Retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, president of AUSA speaks during the opening ceremony for the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army last year. (Mike Morones/Staff)
The Association of the United States Army is pushing back against legislation that would create a commission to determine the future makeup of the US Army.
“Such a commission is unnecessary, could damage Army readiness, and would impede the Army’s ability to implement spending reductions required by the 2011 Budget Control Act,” said retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, a former Army chief of staff and AUSA’s president, in a letter Feb. 11 to House Speaker John Boehner.
“There is no reason to empower a committee to redesign the Army,” Sullivan wrote. “The Army components’ senior leaders are best qualified to organize, train and equip a total force that will reflect the Army’s role in deterrence, meeting treaty obligations, supporting domestic crises and disaster relief, and, ultimately, fighting and winning the nation’s conflicts.”
Sullivan’s letter, which also was sent to other House leaders, is the latest in an ongoing dispute between the Army and Army National Guard over tightening budgets.
The National Guard Association of the United States has publicly slammed Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno for remarks he made during a press briefing, calling his comments, “disrespectful and simply not true.”
Odierno, in talking about the risks that come with shrinking the Army below the 490,000 floor set for 2015, said active Army and Army Guard “capabilities are not interchangeable.”
The National Guard Association also has fought back against an Army proposal to reorganize its aviation assets by divesting the OH-58 Kiowa and using the AH-64 Apache to fill the armed scout reconnaissance role. This would require moving the Guard’s Apaches into the active Army; in exchange, the Guard would receive more UH-60 Black Hawks.
The Army is already cutting 80,000 soldiers from the active force for an end-strength of 490,000 by 2015. Some reports have said the Army will cut even more troops in the future, going to an end-strength of 420,000 by 2019.
Under that plan, the Army Guard would fall from 354,000 to 315,000 soldiers, and the Army Reserve from 205,000 to 185,000 soldiers.
The legislation Sullivan refers to in his letter to Boehner is HR 3930, sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. The bill, which already has 72 co-sponsors, would establish a National Commission on the Structure of the Army and prohibit the Army from divesting, retiring or transferring any aircraft from the Army National Guard. It also would stop any end-strength reductions in the Army Guard at 350,000.
“It seems premature to consider a commission before the FY15 budget proposal is released and posture hearings are conducted,” Sullivan wrote. “It is important to know what overall budget level is proposed and where tradeoffs are made and priorities are set. Freezing the size and equipment of one Army component for the next two years when funding will no doubt diminish leads toward a ‘hollow Army’ that is poorly trained and equipped.”
The threat of sequestration and the ongoing budget crisis add urgency to the work being done by the Army to shape the force for the future, said retired Lt. Gen. Guy Swan, vice president of education for AUSA.
“Our view is this should be done as a total Army effort by Army leaders,” Swan said. “The National Guard Bureau, the Army National Guard, the chief of staff of the Army, the chief of the Army Reserve should be doing this rather than a politically motivated, or potentially politically motivated, commission.”
On the flip side, NGAUS has called on its members to ask their representatives to support Wilson’s bill.
The Army’s plan “flies in the face of fiscal reality,” NGAUS wrote in a legislative alert to its members. “Two studies done by Pentagon agencies tout the efficiencies found in the National Guard, which can perform the same missions as the active component for about one-third the cost.”
The Army “created its plan without significant input from National Guard state leaders, who understand the need for economic responsibility and are willing to accept reasonable cuts that do not affect the dual-mission status of the force,” according to NGAUS.
The commission proposed in Wilson’s bill would be similar to the eight-member panel put in place to study the future force mix of the Air Force. The National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, which delivered its report in January, called for the Air Force to move as much manpower as possible into the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.
The commission found that shifting the component mix would save $2 billion a year in manpower costs without any total force reduction.
“Some will say this was done for the Air Force, why not for the Army?” Swan said. “We would say these are two completely different services, two completely different missions, organizations [and] structures. I don’t know all the reasons for establishing the Air Force commission, but you have to ask, ‘What problem are we solving by establishing this commission while the senior leaders in the Guard, the Reserve, the active force are still doing the work of restructuring?’ ”