Guard gets JCS slot, arguments on both sides
Ran across this yesterday and had a different take from where I read it. First, the background:
The National Guard Bureau’s top officer is now a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law Dec. 31 by President Obama, adds the Guard leader to the nation’s highest military advisory group.[...]
The Joint Chiefs of Staff advises the president on national security matters.
Its members voiced firm opposition during a hearing on Capitol Hill in November as lawmakers pushed to create a seat for the Guard.
Before the authorization act was passed and signed into law, the Joint Chiefs was made up of the four service chiefs — the Army chief of staff, Air Force chief of staff, chief of naval operations and Marine Corps commandant — and a chairman and vice chairman appointed by the president.
I served National Guard for about 8 years, and served on two deployments with the Virginia Guard, to Bosnia and Afghanistan. Anyway, a man I have immense respect for generally, James Joyner of Outside the Beltway disagrees with this legislative action.
In a move that makes no sense whatsover, Air National Guard General Craig McKinley has become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
So, the entire Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense opposed this move and yet it was made anyway? Why? The article doesn’t say but, presumably, it’s because the Guard has an enormous amount of clout in Congress and because sympathy for the institution is at an all-time high after a decade of more-or-less continuous deployment.
His argument essentially centers on this:
Simply put: Either the Guard is a state militia that’s only part of the United States Military when called to national service–in which case it has no business on the Joint Staff–or it’s a part of the Total Force and therefore already represented on the Joint Staff by the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and Air Force. (There is no Navy or Marine Guard.)
Additionally, I’d note that the inclusion of the Guard would seem to undermine the very Mission of the Joint Staff:
"The Joint Staff assists the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in accomplishing his responsibilities for: the unified strategic direction of the combatant forces; their operation under unified command; and for their integration into an efficient team of land, naval, and air forces."
As of yesterday, it’s less unified, less efficient, and less integrated.
Here's my problem with that, I don't accept that when called up the Guard is treated as part of the Total Force. I am absolutely ambivalent on whether the Guard deserves a position on the JCS, but one thing I do know is that the treatment of the Guard while on active duty is NOT the same as regular army units. I saw the breakdown in two specific areas. The First was that the default position of active units I was attached to as a Guardsman was to take their Guard unit and use them for assignments no one else wanted. Generally this took the position of Force Securuity (guard tower duty). This one in particular was galling, and the reason I got out of the Guard the first time. As the Guard Infantry unit stood in towers in areas that saw no action at all, the Regular Army was making up comb at patrols from active duty butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. If the Guard is truly part of the entire force, they should be used where their training could best be used, and sleeping in Guard Towers always seemed a misallocation of forces.
Second, anyone who has gone through the medical side knows that there are huge differences. In fact, the very first question on every medical sheet I ever filled out was what branch someone was. Why would that be? I have no clue why, but I specifically remember being with about 40 Guard guys suffering from extensive (VERY EXTENSIVE) poison ivy rashes and heat injuries at Ft. Bragg, and we were made to wait on the lawn at the medical center because we had been on a 15 day FTX and smelled bad. (No showers will do that.) The 82nd guys were walking right buy and on it to get treatment with no such hassles.
Same with out guys when they got injured and came back. When an active duty guy suffers, they come back and get assigned to the rear guard or WTB here, while our guys were coming back in ones and twos and being assigned tasks at the WTB that they had no business doing. In point of fact, one of my fellow bloggers came back with sciatic nerve damage and (while hopped up on pain killers) had to drive a bus around post for the other WTB guys.
Now, I am not sure whether having a Guard advocate will change that, but something should be done. Myobservation would be that they are now sending larger Guard units so they can be self-contained and that would seem to help. For instance, when my battalion went to Afghanistan, we were assigned to the Division Artillery. Again, we were infantry. So the former Artillery guys, who's guns were largely useless in the Bagram area were pulling patrols, and the infantry guys had to stand in towers. I don't know that the inrceased clout of this position will change that, but any step in the right direction for us seems a good idea.