National Guard February 2012 : Page 30

A conversation with Maj. Gen. Mike Dubie ‘I’ve never seen the 54 so united and so willing to work for a common cause’ HE ADJUTANTS GENERAL Association of the United States (AGAUS) is probably the least known outside of Washington, D.C., of the three associa-tions that represent at least some portion of the National Guard at the national level. It’s also the smallest, with only 54 members and no staff. Yet, as the collection of senior Guard officers from each of the 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, AGAUS has clout that belies its numbers and notoriety. National Guard sat down with Maj. Gen. Mike Dubie of Vermont, the as-sociation’s elected president, to discuss AGAUS and its perspectives as he final-ized plans for his group’s first meeting of 2012, set for Feb. 25 to 29 at the National Guard Memorial, the NGAUS headquarters in Washington, D.C. T The adjutants general are confronted with issues that are unique to our positions, so we need to get together a couple of times a year and discuss common challenges and issues and to formulate strategies that would be best while representing the 467,000 mem-bers of the Guard. You really can’t do that unless you’re face to face. We have video teleconferences, we have teleconferences, but it’s more productive for us to sit down together in person a couple of times a year to discuss common issues. There are 14 new adjutants gen-eral since January of last year. That’s a pretty high turnover, even when you consider the elec-tion of several new governors in 2010. A lot of experience was lost in this transition. How much of a challenge is this for AGAUS? ganization to have some new people, new ideas. We’re doing well even with the new people, and it doesn’t take long for them to catch up and to become contributors to the AGAUS. It would seem that many in the Pentagon really don’t understand the role and responsibilities of the adjutants general. What’s your take and is this a problem? AGAUS meets every year in February and June. Why is it so important for the adjutants general to meet in person on a regular basis? 30 I have found that the new TAGs assimilate to the job and to the asso-ciation very quickly. So, I don’t really see it as a challenge. In fact, in some ways, it’s been invigorating for the or-There was a time when we did not have the access to or the understand-ing of senior leaders at the Pentagon, but things have changed. It started as a result of the changes due to the fiscal 2008 National Defense Autho-rization Act. After the chief [of the National Guard Bureau] became a four-star general, the adjutants general have had a number of meetings with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That type of thing had never happened in the past. Consequently, I think that the senior leadership actually understands us better now. We don’t always agree. We have sometimes different opinions | Na tional Guard

'I've Never Seen The 54 So United And So Willing To Work For A Common Cause'

THE ADJUTANTS GENERAL Association of the United States (AGAUS) is probably the least known outside of Washington, D.C., of the three associations that represent at least some portion of the National Guard at the national level. It’s also the smallest, with only 54 members and no staff.<br /> <br /> Yet, as the collection of senior Guard officers from each of the 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, AGAUS has clout that belies its numbers and notoriety.<br /> <br /> National Guard sat down with Maj.Gen. Mike Dubie of Vermont, the association’s elected president, to discuss AGAUS and its perspectives as he finalized plans for his group’s first meeting of 2012, set for Feb. 25 to 29 at the National Guard Memorial, the NGAUS headquarters in Washington, D.C.<br /> <br /> AGAUS meets every year in February and June. Why is it so important for the adjutants general to meet in person on a regular basis?<br /> <br /> The adjutants general are confronted with issues that are unique to our positions, so we need to get together a couple of times a year and discuss common challenges and issues and to formulate strategies that would be best while representing the 467,000 members of the Guard. You really can’t do that unless you’re face to face.<br /> <br /> We have video teleconferences, we have teleconferences, but it’s more productive for us to sit down together in person a couple of times a year to discuss common issues.<br /> <br /> There are 14 new adjutants general since January of last year.That’s a pretty high turnover, even when you consider the election of several new governors in 2010. A lot of experience was lost in this transition. How much of a challenge is this for AGAUS?<br /> <br /> I have found that the new TAGs assimilate to the job and to the association very quickly. So, I don’t really see it as a challenge. In fact, in some ways, it’s been invigorating for the organization To have some new people, new ideas. We’re doing well even with the new people, and it doesn’t take long for them to catch up and to become contributors to the AGAUS.<br /> <br /> It would seem that many in the Pentagon really don’t understand the role and responsibilities of the adjutants general. What’s your take and is this a problem?<br /> <br /> There was a time when we did not have the access to or the understanding of senior leaders at the Pentagon, but things have changed. It started as a result of the changes due to the fiscal 2008 National Defense Authorization Act. After the chief [of the National Guard Bureau] became a four-star general, the adjutants general have had a number of meetings with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That type of thing had never happened in the past.