National Guard December 2011 : Page 28
A conversation with Gen. Craig R. McKinley ‘This budget is so badly constrained that everybody is going to take a substantial reduction ’ ectic schedules are the norm for the chief of the National Guard Bureau. But last month Gen. craig r. McKinley was unusually slammed. First, there was the National Guard Joint senior leadership conference in National harbor, Md., outside of Washington d.c. it gathered hundreds of Guard leaders from across the nation and a constellation of senior army and air Force officials. McKinley was de facto host. then there was the historic senate hearing on legislation that would add the NGB chief to the Joint chiefs of staff. all six current members testified against the proposal; McKinley, seated at the same table, was the lone voice in support. and all the while, the biggest bud-get battles in a decade raged on at the Pentagon, with the possibility of billions of dollars more in automatic defense cuts if the so called congressional “supercom-mittee,” the Joint committee on deficit 28 H reduction, failed to come to an agree-ment. it was amidst this activity that McKin-ley found time to sit down with N atioNal G uard in his Pentagon office to talk about current issues and the way ahead. Last week you participated in what was a historic congressio-nal hearing on whether the chief of the National Guard Bureau should be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The six current JCS members all testified in opposition to the proposal. You were the lone voice for it. It was said during testimony that there wouldn’t be any hard feelings or animosity from the hearing. What assurances do you have that that will actually be the case? The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, [Gen. Martin E. Dempsey], since he came in to replace Adm. Mike Mullen, has done a magnifi-cent job in including me in all of the sessions and in completely open and frank discussions. As this hearing took shape, he asked me to stay in “The Tank” where normally, in the past, I would have been asked to leave due to the nature of the discussion. So, his openness and frankness and trust in me has been evident from the begin-ning. And so he had commented earlier in the week as we were leaning toward this hearing that we were going to go in there as a team. We were going to speak our minds, present our personal views which we’re sworn to do, and we were going to make our case. And that when it was over, we would still be a team. We would come back and continue to function as a team. And I have no reason to believe oth-erwise that his words were completely | National Guard
‘This Budget Is So Badly Constrained That Everybody Is Going To Take A Substantial Reduction’
Craig R. McKinley
HEctic schedules are the norm for the chief of the National Guard Bureau. But last month Gen. Craig r. McKinley was unusually slammed.<br /> <br /> First, there was the National Guard Joint senior leadership conference in National harbor, Md., outside of Washington d.c. it gathered hundreds of Guard leaders from across the nation and a constellation of senior army and air Force officials. McKinley was de facto host.<br /> <br /> Then there was the historic senate hearing on legislation that would add the NGB chief to the Joint chiefs of staff. All six current members testified against the proposal; McKinley, seated at the same table, was the lone voice in support.<br /> <br /> And all the while, the biggest budget battles in a decade raged on at the Pentagon, with the possibility of billions of dollars more in automatic defense cuts if the so called congressional “super committee,” the Joint committee on deficit Reduction, failed to come to an agreement.<br /> <br /> It was amidst this activity that McKinley found time to sit down with NatioNal Guard in his Pentagon office to talk about current issues and the way ahead.<br /> <br /> Last week you participated in what was a historic congressional hearing on whether the chief of the National Guard Bureau should be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The six current JCS members all testified in opposition to the proposal. You were the lone voice for it. It was said during testimony that there wouldn’t be any hard feelings or animosity from the hearing. What assurances do you have that that will actually be the case?<br /> <br /> The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, [Gen. Martin E. Dempsey], since he came in to replace Adm.<br /> <br /> Mike Mullen, has done a magnificent job in including me in all of the sessions and in completely open and frank discussions. As this hearing took shape, he asked me to stay in “The Tank” where normally, in the past, I would have been asked to leave due to the nature of the discussion. So, his openness and frankness and trust in me has been evident from the beginning.<br /> <br /> And so he had commented earlier in the week as we were leaning toward this hearing that we were going to go in there as a team.<br /> <br /> We were going to speak our minds, present our personal views which we’re sworn to do, and we were going to make our case.