Federal News Service April 29, 2004 Thursday
Copyright 2004 The Federal News Service, Inc.
Federal News Service
April 29, 2004 Thursday
HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM SUBJECT: TRANSFORMING THE NATIONAL GUARD: RESOURCING FOR READINESS
CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE TOM DAVIS (R-VA)
WITNESSES PANEL II: PAUL MCHALE, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR HOMELAND SECURITY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE; THOMAS F. HALL, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RESERVE AFFAIRS, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE;
LIEUTENANT GENERAL H. STEVEN BLUM, CHIEF, NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU; MAJOR GENERAL JOHN A. LOVE, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO COMBATANT COMMANDER FOR NATIONAL GUARD AFFAIRS, U.S. NORTHERN COMMAND
LOCATION: 2154 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
TIME: 10:00 A.M.
REP. TOM DAVIS (R-VA): We have today the Honorable Paul McHale, assistant secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and a former member of this body. Paul, welcome back in a different role here, but it's good to have you here. The Honorable Thomas F. Hall, the assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs; Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum, the chief of the National Guard Bureau; and Major General John Love, the special assistant to the combatant commander for National Guard Affairs, United States Northern Command.
It's the policy of this committee that all witnesses be sworn before you testify, so if you would rise and raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that the testimony you're about to give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Thank you very much.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you to our panel, I appreciate your willingness to come and visit with us on these issues today. The health of the National Guard, the strength of the National Guard is very important to all of us, and I have two questions. My first question I am going to direct to Mr. Hall and General Blum, and then Mr. McHale, I will come to you with my second question. I do want to be brief in consideration of everyone's time.
One of the things that I am very concerned about, Mr. Hall and General Blum, is the 168th out of Lebanon, Tennessee, which is military police. Now, we have talked a lot this morning about predictability, about readiness and the quality of life with the families and Governor Pataki was very forthcoming with what he's doing to address those issues in New York. The 168th out of Lebanon was activated in December '02. They were deployed in June of '03, and they're in the group that just got extended for another 90 to 100 days.
And this is of great concern to us, because of the families that are involved and the length of this deployment. We know that retention and readiness is important but I think that-I'm very concerned for the families of the 168th and how this lengthy deployment does affect them. What I want to know is what you plan to do, if you restructure that will keep that from happening again? Then, Mr. McHale, for your answer, the question I would like for you to answer for me is we look at this restructuring and we talk about having missions that are complementary, mutually reinforcing, the one thing that we've not focused on a lot in this hearing is going forward with the implementation, what the estimated cost of stepping up the readiness, and as we talk about cost, are you look at a five year frame or a ten year frame, have you given an estimate to the restructuring on the increased time and what that increased training time is going to cost us.
The different units, the equipping of these and how-what that cost is going to be, so backing it up, Mr. McHale, I'll ask you to speak to the cost, but first Mr. Hall and General Blum, if you will address the restructuring to keep from happening, what has happened with the 168th?
MR. HALL: We are all very concerned with having to have that extension. We worry about the families. I spent 34 years in the military deployed all the time as an active duty person, and I worried about that family at that point and we are continuing to do that. That decision was made because the combatant commander felt that he needed to have it, and as Secretary Rumsfeld and General Myers said, we have to provide him the force, and so it was a very difficult decision.
We have over 6,000 Guardsmen and Reservists including the ones you mentioned who are involved in the 20,000 both the Guard and the Army Reserve are having town halls meeting with the families, dedicated to every month, reconnecting with the families, trying to help them, give them as much assistance as we possibly can. And what we're doing to prohibit this or to mitigate it for the future is what I mentioned earlier.
We are restructuring, and in this case building more military police battalions, eighteen provisional battalions, I'll let General Blum talk about it, from excess capacity in artillery and others, we want to build a larger base so that we don't have to go back and touch the same groups or extend them, so we're accelerating that re- balancing and building more military police because we know for sure in conflicts in the future, military police are going to be needed, and we need to build a larger base, so that's a major focus point along with civil affairs, and I'll ask General Blum if he has something.
GEN. BLUM: Congresswoman Blackburn, you're exactly right. Nobody liked what happened to the 168th, nobody wanted that to happen. Unfortunately we're in a war where we don't control all of the conditions, and unfortunately they have a special skill set that is in short supply, and was needed a little bit longer in theater to keep the mission in theater from becoming at risk. Those soldiers, because they are so superb, because they are so well-trained, because they have such good situational awareness and have been conditioned to the environment, they are hugely effective and very valuable to the combatant commander on the ground.
The combatant commander asked for a very small number, now you're the one, that is-that number's one too many. If you're the family member, the employer of the service member that's been extended, even one, that's one too many. But it's a very small number of units and National Guardsmen that have been asked to extend beyond the already extended one year boots on the ground policy.
They will be there as short as possible. I am in communication with the ground commander almost weekly to make sure that they are closely examining the absolute necessity and requirement for the 168th to stay in theater, and they will be released as soon as they can possible be released. To answer your question directly, how do you keep that from happening again? I have to develop the right kind of capabilities in the right numbers of units distributed across the nation, so that Tennessee doesn't have to pay or bear an unfair burden in the defense of this nation.
And right now we are not set up exactly perfect to optimize our shelf-stockage, to use a civilian term. And I need more shelf stockage of the right kinds of units and capabilities in the right modularity that we are attempting to develop as fast as we can. Now we have converted 18 artillery units from around the country, and this month they will be certified as military police units. And then they will be available to go into the rotational base so that I can get when the 168th comes home, I can look those soldiers, citizen soldiers in the eye and tell them and their families and their employers they will probably not have to face another call up for about five or six years, of the extended duration overseas.
And that's the best I can do, and it's not going to be-I won't that perfect probably for another 24 months, but we will be in a much better position by the end of this month to provide additional MPs into subsequent rotations which means to the 168th they don't have to go back so soon, maybe ever.