Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

This is an interesting excerpt:


The issue has stirred tensions inside the Pentagon and carries an undertone of class warfare pitting well-compensated full-time soldiers against part-timers. Guard and Reserve advocates contend these soldiers cost far less than active-duty troops and offer a better deal to the U.S. taxpayer. “We are convinced that end-strength reductions in the Reserve component are not a practical or long-term solution to ensuring our nation’s security in an era of fiscal restraints,” lawmakers wrote in a Dec. 13 letter.

I was always under the impression the National Guard and Reserve service members received the same compensation as active duty personnel when they are on active duty.  I think this is the kind of rhetoric we are going to see more of and the active force (and the veterans who have retired) are going to be the growing targets of "compensation reform."  The new narrative is going to be that the active duty force and retired veterans are over compensated and thus should have their health and pension benefits reduced in order to reduce defense expenditures as well as protect the entitlement programs of other parts of the government.  As I have said (and I know people do not like this analogy) but the political mobilization of the latent or incipient phase of the anti-military/veteran insurgency is reaching the guerrilla warfare phase. Yes the analogy is simply an attention getting device and there is not really a deliberate insurgency but the conditions are forming into a perfect storm in the political realm and it gives the appearance of an insurgency being conducted by Congressional fiscal hawks with the Department of Defense conducting unconventional warfare to support the insurgency or resistance or coerce, disrupt, or overthrow the well or overly compensated military personnel and veterans.  


I do believe that there must be compensation reform and I think there are ways to do it for the good of the force over the long term but I am afraid that Congress and the fiscal hardliners (and the Department of Defense based on the current rhetoric) are going to focus on the short term solutions that will end up having long term negative effectives for the military in general and military personnel and families in particular.  The answer is that all the military support organizations, e.g., MOAA, AUSA, etc (who ironically have no opposing lobbying organizations who deliberately advocate against the agendas of these organizations) must develop realistic strategies that will have to include compromise that lead to effective reforms of the military compensation system.  It is going to be a hard pill to swallow but we are going to need to take a long term approach that will have to include some sacrifice.  Otherwise we might end up winning all the battles (such as restoring the 1% COLA cut) and in the end lose the war (big cuts to retirement and health care for military person, veterans, and their families).  The one thing that we might want to consider advocating is that if the military and veterans must sacrifice then non-military citizens who benefit from government entitlement programs should also have to sacrifice as I think Bryan McGrath recently argued that the military should be leaders when sacrifice is required.  Again, this is not going to be acceptable to anyone but if we continue the direct action frontal attacks against military compensation reform we will lose the war.
V/R
Dave


1/7/2014

Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers
By Sandra I. Erwin 


Gen. Ray Odierno
At the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Army active-duty soldiers made up 51 percent of the force. The other 49 percent was a mix of reservists and members of the National Guard.

Over the coming years — as budgets shrink and the active-duty Army thins its ranks — that split will shift in favor of the Guard and Reserve, said Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff.

The Army is comfortable with a 46/54 share, Odierno said Jan. 7 at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C. But any further rebalancing would not be acceptable, he said, because it would leave the Army with too many part-time soldiers.

Odierno insisted that each component of the Army — active-duty, Reserve and National Guard — has unique skills and missions, and that all are needed.

The chief’s comments come amid a torrent of congressional criticism that the Army is dipping into the National Guard to help pay for training, operations and other priorities. In letters to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last month, leaders of the House and Senate grumbled about Army proposals to trim the National Guard down to 315,000 troops, or about 35,000 fewer than the pre-9/11 force.

The issue has stirred tensions inside the Pentagon and carries an undertone of class warfare pitting well-compensated full-time soldiers against part-timers. Guard and Reserve advocates contend these soldiers cost far less than active-duty troops and offer a better deal to the U.S. taxpayer. “We are convinced that end-strength reductions in the Reserve component are not a practical or long-term solution to ensuring our nation’s security in an era of fiscal restraints,” lawmakers wrote in a Dec. 13 letter.

Odierno pushed back, noting that the active-duty force is bearing the bulk of the reductions. The Army’s original plan was to downsize from a peak of 570,000 to 490,000 by 2018. In the wake of sequester cuts last year, the goal was accelerated by two years. The current force stands at 527,000, with projected annual cuts of 20,000 through the end of fiscal year 2015. “Then we will have to make decisions on where we go from there,” depending on “available resources,” Odierno said. The Reserve and Guard combined currently have about 555,000 troops.

If the active-duty Army has to drop below 490,000, he said, the Reserve and Guard can also expect further cuts, said Odierno. “We're still working on what those numbers are.”

Each component is important, he said, but the “capabilities are not interchangeable.” There is a reason why the active component is more expensive, he added. “It gives you a higher level of readiness because they're full time.”

National Guard soldiers perform valuable duties, he said, but they train only 39 days a year. “To say that the National Guard is cheaper and can replace the active-duty force is not true,” he said. The same can be said about active-duty troops not being adequate substitutes for guardsmen who have unique responsibilities in homeland defense under state governments. “It's about getting the right balance between the two,” said Odierno.

The 2014-2015 budget deal that Congress approved in December gives the military some relief from sequester cuts but not enough to spare the Army from deep cuts, Odierno noted. “I'm grateful” for the budget agreement, he said. In the long term, however, the Army still has more people, missions and programs than it can afford. After next year, “We go back to the problem of the balance between end strength, readiness and modernization,” he said. “I can't get that balance until 2020. That creates six years of vulnerability.”

The reduced spending caps that Congress mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011 — which still are in place for eight years after 2015 — could compel further reductions in ground forces, Hagel warned in July when he unveiled a "Strategic Choices and Management Review" as a preview of what future budgets might entail.

One scenario would be to shrink Army end-strength to between 420,000 and 450,000 active-duty troops and between 490,000 and 530,000 in the reserves.

Hagel cast the spending choices as a tradeoff between a larger, but poorly equipped force and one that is smaller, but more technologically advanced. “The balance we strike between capability, capacity, and readiness will determine the composition and the size of the force for years to come,” Hagel said. 
(Continued at the link below)

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