<br /> <br /> And that when it was over, we would still be a team. We would come back and continue to function as a team.<br /> <br /> And I have no reason to believe otherwise that his words were completely accurate, true and I really appreciate that collegiality.<br /> <br /> What do you see as the legacy of the hearing?<br /> <br /> I don’t know. I think it might be too early to tell. I think it was an open and frank discussion on all the service chiefs’ perspectives. They feel passionately. They testified passionately about their personal views about this situation. And that they didn’t want to upset a status or a balance that they think currently exists.<br /> <br /> And my comment was that we’ve come far enough now that the conditions are right for us to move forward. And to do so without any kinds of prejudice or beliefs that this would hurt the institution as a whole. Those were the two sides as I saw them, and I think we all made our cases the best we could.<br /> <br /> The legacy will now be that the senate will debate it and our form of government will prevail. Regardless of what happens, we are going to continue to represent the interests of the people that we serve and that really is the legacy—that this system works.<br /> <br /> One of your responsibilities is to serve as the “channel of communications” between the Pentagon and the states. What is the essence of your message to the adjutants general and the governors today on the way ahead for the U.S. military, in general, and the Guard, in particular, in these tough fiscal times?<br /> <br /> As I enter the fourth and final year as the chief, it’s been pretty clear and obvious that one of my highest priorities was to be very inclusive with the adjutants general, to represent their interests the best I can while still retaining my Title 10 responsibilities.<br /> <br /> So, this has been a continuation.<br /> <br /> This fiscal crisis did not just sneak up on us. We have seen these storm clouds brewing for several years now. And so for a number of meetings that we’ve had with the adjutants general during the past year … we’ve been trying to set the conditions for the times we are now living in—these tough budgetary times.<br /> <br /> And I’ve been getting very good advice and involvement by the adjutants general in general officer advisory councils and things like that that have set the stage for us to be in a very good position to enter the 2013-17 [Program Objectives Memorandum] cycle.<br /> <br /> Now, what the wild card is, is the committees that are looking at the government as a whole and what will come out just before Thanksgiving with the super committee results.<br /> <br /> We believe that both the Army Guard and the Air Guard have worked very closely with their services to get a force presentation package for 2013-17 that will enable the Guard to continue to do the job that it has been doing and continue to be very vibrant and healthy. General [Harry M.] Wyatt [the Air Guard director] is working very hard with the Air Force because the Air Force may be a little further down the road in fiscal constraint than the Army is, quite frankly. I won’t speak for General Wyatt. He has ongoing discussions with his service on how to best position the Air National Guard.<br /> <br /> But, generally, we’ve been working well with the TAGs and I think we’ve made progress in terms of openness and transparency.<br /> <br /> Do you have any specific message that you’ve delivered to the TAGs in the last few months, given some of the committees’ work?<br /> <br /> We spent a long period of time this past Joint Senior Leadership Conference talking with the TAGs. Talking about where the budget currently stands, where the [cuts of ] $450-plus billion over 10 years will come from, setting the stage for if the super committee fails that we’ll have to get back together as a group in late November, early December and try to figure out what the next step will be.<br /> <br /> But we are all hoping against hope that the super committee can find the trillion to a trillion and a half dollars so we can move beyond to setting the conditions for building the Guard of 2020. That’s what everybody [wants] to do. They want to have a military establishment built for 2020, and we in the National Guard are going to have to play into that debate and figure out what’s best, what our strategy is while we still support our missions for our governors.<br /> <br /> The State Partnership Program, the Youth ChalleNGe program and the counterdrug program are all rumored to be on the chopping block. Each would seem to be providing the taxpayers with a significant return on investment. Why are these unique Guard programs being looked at as a place to cut?<br /> <br /> I think we shouldn’t be too concerned about programs on the block because from my vantage point, everything has been on the block in this building these last six to eight weeks. Every major program has been looked at—and it should be looked at—to see if it is viable. Is it a 21st century program, is it in the right place, is the money right? And, yes, all the National Guard programs have been looked at very carefully.