Army defends National Guard cuts, National Guard fires back

Army leaders had a chance to defend their proposal to wary lawmakers on Tuesday that it was necessary to cut states’ National Guard forces along with active duty forces in order to keep the total force in balance. 

Army officials say that under defense budget cuts, they will have to shrink its active duty to 450,000, but also shrink the National Guard to 335,000, and the Army Reserve to 195,000 by 2017. 

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National Guard officials are fighting back hard against the cuts, saying they are more cost-effective than active duty troops, but Army officials say they need to cut the National Guard and Reserves in order to keep the total force in balance and avoid cutting more active soldiers.

“The secretary of the Army and I directed that cuts should come disproportionately from the active force before reducing the guard and reserve,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno testified Tuesday before the House Armed Services Committee. 

In addition, the Army is taking National Guard attack helicopters in exchange for their utility Blackhawk helicopters, which Army officials say will be more useful for states’ purposes.

"In order to meet the reductions imposed by sequestration and achieve the right balance, we have worked for the past two years on a total force policy that ensures the proper balance for the active, Guard and reserve components," Odierno said. 

Last week, the Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Campbell defended the National Guard proposed cuts in an exclusive interview with The Hill

"If I can't touch the Guard, and make minimal changes, the only place I can go is to take out the readiness and more forces from the active," Campbell said.

Several governors and lawmakers have also raised concerns over cutting National Guardsmen, who also act as states’ emergency forces.  

“The National Guard is significantly more cost-effective over its life cycle, at approximately one-third of the cost [of active forces], when not mobilized and approximately 80 percent to 95 percent of the cost when mobilized,” said Rep. William Enyart (D-Ill.). 

Enyart also said he was concerned about the decision to transfer the National Guard’s attack helicopters to the active side. 

“You are taking away from the guard's ability to train because they're not going to be able to train as they fight,” he said. 

The National Guard Association of the United States issued a statement earlier Tuesday, arguing that they were left out of the Army’s decision-making.

“They will stress that the proper balance must be struck among the active-component Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve. And they will say decisions about that balance can and should be worked out by the leaders of the components. We couldn’t agree more,” they said in a statement. 

“The problem is, the give and take that is an essential part of such an effort never occurred in the development of the fiscal 2015 Army budget request now before Congress, which is why there is so much public disagreement between Guard and Army leaders today.”