National Guard January 2012 : Page 18

WASHINGTON UPDATE The latest Capitol Hill news from the NGAUS legislative staff Time to Save the Air Force By Richard M. Green I Are the service’s leaders so focused on the active component that they can’t see a more equitable solution that also better serves the nation? KNOW WHAT MANY of you are think-ing: Why would we want to save an organization that seems determined to take down the Air National Guard? The answer is simple: We are a Total Air Force, and the clear intent of the Air Guard has always been to manage our part of the piece of the pie in the most cost-effective and professional manner possible. All members of the Total Air Force wear the same flight suits, operate under the same regulatory guidance and, for the most part, fly similar aircraft. We also share a willingness to risk our lives to defend our country. Unfortunately, when it comes time to cut the budget, senior Air Force officials always seem to put the Air Guard on the chopping block first, often claiming that the Air Guard aircraft are either suddenly unnecessary or primary candidates for early retirement. And, of course, replacing those plat-forms with newer planes is nearly never part of the discussion. Sure, way back when, one might be able to rationalize why new aircraft should reside almost exclusively on active-com-ponent ramps. And, perhaps, if you shovel long enough, you might be able to dig up a time or two when the Guard wasn’t as responsive as it should have been. But those days are long gone. Today, the Air Guard is one of the most experienced, highly trained and ready forces in the sky. And no military organization is more cost effective. So, why is it that the Air Force doesn’t seem to get it? Why does the discussion about spending cuts always begin immedi-ately with the Guard? Are Air Force leaders clinging to memo-ries of the past, or are they so focused on the active component that they can’t see a more equitable solution that also better serves the nation? Leadership, by its nature, starts at the top. So, it would seem that the clear solu-tion to this historic conundrum is for the chief of staff of the Air Force to direct his staff to create a Total Air Force that main-tains the highest levels of combat capability at the most affordable cost. This, of course, would include a very robust Air Guard. And if there are any organizational barriers to overcome, he should direct everyone to come together and figure out the best way to overcome them. But this route requires a process that is open and includes equitable representa-tion by Air Guard and Air Force Reserve leaders. Having one or two Guard repre-sentatives in a group of 20 or more doesn’t hack it. Until the Air Force chief of staff has this epiphany, and comes to realize what a real Total Air Force could and should look like, the Air Guard will have to rely on its allies in Congress. The Guard will do that, but not out of simple self-interest. Our primary intent and goal is, and always has been, to make the Air Guard a first-string member of the Total Air Force team. But the Guard wants this role as part of a plan that is equitable and what is best for the nation’s defense, not because our presence was rammed down the Air Force’s throat. But when history appears to be repeat-ing itself, the choice is clear. Contact your Senators and representa-tive and let them know that by strengthen-ing and growing today’s trained and ready Air Guard, our country will have both a strong and affordable defense. You can do this in any manner you choose—phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature at www.ngaus.org. 18 | Na tional Guard