<br /> <br /> But we’ve made a very compelling case that return on investment for things like State Partnership, Youth ChalleNGe, counter drug, those programs that started in the early ‘90s for many of us, are still viable, still active, still returning great investment on the dollar, and we made a very good case for it.<br /> <br /> So, I’m cautiously optimistic that those in the building who are looking at every program have seen the value of those programs and will sustain them over time. That’s my goal.<br /> <br /> Why isn’t the Guard seen as more of a solution to today’s fiscal problems?<br /> <br /> I think it is. I think all the reserve components are looked at as solutions. However, in the Air Force’s particular case, the entire Air Force is going to get smaller based on some of the reductions in programs.<br /> <br /> The service chief and the secretary in the Air Force believe that if we have a service growing smaller, then the Guard and Reserve in that service should also grow smaller at the same time.<br /> <br /> Those are the arguments that we are trying to dispel knowing full well they have to find “x” number of dollars to pay their bogey for their bill.<br /> <br /> The Army has not had to come up to that wall yet because we’re still heavily engaged in Afghanistan, we are still pulling out of Iraq. And those same constraints will hit them in the next couple of years.<br /> <br /> So, we’re about two years ahead of that decision process on the Air Force, but the Army Guard is positioned well with their programs, their force structure and their strategy to work well within the Army system.<br /> <br /> But if the active-component Army drops substantially lower, the service secretary and the chief of the Army are going to have to look at the Army Guard and the Army Reserve for proportionate cuts. That’s the real dilemma now.<br /> <br /> You can make value propositions when the budget isn’t constrained as bad as it is today, but this budget is so badly constrained that everybody is going to take a substantial reduction. Our goal is to produce the best Army Guard, the best Air Guard that we can that fits into our strategic profile for now, but looking out to about 2020.<br /> <br /> If we can do that as leaders, then we’ve done a good job. And these are challenges I’ve given to the adjutants general. What programs are essential?<br /> <br /> What programs have we developed over the last 15-20 years that could be modified or changed or withdrawn?<br /> <br /> What are the adjutants general saying to you?<br /> <br /> The adjutants general today are concerned about cutting too deeply, too fast—the ramp. They’re concerned about presenting the value proposition which I think we’ve all done exceedingly well up to this point—the fact that the Guard is a great return on investment for the dollar, that force structure is vital to have in the states, the territories and the District of Columbia.<br /> <br /> Those are the issues that the TAGs are most concerned about. They’re our concerns, too. So, together we’re taking these approaches that we hope within the Army and the Air Force will resonate and the process will go through the fall and into the winter.<br /> <br /> We’re going through leaner times. You said we would when we sat down a year ago. You’ve served in leaner times before. Many lieutenants, captains and majors have only served when resources are plentiful. What is your advice to them?<br /> <br /> I tell anybody who cares to listen today that the Guard was built to be a lean organization. It was created by our Founding Fathers to be a force that is not necessarily a full-time force, and that it comes together when its nation calls, or the colonies in the early days or their states today call for it.<br /> <br /> That, by necessity, makes us somewhat unique in how we present our force—the fact that our kids are very efficient and the fact that we don’t have a large overhead or infrastructure cost. So, we’re already built for leaner times. We’ve just been very heavily engaged having a very high tempo these last eight to 10 years because of the two wars.<br /> <br /> We’ll go back to a “sweet spot” that I call it where we exist to serve our states, the territories and the District, and we’ll be available and very ready to support our Army or Air Force.<br /> <br /> We are probably the most ready and capable Guard in its history and that will last for a period of time. We argue very strenuously though that you have to invest money in keeping the capabilities of that great service, that great component, at a level where it can continue to be used in a very effective and efficient way.<br /> <br /> Do you think our young leaders are ready for that?<br /> <br /> I do. I’m amazed everywhere I go to talk to young people who say, “Tell us what we need to do. We’re prepared to sacrifice. We’re prepared to become more efficient. We’re prepared to make the commitments to keeping the National Guard viable and healthy.” <br /> <br /> Our efficiencies have been amazing over time in seeing how much the Army and the Air Guard had squeezed out of our system. So that part was very refreshing to me as National Guard Bureau chief.