Nearly One-Third of Senate Now Sponsors Bill to Further Empower the Guard

Jun 30, 2011, 12:52 ET from National Guard Association of the U.S.

Legislation would elevate NGB chief to Joint Chiefs of Staff    

WASHINGTON, June 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thirty senators (list below) now sponsor legislation that would give the National Guard a voice in final resource decisions at the Pentagon.  

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced the National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act of 2011, S. 1025, in late May. Twenty-eight senators have since signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill includes a provision to give the Guard's senior officer a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  

The House approved a similar provision last month, meaning it now only needs Senate approval to be sent to the president, who committed to a Guard "seat at the table" in his 2008 campaign booklet, The Blueprint for America: Barack Obama's Plan for America.

"Thirty and counting," said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS). "This legislation has real momentum because a growing number of lawmakers recognize that the Guard will be increasingly important to the nation's defense and security, yet still goes largely unrepresented atop the Pentagon."

A formal role in final resource decisions is part of an ongoing effort by many on Capitol Hill and NGAUS that three years ago elevated the chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon from a three- to a four-star general.  

The NGB chief is now invited to participate in some discussions with the Joint Chiefs. However, he does not have a vote in final decisions. Nor does he have the ability to nominate Guard officers for positions that require Senate confirmation.

S. 1025 would enable the NGB chief to sit with the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines -- none of whom have ever served in the Guard -- and give the Guard, for the first time, representation in final deliberations on staffing and resources.  

All of the living former NGB chiefs, who were not allowed to support a Guard seat at the table while they served at the Pentagon, have endorsed the legislation.      

NGAUS believes the measure benefits more than just nearly 470,000 citizen-soldiers and airmen.

"We call this Guard Empowerment, but it's really so much more than just about giving the Guard a seat at the table," said Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, the NGAUS chairman of the board. "It's about giving homeland security and the Guard's domestic-response mission a seat at the table. It's about giving the nation's governors a seat at the table. The states are greatly impacted by what happens at the top of the Pentagon, but they currently have no real say in the proceedings."  

The comprehensive bill also would stabilize funding for Guard domestic missions, provide more transparency in equipment procurement and require the Pentagon to assess the cost savings and feasibility of shifting more responsibility for the nation's defense to the Guard and Reserve.  

In addition, it would establish a framework to formalize working relationships between the states and U.S. Northern Command, which allocates federal military assets during domestic missions, and requires that Guard officers head NORTHCOM's subordinate Army and Air Force commands.  

"Leveraging the Guard also offers some real solutions to some of today's pressing fiscal problems," Vavala added, "but only if Guard capabilities and cost savings get real consideration in final Pentagon decision making and more Guard officers are involved with future planning across the force. This legislation makes that happen."

Hargett said some Pentagon officials are chilly to the notion of adding another seat to the Joint Chiefs, but they need not be.

"We're not talking about creating a new service. The Guard will continue to be a proud part of the Army and Air Force," he said. "This is simply about giving the Guard -- the only component of the U.S. military with both a state and a federal mission -- a vote in the decisions that affect its ability to accomplish both missions."    

National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act of 2011

Introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Sen. Lamar Alexander,  R-Tenn.  
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.  
Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.  
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.  
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
Sen. Scott P. Brown, R-Mass.  
Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio  
Sen. Daniel Coats, R-Ind.  
Sen. Christopher A. Coons, D-Del.  
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.  
Sen. Al Franken,  D-Minn.
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y.  
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa  
Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D.  
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.  
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J.  
Sen. Richard G. Lugar, R-Ind.  
Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va.
Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J.  
Sen. Mark L. Pryor,  D-Ark.  
Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va.  
Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.  
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.  
Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine  
Sen. Jon Tester,  D-Mont.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.
Sen. Ron Wyden,  D-Ore.  

About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by petitioning Congress for more resources. Today, 133 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.

Internet Availability: This document and other Guard and NGAUS news and information are available at

SOURCE National Guard Association of the U.S.