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Joint Hearing of Air and Land Forces Subcommittee and the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee - The Readiness Decline of the Army, Marine Corps, National Guard and Reserves and the Implications for National Security

Interview

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

REP. MADELEINE BORDALLO (D-GU): Thank you. Thank you very much, Mr. Donnelly. I have a couple of questions and of course I do want thank Chairman Ortiz and Chairman Abercrombie for calling this hearing and for their leadership overseeing the readiness of our armed forces.

Today's topic about the readiness shortfalls in our ground forces is extraordinarily important to all of us. I'm one of the sponsors of House Resolution 834 and I believe that it is important for us as a Congress to acknowledge that there are some critical readiness shortfalls and that we should take the necessary actions to correct this.

And I want to thank all of you here, this panel of defense policy experts, thank you for your testimonies this afternoon. I am particularly concerned about the current levels of equipment that are available to the governors of the 50 states and the four territories including Guam.

Lieutenant General Blum puts it best. He says that it takes the people plus equipment plus training to equal a capability. Nationally, the National Guard only has about 43 percent of its equipment on hand and available for use by the commanders-in-chief of the states and the territories and our governors. On Guam we only have a staggering 17 percent of equipment available for use by the governor. Obviously, this poses a significant challenge to having a viable operational force. The equation is out of balance and we need to fix this problem.

So I pose this question to any one of you who feels that you can answer it. Each year the president's budget request includes a document known as the PIR, which provides a breakdown of how much of the service procurement request is planned for the National Guard and the Reserves. The only National Guard and Reserve equipment report required under title X does not really provide the Congress with an effective oversight tool for visibility on whether or not services are in actual fact spending the money as indicated in the PIR.

So, could you answer this: In your opinion do you think it would be effective if Congressmen --- if Congress reformatted its authorization and appropriations committee conference reports to convey congressional intents for breakdown of each procurement line for active National Guard and Reserve components or would it be more beneficial to have a separate procurement account for the National Guard and Reserves. I'd like to hear your thoughts on such ideas for potential action. Any one of you.

MR. KORB: I think, given the fact that the guards as become an operational reserve rather than a strategic reserve and obviously we're not --- nobody wants to go back to conscription --- you need to ensure by --- in the appropriations process that the equipment goes right to them, because if you don't, then I can tell you from my own "station" as they say in the building, it will go to where the --- you know, the overall service wants it, so you need to do that.

I mean that's why for example, Congress created a separate assistant secretary for Reserve Affairs because there was a concern that if he did not do that, that the voice of the reserves would not be heard and it would get lost in the shuffle. That's why Congress created a special operations force budget so they could do that. So, yes, if you want to do that I think you need to do that and you also might want to consider, and I know other people have talked about it, making the head of the National Guard Bureau a four-star officer so that he or she can sit at the table with the other chiefs.

REP. BORDALLO: Thank you very much.

Ms. Flournoy, do you have comments on that?

MS. FLOURNOY: Yeah. I have not looked at the specific alternatives that you have laid out to have a strong opinion over which way is best, but I do agree with the sentiment that now we are turning to the National Guard and Reserves as more than operational force, we need to fundamentally reprioritize the equipping of that force. They have been consistently under-resourced over a period of years.

The wear and tear that they've experienced in recent situations has only exacerbated that problem, and I think even current plans to restore their equipment only brings them up to --- doesn't bring them up to a 100 percent of their authorized levels, so --- even though the "get-well plan" gets them about 75 percent of the way.

And now that we have the sort of transnational terrorism and very real risks to our homeland security, not only natural disasters like Katrina, but attacks like 9/11, I think the strategic importance of the Guard, not only as an operational reserve for missions abroad but as a force for response at home has gone up substantially and I think we have to adjust the way we equip and fund the Guard accordingly.

MR. DONNELLY: If I may, I would ---

REP. BORDALLO: Yes, Mr. Donnelly.

MR. DONNELLY: I would agree with the diagnosis of the problem. I would be very leery of a separate and discreet procurement account particularly in a time of war and when we have essentially a just-in- time readiness model. Removing any further flexibility from the army's ability to manage its resources is likely to have unintended second-order consequences. And also I think it's important to distinguish between the federally organized Army Reserve and the state-level National Guard units.

So I would agree that the need to modernize the Guard is more pressing than it has ever been and I would agree with both Michele and Larry's characterizations of the Guard as an operational reserve. However, I'm not sure that --- certainly, a discreet and separate procurement account or set of accounts would not create more problems than it solved.

REP. BORDALLO: Thank you, Mr. Donnelly. Well, I can't quite agree with you. I feel that, you know, there has to be some specific language or whatever; whenever you don't have a specific account of something it's going to be lost in the general fund and I do agree that this is what's happening here and I think this is why the Guard and Reserves are shortchanged.