<br /> <br /> And now beyond that we’ve got to look at modernization. We’ve got to look at our programs that involve entitlements. And we’ve got to make sure we find a balance. And I’m very confident that the young people today understand it and will be glad to support it.<br /> <br /> I know you get the chance to speak with Guard soldiers and airmen in your travels across the country and around the world.<br /> <br /> What do they tell you about Guard service today and how does it shape your decision making?<br /> <br /> I think 80 percent-plus of our soldiers and airmen have joined the Guard since Sept. 11, 2001. That ought to tell you why most of our kids have joined—to serve their nation, their patriot inspiration following that very heinous attack on that day.<br /> <br /> And so these young kids don’t want to give that up. They joined for a reason. They’re going to stay for a reason. Our retention rates are at an all-time high. Our quality rates are shooting through the roof. <br /> <br /> These are young people who want to give back. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. That’s the amazing part of this new generation.<br /> <br /> And so I think most of our force is prepared to weather the fiscal challenges knowing that it’s a very dangerous world, and that we may be called on any time to defend our national interests.<br /> <br /> And so this National Guard of today is there for the long haul. They are very capable. They are very effective.<br /> <br /> And as long as leadership understands that we have to challenge the youth of today and tomorrow—give them meaningful work, try to keep them as operational as we can— we’ll be fine.<br /> <br /> Do you fear the increasing battles over constrained resources will spill over into overall relations between the Guard and the active components like they did in the 1990s?<br /> <br /> I’m working as hard as I can to avoid any kind of friction. And I think the keys are trust, honesty, transparency and knowing the value of the contributions that we can make to the overall force.<br /> <br /> I think if we can retain those core values and we can be truthful with our parent services—our parent services give us the time to make our case and we understand there’s going to have to be compromise—I think we can weather the storm without the real toxic complexity that we had in the early ‘90s because that was not good for anybody.<br /> <br /> There was a lot of emphasis at the NGAUS conference and during more recent events about the importance of telling the Guard story. How important do you think this is?<br /> <br /> I’ve always had the [belief] and that we don’t necessarily tell our story as well as we could or should, and that maybe is because we are such a community-based organization.<br /> <br /> We’re well-known in our communities. We’re well-known in the areas around our armories and our wings.<br /> <br /> But a strategic story in a strategic context is vital in the 21st century for us to make sure the entire enterprise is explained to people who, quite frankly, have not been exposed to very many people in uniform.<br /> <br /> We may take it for granted that we are in 3,300 communities, but with less than  percent of our population [in the military]—even much less [than 1] percent of our population being in the Guard—we’ve got to continue to have a strategic plan that gets our story out, that shares the kinds of stories about our people that resonate in the community.<br /> <br /> How about individuals just telling their story?<br /> <br /> I think it’s always important for each and every member of the National Guard to not take for granted that their neighbors, their friends or their families understand who or what we are. We are a radically different Guard, for the better, than we were 10 years ago.<br /> <br /> Look at the contributions that we’ve made to our parent services. Look at the involvement that we’ve had this last year in the 10 natural disasters that each in their own right have gone over a billion dollars in recovery costs. We’ve got to make sure the entire country understands that and not take for granted that our neighbors, our friends, our families totally understand who and what we do.<br /> <br /> In December the National Guard will celebrate its 375th birthday. What does reaching this milestone mean to today’s force?<br /> <br /> Well, that we’ve had great leaders and members of the Guard for three centuries plus. And, quite frankly, it is a major milestone. I don’t think there are very many institutions in this nation that can trace their heritage back that far.<br /> <br /> [We] have continued to transform over time, and our leadership that we inherited these organizations from has done a magnificent job in preparing us for this time we live in today.<br /> <br /> But it is a point to stop, to pause, to reflect, to be grateful and to rededicate ourselves to the time we have in front of us.