<br /> <br /> Consequently, I think that the senior leadership actually understands us better now. We don’t always agree.We have sometimes different opinions On individual issues, but I believe that right now we have an understanding and mutual respect between us and the senior leadership of the Pentagon that we never had before.<br /> <br /> Obviously, the big news right now is the elevation of the chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff . At a minimum, it is a great symbolic victory for the National Guard.What are the practical benefits to the adjutants general of having the NGB chief at the table?<br /> <br /> To me, the most important aspect of the chief being at the table is that He’ll be able to articulate and advocate for homeland security issues that are uniquely handled by the National Guard.<br /> <br /> Sometimes, if you don’t work in those circles, you might not be aware of how they affect a traditional Guardsman or M-Day soldier. We now have a voice among the Joint Chiefs that will be able to very effectively describe how a member of the National Guard may be able to assist in the defense of America that wasn’t even considered before.<br /> <br /> All signs point to major cuts to Air National Guard personnel and aircraft in the president’s fiscal 2013 budget request for the Air Force. How would the adjutants general respond to such a proposal?<br /> <br /> We are anxiously awaiting the president’s budget to be released on the 6th of February, and we are concerned that our units have the most exposure, because, by and large, our units have the most legacy weapons systems.Until we see the details and how units are affected, it’s difficult to say how the adjutants general will respond.Up until this point, we’re just going on things that have been leaked to the press and some comments that have been made by members of Congress.<br /> <br /> When we get together as a group near the end of February, I believe we will have a response prepared.Obviously, we’re most concerned about possible cuts in the Air National Guard, but I think everyone is concerned about the overall ramifications of the FY13 budget. And we need to be clear that due to the budgetary realities facing America, we are also concerned about the future of the National Guard writ large. I am talking about the FY14 budget and beyond.<br /> <br /> Even if the Air Force budget proposal includes the cuts, many states and territories will come away unscathed. As always, there will be winners and there will be losers, and some of the winners may not be so eager to fight.<br /> <br /> How do you and AGAUS build a national agenda when the priority for each adjutant general is his or her own state or territory?<br /> <br /> I’ve been the adjutant general of Vermont for six years, and I’ve never seen the 54 [adjutants general] so united and so willing to work for a common cause. So, while there may be apparent winners and losers, I think that we will be able to work as a team and try to mitigate some of the pain of some of the units. I think some of that’s already being done in the sense that we hear that there are some efforts to move the Air Guard into new, emerging missions. It is my hope that we stay united and do what’s best for America and what’s best for the National Guard.<br /> <br /> The Pentagon’s new 10-year defense strategy announced last month is a significant pivot From the wars of the last decade.What are you and other adjutants general saying to company-grade and other younger leaders as to the way ahead?<br /> <br /> What I’m saying is to be flexible.Like a lot of people, we’re still analyzing what the information released by the president, the secretary of defense and the chairman [of the JCS] means for the National Guard. But I think the changes actually may present some new opportunities. The National Guard is never going back to being a strategic reserve, and considering the budgetary environment, the National Guard actually may be the hedge or the solution to some of the budget challenges faced by the Pentagon.<br /> <br /> So, we have to be flexible and we Have to be realistic about where we fit into the defense picture, but I’m optimistic that there will be some mission areas that we actually could pick up, considering the new defense strategy.<br /> <br /> The wars of the last 10 years took their toll, but they also enabled the Army National Guard to build perhaps its strongest and most experienced force in history. Are you and the other adjutants general concerned that what took so long to build could be quickly lost?<br /> <br /> I would say that we are encouraged by the Army’s apparent willingness to keep the Army National Guard as a frontline, operational force. We don’t know how the future defense cuts will affect this, but it’s in the Army’s best interest to keep the Army National Guard strong and equipped so it doesn’t lose that experience that we’ve Gained. And I would argue that it’s in America’s best interest to do that.<br /> <br /> We are also encouraged by statements made by the chief of staff of the Army that he really values the experience that has been built up in the Army National Guard.<br /> <br /> High unemployment among parttime members of the National Guard is generating headlines across the country. Certainly the adjutants general have talked about this. How significant of a problem is this for the Guard nationwide?<br /> <br /> I think that unemployment is a problem that is not consistent across the United States, but clearly it is an issue, particularly for units that are coming back from deployment.