I have another question here; this again is to any one of our panelists. As with all the other services, the National Guard Bureau publishes an unfunded requirements document every year. Every year it seems the unfunded requirements go for issues like fulltime support and training, which are essential elements to have a ready and operational force. The service components have acknowledged that the National Guard is an operational force. However, I am skeptical of the financial commitment that is truly needed to make the National Guard a truly operational force. Short of ending the war in Iraq what other alternatives or actions should Congress look into in order to provide additional training dollars for the National Guard? Are there any recommendations from the recent National Guard and Reserve Commission report that could help with this aspect of funding?

We will begin with you, Mr. Korb.

MR. KORB: The job of the secretary of defense and the president and the Congress is to set priorities. I don't care how much money you're willing to spend you can't buy perfect security. And it seems to me, as you look at the threats that the United States faces, the immediate threat's that you've got to give priority as Michele mentioned here, to homeland defense. That is now under mission. You've also got to give priority to the fact that the Guard is, as you pointed out, is going to be used as an operational reserve. So, I think, therefore, when you look at the unfunded requirements you have to put them up against things like buying weapons systems for an era that no longer exists. We still buy an awful lot of weapons that were designed primarily for the Cold War and now continue to be justified on the basis of some potential future threat.

So I think that's what you --- I think that's what you have to do. And as I looked at the budget that was submitted to Congress this year, by the administration, they made no hard choices; they just kicked the can down the road to the next administration.

For example, both Secretary Gates and Deputy Secretary Gordon England on record are saying that the production of F/A-22 should stop at a 182, (1)83 planes, whatever it is. But yet they didn't cross the production line. So what that means is that the Air Force will come back next year and ask for more and that's what we'll be competing against, these unfunded requirements which in my view should have a higher priority given the immediate threats that we face.

REP. BORDALLO: Thank you. Thank you very much. Ms. Flournoy?

MS. FLOURNOY: I guess I would just echo the priorities of --- I think the first task is to restore the Guard's readiness for its homeland defense and security missions, because we have not backup there. I mean they are --- they're it --- (laughs) --- given how busy the active duty force is which is usually the backup. So I think that's got to be the first priority.

And the second, I would say, there are parts of the Guard that are more stressed than others. The Army has parked a number of so- called high-density, I'm sorry, high-demand-low-density assets in the Guard and those forces are the ones who are seeing the particularly high levels of PERSTEMPO and OPTEMPO, repeated deployments, and so forth and I would focus there, on getting that part of the force well both in terms of time at home for personnel and equipment and then I would look to trying to get back to resourcing the kinds of sustainable deployment tempos that are in Army plans, you know, sort of, of five to six years between one-year tours for looking at the Guard as an operational reserve which would seem a very far, you know, very distant vision at this time. But I think that would be the next priority on my list of things to try to get back to.

REP. BORDALLO: Thank you.

Mr. Donnelly.

MR. DONNELLY: Again, I would just say that the active force and the reserve components are so deeply intertwined at this point that any solution that targets only a part of the problem is almost sure to have unintended consequences.

So if we want to restore the pace of operations for the reserve components, that I would agree is preferable, I think the first thing that has to be fixed is the active component, and particularly the active-duty Army.

There are these things -- again, the Marine Corps is now essentially involved in what are traditional Army long-duration reinforced missions. So if we want to fix the system, I would say the place to start is with the active force, and we have to have some patience in order to understand this is going to take a long time to remedy the problems that have accumulated over the past 15 years.

One of the problems is that we don't have a good measure for balancing these various risks, the risks of fighting abroad versus the risks of lack of preparedness for our homeland defense and homeland security.

So I understand that these shortfalls increase the stress on Guardsmen and Reservists. But I think anything less than a holistic approach to the solution means a very great risk of making -- I think, in an unintended way just compounding our problems rather than solving them.

REP. BORDALLO: Thank you, Mr. Donnelly.

I now have a question, perhaps Mr. Korb, you could answer this. Do you have any suggestions for actions the Congress can take to improve the readiness beyond the supplemental?

MR. KORB: Well, I think what you have to do again is to focus on -- in the budget on the short-term problems. I think that, for example, I'll leave personnel aside for a second, you can buy equipment, you know it's being worn out.

I think that Congressman Abercrombie and people like Senator McCain have said after, you know, more than five years of war in Iraq and six in Afghanistan, we should put this stuff in the regular budget.

We know how much this equipment is being burned up, you know, as we go. So that should be in the regular budget where we'd then have to compete with other programs that don't deal with the immediate threat.

And I think that's the way you do it, once you settle on how much money you're going to spend, then I think -- then you look at the priorities.

But what's happening now is you're putting a lot of this into the -- you're putting it into the supplemental, and at some point the supplementals will end.

And when the supplementals end, then the question becomes what happens to these. After Vietnam, we did not do that. I mean, after the war in Vietnam ended, we did not continue to reset the force, and it took us quite a while to be able to get the force -- get the readiness back to where we needed.

REP. BORDALLO: Thank you, thank you very much for your suggestions, Mr. Korb.

The chair would like to recognize another one of the members of the (Readiness ?) Committee, in Mr. Saxton, for any questions you may have.

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