Washington Update

Richard M. Green

Time to Save the Air Force<br /> <br /> I KNOW WHAT MANY of you are thinking: Why would we want to save an organization that seems determined to take down the Air National Guard?<br /> <br /> The answer is simple: We are a Total Air Force, and the clear intent of the Air Guard has always been to manage our part of the piece of the pie in the most cost-effective and professional manner possible.<br /> <br /> All members of the Total Air Force wear the same flight suits, operate under the same regulatory guidance and, for the most part, fly similar aircraft. We also share a willingness to risk our lives to defend our country.<br /> <br /> Unfortunately, when it comes time to cut the budget, senior Air Force officials always seem to put the Air Guard on the chopping block first, often claiming that the Air Guard aircraft are either suddenly unnecessary or primary candidates for early retirement.<br /> <br /> And, of course, replacing those platforms with newer planes is nearly never part of the discussion.<br /> <br /> Sure, way back when, one might be able to rationalize why new aircraft should reside almost exclusively on active-component ramps. And, perhaps, if you shovel long enough, you might be able to dig up a time or two when the Guard wasn’t as responsive as it should have been.<br /> <br /> But those days are long gone. Today, the Air Guard is one of the most experienced, highly trained and ready forces in the sky. And no military organization is more cost effective.<br /> <br /> So, why is it that the Air Force doesn’t seem to get it? Why does the discussion about spending cuts always begin immediately with the Guard?<br /> <br /> Are Air Force leaders clinging to memories of the past, or are they so focused on the active component that they can’t see a more equitable solution that also better serves the nation?<br /> <br /> Leadership, by its nature, starts at the top. So, it would seem that the clear solution to this historic conundrum is for the chief of staff of the Air Force to direct his staff to create a Total Air Force that maintains the highest levels of combat capability at the most affordable cost. This, of course, would include a very robust Air Guard.<br /> <br /> And if there are any organizational barriers to overcome, he should direct everyone to come together and figure out the best way to overcome them.<br /> <br /> But this route requires a process that is open and includes equitable representation by Air Guard and Air Force Reserve leaders. Having one or two Guard representatives in a group of 20 or more doesn’t hack it.<br /> <br /> Until the Air Force chief of staff has this epiphany, and comes to realize what a real Total Air Force could and should look like, the Air Guard will have to rely on its allies in Congress.<br /> <br /> The Guard will do that, but not out of simple self-interest.<br /> <br /> Our primary intent and goal is, and always has been, to make the Air Guard a first-string member of the Total Air Force team. But the Guard wants this role as part of a plan that is equitable and what is best for the nation’s defense, not because our presence was rammed down the Air Force’s throat.<br /> <br /> But when history appears to be repeating itself, the choice is clear.<br /> <br /> Contact your Senators and representative and let them know that by strengthening and growing today’s trained and ready Air Guard, our country will have both a strong and affordable defense.<br /> <br /> You can do this in any manner you choose—phone, fax, letter, personal visit or by using our Write to Congress feature at www.ngaus.org.<br /> <br /> Empowered: Congress Vote Approves National Guard JCS Seat Legislation <br /> <br /> With the stroke of a pen, President Barack Obama can give the National Guard influence at the highest level of the U.S. military, making the chief of the National Guard Bureau a legal and full-fledged member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.<br /> <br /> The long and difficult effort to make this a reality was awaiting last month only the commander-in-chief’s signature on the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.<br /> <br /> The legislation includes an amendment introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., that would put the Guard’s top officer on a level with the chiefs of staff of the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy, making that person a top advisor to the president and defense secretary on military matters.<br /> <br /> It was a focus of NGAUS efforts on Capitol Hill for most of 2011 and the association was able to garner support from 71 Senators after a House version won approval in the summer.<br /> <br /> As this magazine was going to press, the president’s action was expected to happen either late last month or immediately after the arrival of the New Year.<br /> <br /> The Senate and the House both passed the bill last month giving the Guard, in the words of retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the NGAUS president, “its biggest legislative victory in more than a century.” <br /> <br /> Hargett said one has to go back to the Dick Act of 1903, which created the modern, dual-mission force, to find legislation with such importance to the nation’s original defense force.<br /> <br /> The successful votes pleased the nation’s governors, who had supported it through the National Governors Association.<br /> <br /> After the vote, the association released a statement, saying, in part, “This recognizes the National Guard’s importance to our security both at home and abroad and further enhances the partnership between the states and the federal government.” <br /> <br /> The idea of elevating the status of the NGB chief had powerful opposition, including all serving members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They explained their viewpoints at a Senate committee hearing in November.<br /> <br /> Also against the idea were a handful of powerful senators, including Sen. John Mc- Cain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.<br /> <br /> Still, however, the legislation passed with ease.<br /> <br /> The NDAA also creates a three-star NGB vice chief and requires consideration of Guardsmen for commander positions at Army North and Air Force North. It includes, too, a 1.6 percent pay raise for military members.<br /> <br /> An effort to bring more equity to spaceavailable travel for the Guard and Reserve did not succeed. Instead, the Defense Department will review the issue to assess the impact of additional space-a travelers on the system. This was a popular item in the bill for NGAUS members.<br /> <br /> For a full analysis of the legislation, go to www.ngaus.org/LAC. <br /> <br /> Money for Gulf War Illness Research Quickly Passed, Signed by President <br /> <br /> Allaying the fears of veteran groups, the Senate passed last month and the president immediately signed legislation providing $10 million for further research into the illnesses and conditions that have plagued a substantial number of Operation Desert Shield/Storm veterans.<br /> <br /> This money is dedicated to researching Gulf War illness and cannot be used for other purposes.<br /> <br /> Veterans groups had been concerned that budget cuts would eliminate the money from the larger defense budget.<br /> <br /> According to USA Today, the money comes just as some progress is being made to understanding the causes thanks to research by the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program.<br /> <br /> Its research suggests that the cause may be troops’ exposure to bug sprays, antinerve- agent pills and sarin gas.<br /> <br /> Since the war 20 years ago, veterans have complained of a variety of ailments, from chronic headaches to skin abnormalities to persistent fatigue and more.<br /> <br /> Jim Binns, the chairman of the federal Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses, told the newspaper, “It’s reassuring to see that members of Congress of both parties remain strongly committed to finding treatments for Gulf War illness, as the Institute of Medicine says can still likely be done with the right research.”

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