Merging Guard and Reserve is the wrong idea at the wrong time

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Merging of the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard involves well over 500,000 personnel, and if the Air Reserve and Air National Guard are included in the discussion, the impact affects approximately three-quarters of a million personnel. Such a monumental undertaking should not be considered lightly. Only in the face of systemic failure could one justify the broad sweeping changes contained in this proposal. Over a decade of operations on two fronts, no one of any rank or service has seriously questioned the contribution or operational capacity of our Reserve components. No reasonable case has been made for uprooting personnel, redistributing resources and restructuring the command of a system with such high performance reviews.
 
Amidst our current fiscal environment ROA acknowledges the plain fact that hard budget decisions must be made across all uniformed services. Yet we urge caution when considering proposals of this nature: cost savings at the expense of strategic responsibility. The facts are, no major defense proponent has called for this change – not the secretary of Defense, no governor, no service chief, and no chief of a Reserve or Guard component. No case has been made to support any substantive national security advantage to a merger. As proposed, such a move would in fact deter the RC’s flexibility in national security operations as the President and Combatant Commanders would find their access to the Reserves limited by law and politics. Federal Reserve forces would find their operability substantially constrained if their roles and missions were restricted to a Governor’s control and limited to the scope of state level responses. Under current law, Federal Reserve assets are adaptable; eligible to deploy across a wide range of natural and man-made domestic security emergencies.
 
More broadly, merger proposals ignore the long and distinguished history of each respective service. All too often the Guard and Reserve are lumped into one category of public awareness. The fact is: the Guard and Reserve are distinctly different. The Guard is largely made up of combat formations and the Reserve is combat support and combat service support. Guard personnel are drawn from their state. Reserve units draw their personnel from across State borders and regions. A merger would have untold consequences on careers and unit viability. Confusion would reign as legal issues between Title 10 (governing federal forces) and Title 32 (governing state forces) are sorted through. Simply put, this is a classic case of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” Even discussion of merger adds to the ongoing burdens of serving Reserve and Guardsmen – 63,000 are currently activated and serving both in this country and around the world – while other units and personnel are preparing for their missions. The merger idea should be left at rest while other major ideas addressing both the active and reserve components receive our thoughtful attention.  

Davis, a retired major general in the U.S. Marine Corps, is the executive director of the 60,000 member Reserve Officers Association.