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Smarter Cuts Necessary?

Whether to provide support for natural disasters or swiftly respond to asymmetrical attacks on American soil, the U.S. National Guard often operates under the governors’ discretion using Title 32 funding. Title 32 funding is provided by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Two speakers recently sat down at the Heritage Foundation to explain how sequestration will “gut” the National Guard’s ability to operate in these capacities.

Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum (USA, Ret.), the former deputy commander of the United States Northern Command, suggested that rather than cutting off the head of the military with across the board budget cuts, the Department of Defense should make smarter cuts, trimming excess weight to appear more fit. He suggested that the military follow a successful business model. In this model a business’ full-time workforce receives “benefits, retirement, entitlements, health insurance, pension plans, matching 401k’s–all of that kind of thing” but is sized for “their smallest steady state business day.” The part-time workforce of these businesses then matches “their most optimistic market demand” and is run by the marketplace.

Challenging the military to adopt a new paradigm, Ret. Lt. Gen. Blum argued that fire fighters were an excellent model of how volunteer forces save lives. “Well, let me tell you something. If you want to talk about an organization that responds on no notice, where lives hang in the balance everyday, it’s the fire fighting community in our country,” he said.

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul F. McHale, provided background on policies following September 11th that had made the U.S. more dependent on the National Guard for domestic operations. “If my memory serves me correctly and I believe it does,” said McHale, “in 1992 during Hurricane Andrew, when it was necessary for the military to provide support to civil authorities because of the magnitude of the destruction that occurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, the majority of the force that responded to provide assistance to civilian authorities came out of our active component.”

This changed “rather dramatically, that policy of using primarily active component forces, in the aftermath of September 11th, and in response to the requirements associated with domestic preparedness,” he said. McHale argued that any reductions in Title 32 funding “would directly impact upon the safety of the American people here at home.”

“What most people don’t realize is that the National Guard is called into the service of the governors each and every day,” argued Ret. Lt. Gen. Blum. According to Title 32,

“A Governor of a State may request funding assistance for the homeland defense activities of the National Guard of that State from the Secretary of Defense. Any such request shall include the following:

(1) The specific intended homeland defense activities of the National Guard of that State.

(2) An explanation of why participation of National Guard units or members, as the case may be, in the homeland defense activities is necessary and appropriate.

(3) A certification that homeland defense activities are to be conducted at a time when the personnel involved are not in Federal service.”

Ret. Lt. Gen. Blum mentioned how the National Guard might be called in to deal with a chlorine spill and said that when he served as Chief of the National Guard Bureau 17 states had National Guardsmen called out in some number, on average, each day.

In the high point 2005 case of Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. military came close to “swinging and missing on Louisiana and Mississippi,” he said. However, 50,000 National Guardsmen from all 50 states and the territories traveled to the hurricane-affected areas and were responsible for saving over 17,000 lives, he said. “At the time we had the high water mark for their deployment overseas, when we were literally surging for the army to allow the United States army to reset the army into their new, into their current configuration of formations,” he said.

McHale recently released a special report with the Heritage Foundation, entitled Critical Mismatch: The Dangerous Gap Between Rhetoric and Readiness In DOD’s Civil Support Missions (pdf).



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