National Guard chief makes his budget case

The Pentagon is currently examining how it can cut at least $350 billion from its budget — and potentially $500 billion more from sequestration — which could have a big impact on all the services.

At the same time, Congress is pushing for the National Guard chief to have a permanent seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a move that’s opposed by Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

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“We must make the case in the building, in the Pentagon, that we are relevant, capable, accessible and a fully integrated component of the United States Army and Air Force,” McKinley said.

Guard members come as a smaller cost because they are part time, but that cost has increased with their tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, McKinley said. He said those in the Pentagon looking at Guard expenses only over the past 10 years are viewing it from a “very small snapshot in time.”

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley has previously said that budget-cutting could force the Air Force to reduce personnel. Some of those trims could hit the Guard, said Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, director of the Air National Guard, who said he’s been told the percentage of Air Force troops will likely be shifting from the Guard to active-duty forces.

McKinley said it was still too soon to talk specific numbers for force reductions with so much still up in the air from with the budget.