USA — Officials Ponder Reserve Components’ Future

WASHINGTON — A report released this week will help Defense Depart­ment offi­cials imple­ment rec­om­men­da­tions made by the Com­mis­sion on the Nation­al Guard and Reserve two years ago.

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment of the Massachusetts Army National Guard
Sol­diers from the 1st Bat­tal­ion, 101st Field Artillery Reg­i­ment of the Mass­a­chu­setts Army Nation­al Guard assist a fam­i­ly with tents and food sup­plies dur­ing the deliv­ery of human­i­tar­i­an aid in the Dasht Barchi vil­lage of Kab­ul, Afghanistan, Sept. 23, 2010. The sol­diers part­nered with Afghan Nation­al Police to pro­cure and deliv­er shel­ter and food items to 150 needy fam­i­lies whose homes suf­fered exten­sive water dam­age dur­ing a flood in the vil­lage. Defense offi­cials are work­ing to deter­mine the role going for­ward for the nation’s reserve-com­po­nent forces.
U.S. Army pho­to by Capt. Antho­ny Deiss
Click to enlarge

“There is a very strong com­mit­ment to imple­ment most of rec­om­men­da­tions of [the com­mis­sion],” Den­nis M. McCarthy, assis­tant sec­re­tary of defense for reserve affairs, said at a round­table dis­cus­sion here yes­ter­day. “This [report] is going to help us sus­tain and main­tain the momen­tum of that process.”

The Cen­ter for a New Amer­i­can Secu­ri­ty report, which argues for a num­ber of actions that will strength­en the Guard and reserves, com­bined with the 12 oth­er stud­ies being con­duct­ed by the Defense Depart­ment, also will help to inform defense lead­ers as they plan for the future of the reserve com­po­nents, said Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKin­ley, chief of the Nation­al Guard Bureau.

“This cen­tu­ry obvi­ous­ly has been huge­ly chal­leng­ing for all of us,” he said. “We are emerg­ing into the sec­ond decade of this cen­tu­ry and try­ing to fig­ure out what are the prop­er sweet spots for the reserve com­po­nents.”

McKin­ley said today about 64,000 Nation­al Guard men and women are serv­ing over­seas in sup­port of the Army and Air Force, but equal­ly impor­tant is their 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year sup­port to their gov­er­nors.

“Because we don’t know when the next cri­sis will hit, that require­ment to be ready all the time … is very impor­tant for us to under­stand,” he said. “At any moment, we can be chal­lenged with a dis­as­ter of nat­ur­al or man-made pro­por­tions, … [and] we have to be ready to meet those chal­lenges.”

McCarthy said the Guard and its DOD part­ners have made “tremen­dous” progress in its sup­port to civ­il author­i­ties.

“We are def­i­nite­ly, in my opin­ion, mov­ing in the right direc­tion,” he said, adding that the Guard’s weapons of mass destruc­tion and civ­il sup­port teams did­n’t exist a few years ago.

The report states the Army and Air Guard and oth­er reserve-com­po­nent branch­es lack about 25 per­cent of their required equip­ment, but McCarthy said it’s unre­al­is­tic to expect every unit to be ful­ly equipped.

“I sim­ply don’t think that we ought to knee jerk into the idea that every com­pa­ny and every bat­tal­ion needs to have 100 per­cent of its table of equip­ment parked out on the back lot,” McCarthy said. “If that is the stan­dard we use for mea­sure, I think we are nev­er going to get there, or we’re going to get there with old and out­mod­ed equip­ment.

“We need to get beyond that,” he con­tin­ued, “and do some things that are per­haps a lit­tle more cre­ative and a lit­tle more use­ful.” He added that new approach­es are need­ed, includ­ing the use of sim­u­la­tion.

“Mak­ing the reserve com­po­nent an inte­gral and indis­pen­si­ble part of the oper­a­tional force will take a whole range of actions that … the depart­ment is com­mit­ted to take,” McCarthy said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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