobbying organization that knows all the tricks in the book; if you eat their talking points you’ll get rolled. This is journalism 101 on the Hill.

  • ChuckTho

    From experience, I know that many of our military leaders simply do not understand that the National Guard IS a state-run organization. Some years ago, when I was representing the National Guard Bureau in a project, I was informed by a FORSCOM operations officer that what the National Guard wanted wasn’t important, since his boss (4 stars) outranked mine (Chief NGB was then 2 stars). He, and a room full of Active Army field grade officers was astonished to learn that except when a National Guard unit is called to federal service, its commander-in-chief is its state governor. They were further surprised to learn that the CNGB doesn’t “command” the state National Guards so much as it advises and represents them.

    FYI, the National Guard was created by, and is governed by, the Militia Clause in Article 8 of the US Constitution:

    [Congress shall have the power]
    ,,,
    To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union,
    suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

    To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for
    governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the
    United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the
    Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline
    prescribed by Congress;

    ….

    The Reserve Forces (Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force) on the other hand, are integral parts of their respective military forces and subject to the established chain of command.

    Thus, when discussing matters such as merging the Reserve and National Guard, it is necessary to understand the fundamental difference between the two reserve components.