The former chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserve, said, "DoD is carrying way too much overhead," especially when it comes to personnel and health care costs for the active duty force.
Arnold Punaro, speaking Sept. 23 at the unveiling of the Center for New American Security’s report on investing in the National Guard and reserve, said. "You can’t have a strong defense without a strong economy" and "some hard choices are coming" for the Defense Department and Congress in deciding what will be the priorities for spending.
As an example of rising costs, he said the annual compensation cost for a mid-grade officer has risen from $80,000 a decade ago to $250,000. "Thirty-five percent of all DoD spending" goes through the personnel accounts. Punaro, a retired Marine Corps Reserve major general, said the military retirement system was designed for a conscripted force. "We know that it is not sustainable to pay people for 60 years to serve 20."
Punaro, who also recently chaired a Defense Business Board task force looking for ways to increase the department’s efficiency, said that the reserve components were not only indispensible they were a bargain.
John Nagl, one of the co-authors of the "Indispensible Force" report which was endorsed by all the commissioners of Punaro’s panel, said, "The ongoing demand for the guard and reserve remains high and I expect it to remain high in the future," in part due to the civilian skills these service members bring to the military.
In looking at the reserve components’ situation now, "The glass is more than half full" in defining the roles and missions of the National Guard and reserve, their readiness, their cost, availability of professional education and developing a "continuum of service."
Nagl, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and president of the center, said areas of concern include "too many turf battles" in crisis response – especially with the Department of Homeland Security – the shortage of modern equipment for training and the strain of continuing deployments over nine years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Adding, "It’s way too hard to switch from active service to reserve and back. …We need a more flexible personnel system" to create a continuum of service.
Margaret Leed, director and senior fellow in the New Defenses Approach Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggested launching a series of demonstration projects to see how a true continuum of service could be developed for different specialties. She said that cyber would be a good area for such an early test.
Dennis McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, said, "I think you’re going to see in the very near future" an overhaul of the 40 plus duty statuses guardsmen and reservists are now in."
Gen. Craig McKinley, USAF, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said it was particularly important to "not have tiered readiness put on us" to meet the state requirement.
"Next year’s budget will be the first look at how serious [the services and Department of Defense] are about an operational reserve" being paid for in the base spending plan rather than supplementals, Leed said.
McKinley added, "The historical fact is that the National Guard and reserve were the first to be cut" after World War II and Korea and "readiness slipped."
Speaking from the floor, William Navas, a former director of the Army National Guard, said the issue of the budget battles of the 1990s and earlier "is something we have to get beyond." Adding, "The problem we have today is our national security system is a product of 1947. He compared it to a "Sears catalogue of the 1950s competing with Amazon."
The report said, "It is time for the U.S. government to accelerate the transformation of the guard and reserve into the type of ready, capable and available operational force that will prove essential to protecting the United States at home and abroad throughout the 21st century."
Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., president of the Association of the United States Army, wrote in the report’s foreword: "After a decade of war in which active duty and reserve troops serve side-by-side, the sweat of shared sacrifice should wash away lingering rivalries, particularly among the younger generation of service members."