<br /> <br /> In Vermont’s case, we had a survey that indicated 30 percent of our returnees from Afghanistan were facing unemployment. We have done a very aggressive jobs campaign in Vermont targeted toward our veterans with job fairs, job training, “dress for success,” how to interview, how to write a resume and we have made progress, but unemployment is a problem in America and, unfortunately, we’re not spared from that problem.<br /> <br /> It’s something that we have to constantly work on. We have another job fair coming up this week in Vermont so we are trying to aggressively tackle this problem, but unemployment of our members remains a serious issue.<br /> <br /> Do you fear that the new normal of Guard deployments has made employers less willing to hire Guard soldiers and airmen?<br /> <br /> I do not have any firsthand knowledge of that. I’ve heard people are afraid of that, but I haven’t actually heard of that happening. In fact, I would say that Americans should be very proud of how most employers, business owners and business leaders around America have supported Members of the reserve components, especially after they’ve been deployed.I don’t have any statistics to say whether that is true or not, and I would just say that I’ve seen countless examples of positives actions by employers.<br /> <br /> The federal government has become reluctant to provide funds to reimburse states for the cost of Guard responses to significant natural disasters. We saw this during Hurricane Irene. Could this impact future domestic responses?<br /> <br /> The federal government’s reluctance to fund natural disasters with Title 32 502F funds doesn’t limit the ability of the National Guard to provide response, but clearly there is a financial impact that could be crippling to states. These decisions are made at the highest levels and I am not in a position to judge the leadership for making those decisions. Our job is to provide the very best response possible, and then we have to figure out how to pay for it.<br /> <br /> Do you have any concerns that some governors could be reluctant in the future to call out the Guard if they fear there will be no reimbursement from the federal government?<br /> <br /> No, I don’t think that a governor is going to hesitate to do the right thing because of budget. I’m speaking from my recent Irene response and I saw how the state of Vermont was so aggressive. If there was a need, they would send us out. The leadership in the state of Vermont would figure out how to pay for it later.<br /> <br /> Different administrations will make different decisions on 502F funds, as they are known. Our job is to execute policy, not to make policy, and that’s the same thing I see here. Our job is to respond to save lives, to mitigate catastrophic property damage and to alleviate suffering. Whoever pays for it Is for our state civilian leaders to negotiate with the federal government later.<br /> <br /> I just don’t think governors or leaders in the state are going to be reluctant to do the right thing because of the money. Call me an idealist, but I just believe that.<br /> <br /> Suicide is a continuing problem in the ranks. A recent study suggested that the Guard has too many programs and would be better served by a single, system-wide approach. What is your take on the problem and the approaches the Guard is taking nationwide on suicide?<br /> <br /> Suicide to me is a national epidemic.Unfortunately, like high unemployment, we are not spared from suicide just because we wear the uniform.The programs have been very wellintentioned, and I think that some of the programs are effective, but it’s difficult to say which programs are effective and which are not. While there is a desire to have some type of a system-wide approach, I’m not an expert enough to say which approach that should be.<br /> <br /> To me, the most important thing is that we aggressively and relentlessly try to prevent suicide. The only way we can do that is for awareness in the units—for people to be watching out for their battle buddies—and we have a problem in the sense that a large part of our force is part-time and we are not together all the time like active-duty soldiers or airmen are.So, it’s even more important for us to reach out to our battle buddies when we’re not together to see how people are doing. I wish I had an answer.I’m saddened by the whole subject of suicide and I just think we have to be aggressive and relentless to prevent any more suicides.<br /> <br /> What else is on the AGAUS agenda for 2012?<br /> <br /> We work in a committee structure,Which is very effective. It’s why it’s easy for us to integrate new people into our Adjutants General Association.We retain the leadership through that committee structure to be able to work on issues, whether it be military construction, homeland security, recapitalization of Army or Air equipment or personnel issues that affect our force.<br /> <br /> We will continue in 2012 and beyond to look at all the issues that affect the men and women of the Guard.This covers future deployments, training opportunities, education benefits, etc. So, it’s pretty wide-ranging. I can’t tell you any specific issues other than the fact that we have to be ready to adjust to the president’s budget that is going to be released soon.<br /> <br /> How do AGAUS and NGAUS work together and how important is that relationship to achieving common goals on Capitol Hill?<br /> <br /> Our relationship with NGAUS has never been closer. We work well together in a way that best serves the men and women of the National Guard. To further those efforts, last year we created the National Guard Coalition, which includes the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States as well NGAUS and AGAUS. Sometimes, our associations will go it alone on issues. But most of the time, we are united, and I think we’re much more effective when we work together.

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