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October 06, 2006

What do you guys think?

I've got some thoughts - but not enough battery left to express them. I'll add mine later. Who knows, they might even have some thought behind them!

Miami Herald
October 6, 2006
Military Debates Raising National Guard's Status
Two generals oppose promoting National Guard chiefs to the level of other military branch heads, but backers said it ensures the Guard gets its fair share.

By Drew Brown
WASHINGTON - Two senior U.S. generals said Thursday they disagree with a proposal that would elevate the chief of the National Guard to the same rank and status as the heads of the other military branches and provide the Guard with its own budget. NATO commander Gen. James L. Jones and Gen. Lance Smith, commander of Joint Forces, said the measures would complicate the military chain of command and cause disagreement between the active-duty forces and the National Guard.

''My gut feeling is that it would be divisive, and I think creating a separate service, if you will, would be counter to the good order and discipline of the armed forces in general,'' Jones told the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. With the passage of the 2007 defense bill last week, Congress asked the commission to examine the issue as it reviews the role of the National Guard and Reserves. Congress created the 13-member body last year to consider whether changes are needed in the way part-time soldiers and airmen are organized, trained, equipped and paid.

Advocates of putting the National Guard on equal footing with the active-duty military say it would ensure that the Guard gets its fair share of funding and equipment. Currently, the Army National Guard and the Air Force National Guard report to the Department of the Army and to the Department of the Air Force, respectively. The chief of the National Guard Bureau, who oversees both Guard divisions, is a three-star general who acts as an advisor to the four-star generals who head the Army and the Air Force.

Under the proposal, however, the National Guard chief also would hold four-star status and be given a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a six-member panel that coordinates military policy. Army and Air National Guard, with more than 455,000 troops, have provided nearly half of the combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, virtually all of the peacekeepers in the Balkans and thousands for border security, disaster relief and other domestic missions.

The Iraq war has taken a toll on National Guard equipment stocks. Stateside units have only about one-third of the trucks, Humvees and other equipment they normally would have because most of their gear has been left in Iraq. The price tag for rebuilding those stocks has been estimated at $21 billion. ''It is one of the largest military forces, and it has the most missions,'' said John Goheen, of the National Guard Association of the United States. ``Yet it has no voice at the top of the Pentagon.''

Legislation proposed this year by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Christopher ''Kit'' Bond, R-Mo., also would require that the deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, which oversees all military operations in the United States, come from Guard's ranks. The final version of the fiscal 2007 defense authorization bill stripped out those provisions and required only that the National Guard commission look into the issue and come up with a set of recommendations.

In a Senate floor speech last week, Leahy said that gutting the proposal signaled to the National Guard that Congress is ``not interested in truly supporting them.'' Jones recommended that pay and mobilization procedures be streamlined for part-time troops to ease the call-up process and to ensure that once they are called up, Guardsmen and Reservists receive the same pay and benefits as active-duty troops.

Albuquerque Tribune
October 5, 2006
Top Officer: Guard Not Needed On Joint Chiefs
By Michael Gisick
America's highest-ranking military officer says he opposes a push backed by Gov. Bill Richardson to name a National Guard officer to the country's top council of generals. Richardson said last month that the Guard deserves a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in recognition of its increased role in the nation's defense. But during a stop in Albuquerque on Wednesday, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Peter Pace said the Guard is already adequately represented on the council.

Adding a National Guard general would be "counter-productive," Pace said. The Joint Chiefs, made up of six U.S. generals, advises the president on military policy. It includes representatives of the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, as well as a chairman and vice-chairman. Pace said the Army and Air Force National Guard are represented by the generals from those branches. Giving the guard components a distinct voice in the council would impede efforts to develop a "joint voice," he said.

Pace praised the Guard's performance and said the military "could not do what we've been asked to do without the Guard and Reserves." Richardson and other governors have expressed concern that the Guard - traditionally used by states to respond to natural disasters - has been stretched thin by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Richardson has said that placing a Guard general on the Joint Chiefs would give the Guard more say in its future and recognize that it is no longer a "secondary" military force.

As many as 40,000 National Guard troops were deployed to Iraq in 2004, about 40 percent of total U.S. troop strength there, though that number has declined since then. Members of the New Mexico Air and Army National Guards have made about 5,000 individual deployments since 2001, said Lt. Col. Kimberly Lalley, a New Mexico National Guard spokeswoman. That includes deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, the U.S.-Mexico border, Latin America and elsewhere, she said.

The New Mexico National Guard has about 4,000 members, Lalley said. Pace's comments on the Guard came after a luncheon speech Wednesday at the Rio Grande Inn in Old Town. Pace, the first Marine Corps general to serve as Joint Chiefs chairman, acknowledged a recent surge in violence in Iraq, which he attributed to increased operations against insurgents by U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Pace said the U.S. has enough troops in Iraq but that a greater number of competent Iraqi troops need to be trained, a process he acknowledged hasn't always gone well. "Clearly," Pace said, "many of the Iraqi forces we've trained haven't (had) the loyalty we'd want to the central government." That comment came after one audience member, who identified himself as a Marine Corps veteran, asked Pace how long the United States would put up with "this nonsense from the Iraqis."

Many Iraq analysts, including some within the U.S. military and intelligence communities, have issued increasingly dire warnings in recent months that sectarian violence and death-squad killings have left Iraq spiralling toward all-out civil war. But Pace praised the "courageous" leadership of Iraq's civilian leadership and said many Iraqi troops were performing well. He said the United States was determined to succeed in Iraq.

A handful of quiet protesters stood outside the hotel before Pace's speech. Terry Riley, a member of the group Veterans for Peace, said he was concerned the U.S. veteran's health care system still wasn't prepared to deal with returning service members. Several other protesters held signs declaring U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, an Albuquerque Republican, and President George W. Bush were "terrible on national security" and "disgracing our intelligence." Wilson and her opponent, Attorney General Patricia Madrid, attended Pace's speech. The speech was sponsored by the Kirtland Partnership Committee.