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US Guard Bureau Grows by 17%, but Cuts Coming

Jan. 20, 2014 - 02:00PM   |  
Reserve Symposium: US Army Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, participates in the Reserve chiefs panel at the Reserve Officers Association National Security Symposium, Washington.
Reserve Symposium: US Army Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, participates in the Reserve chiefs panel at the Reserve Officers Association National Security Symposium, Washington. (US Army)
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Total Number of Funded Positions

Headquarters, National Guard Bureau
2009: 744
2010: 852
2011: 869
2012: 867
2013: 867


WASHINGTON — The US National Guard Bureau staff has grown nearly 17 percent since 2009, according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, but the headquarters office that oversees state units across the country plans to realign itself and shrink in the coming years, defense officials said.

The staff increases coincide with the elevation in rank and responsibilities of the Guard Bureau’s chief from a three- to a four-star general. The bulk of the growth of support personnel came between 2009 and 2010 when 108 positions were added, according to GAO.

In 2009, 744 people worked at the Guard Bureau. In 2013, that number rose to 867. GAO, in its report, said more growth with the bureau is possible, but Guard officials said that is not likely.

“We do not expect growth but rather realignment of existing personnel authorizations,” Maj. Jonathan Craig, a spokesman for the bureau, said in an email. “We are focused on providing a staff tailored to support the role and responsibilities of the Chief, National Guard Bureau, as member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

To get a better handle on the makeup of the staff and responsibilities, the bureau has launched an initiative called “Project Muster.” The goal of the initiative is to “realign its headquarters processes” to support the new roles and responsibilities that come with the chief and vice chief’s elevated status and placement among the Joint Chiefs, GAO said.

GAO was critical that the Guard Bureau does not have its staffing requirements independently validated by an outside organization, a process used by the military services.

The agency also said that Project Muster might provide skewed data since one of its “baseline assumptions is that the bureau’s current manpower will be retained to meet preexisting requirements.”

In addition to Project Muster, the Army and Air Force are conducting an analysis that looks at the Guard Bureau’s organizational structure.

Congress elevated the bureau’s director from a three to four-star general in 2008, and then made the director a member of the Joint Chiefs in 2011.

The bureau coordinates between individual state Guard units, which are controlled by governors. Guard units are overseen by the Pentagon leadership when mobilized, for instance in Afghanistan. Guard units have picked up additional missions in recent years, particularly at the state level.

A Defense News analysis in June 2013 found the headquarters staffs within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff and geographic combatant commands grew more than 15 percent despite orders to shrink.

The Pentagon data reviewed for that analysis did not include figures for the National Guard Bureau because the office is considered a sub-activity of the Army and Air Force, the only two services with Guard components.

GAO said the bureau should be considered a major Defense Department headquarters and should have its figures included with the other services.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in July announced plans to cut funding and positions within these areas by 20 percent over a five-year period. The reductions are expected to save $1 billion, Hagel said.

The National Guard Bureau will reduce headquarters personnel by 20 percent over that same five-year period, Craig said.

“The chief fully supports this DoD-wide effort and is already reviewing positions within his own staff for potential reduction,” Craig said.

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