Testimony – National Commission on the Future of the Army

Joint Statement of
Governor Terry Branstad, State of Iowa
Governor Mark Dayton, State of Minnesota

On behalf of
The National Governors Association
The Council of Governors

Before the
National Commission on the Future of the Army
17 September 2015

On behalf of the nation’s governors, we thank the National Commission on the Future of the Army (Commission) for the opportunity to provide our views on the future of the U.S. Army and the role of the Army National Guard (ARNG). We appreciate your efforts to seek governors’ input during your examination of Army force structure and aviation restructuring proposals.

Governors strongly advocated for the creation of this Commission, and we recognize the challenge you face in weighing the concerns of all stakeholders. The Commission’s thorough and thoughtful consideration of the ARNG’s value to states and the nation will help ensure the National Guard continues to have access to the personnel, aircraft and resources necessary to fulfill its dual mission at home and abroad.

As commanders-in-chief, governors recognize the need to reorganize, restructure and modernize today’s military to meet new threats and economic realities. The Army’s proposed cuts, however, would return the ARNG to a strategic reserve, create turmoil across the states and waste 14 years of investment into the nation’s most cost-effective force.

As governors, we have witnessed the critical role the National Guard plays both in our states and for the nation. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (9/11), Minnesota National Guardsmen (MNNG) have performed more than 26,000 deployments – some numerous times – to 33 different countries, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the same time period, more than 17,000 Iowa National Guardsmen (IANG) have mobilized for combat and combat support duties in Iraq and Afghanistan, peacekeeping duties in the Balkans and on the Sinai Peninsula, and for other missions in more than 35 nations around the globe.  Approximately 4,000 currently serving IANG soldiers and airmen are combat veterans, representing more than 45 percent of the force – the highest percentage in modern history.

These mobilizations have demonstrated the operational readiness the ARNG maintains across all critical military capabilities to support national needs. In 2009, the MNNG’s 34th Infantry Division assumed responsibility from the regular Army’s 10th Mountain Division for Multinational Division South in Iraq. In this role, the MNNG provided command and control over all multinational forces operating in Iraq’s nine southern provinces until relieved by the 1st Infantry Division in 2010. The 1/34 Armored Brigade Combat Team has twice answered the nation’s call to perform critical security operations throughout Iraq and Kuwait during the surge period of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the final period of Operation New Dawn. Minnesota’s 34th Combat Aviation Brigade has mobilized twice to provide theater aviation as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and U.S. Central Command’s Operation Spartan Shield. Today, Minnesota Guardsmen continue to provide aviation and aviation maintenance units in support of Spartan Shield.  Minnesota Guardsmen remain ready and have been notified to prepare for mobilization to provide engineering capacity to operations in Kuwait as well as detainment operations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

During the Iraq surge in 2006-2007, an Iowa Army National Guard infantry battalion was mobilized for more than 22 months, making it one of the longest deployments for an Army unit during the Iraq war.  In 2010-2011, the IANG 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) deployed in its entirety to Afghanistan, supporting the 101st Airborne Division’s mission by conducting full-spectrum operations along the eastern border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Last January, an IANG medical unit was alerted to deploy in support of the West Africa Ebola mission before it was cancelled because of changing demands managing the disease and its spread. Since the beginning of Operation Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, the IANG has met every required operational assignment for deployment and has performed superbly.

At the same time, the ARNG has responded when called to domestic emergencies here at home. Minnesota Guardsmen have supported state and local civil authorities in response to 67 state disasters. Totaling more than 22,000 man-days, the Guard’s 10 essential mission capabilities were used to provide critical support helping protect the health and safety of Minnesota citizens. These include major responses to spring flooding in the Red River Valley, including three successive floods beginning in 2009 through 2011. The MNNG stood up a joint task force to provide military support to the 2008 Republican National Convention. Guardsmen efficiently supported the state in ensuring the security, safety and health of vulnerable Minnesota citizens jeopardized by a 2001 health care provider strike. Minnesota soldiers and airmen also have supported civil authorities in five federal disasters since 2001, including Super Storm Sandy in 2012, Hurricane Ike in 2008, Operation Jump Start on our nation’s southwest border in 2006, and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Iowa National Guardsmen have deployed in response to three major state disasters in a 17-year span, including the Great Midwest Floods of 1993, as well as floods in 2008 and 2011. During the 2008 floods, the 2nd BCT was extremely effective in its support to our communities. The unique organization and capabilities of the BCT, including manpower, command and control, logistical capabilities and enhanced communication platforms were essential in providing a flexible force capable of conducting missions necessary to meet the needs of the communities.

While governors understand the Army faces difficult budget challenges ahead, we believe that recent efforts to cut ARNG force structure are a step backwards and would make lasting, irreversible changes to the ARNG to meet short-term budget challenges. The proposal to cut ARNG end strength and transfer ARNG AH-64 Apache helicopters to the active component is not in the best interests of states, the Army or the nation in the long-term. It would undo years of progress by returning the ARNG to a pre-9/11 role and fail to leverage its cost-effectiveness in retaining mission capability at home and overseas.

As the Commission conducts its review, governors recommend that the following principles guide its work:

  • The National Guard must continue to serve as an operational force and the combat reserve for the Total Force.
  • The National Guard is a highly trained, battle tested asset that should continue to be properly resourced and equipped to meet the needs of both the federal government and states.
  • The National Guard’s cost-effectiveness should be leveraged to the fullest extent to meet the fiscal and operational challenges confronting the Total Force.

Governors and the Defense Budget 
Through the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Governors (Council), governors have worked to improve coordination and understanding on military issues between states and the federal government. Working together, state and federal partners found early success through the Council when they reached an historic agreement on the role of a Dual Status Commander during emergency response. This agreement resolved a long-standing dispute regarding command and control of federal and state military forces during domestic operations and brought fundamental change to how the country prepares for and responds to emergencies. 1 Since partnering on this effort, governors have sought to strengthen the state-federal relationship with the Department of Defense (DoD) to address other fiscal and national security challenges.

In 2012, the Council found itself at odds with an Air Force budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2013 that would have had a detrimental effect on states if implemented. At the time, the Air Force proposed to impose 59 percent of the total aircraft budget reductions and about six times the personnel reductions on the Air National Guard (ANG). Governors’ concerns with the Air Force budget were ultimately addressed by Congress and through the establishment of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. To avoid a similar dispute in future years, NGA and the Council worked diligently over the better part of 2012 to create a process for governors, their adjutants general and DoD to discuss future defense budget and program development. In 2013, the Council adopted a budget consultative process agreement to facilitate an ongoing interactive dialogue between states and DoD on budget and policy matters affecting the National Guard [Appendix A].

Despite this agreement, governors were once again disappointed by the lack of early engagement on budget and planning decisions affecting the ARNG prior to the release of the President’s FY 2015 budget. The Army’s proposal failed to recognize the role and importance of the ARNG in our states and the experience and cost-effectiveness that the ARNG provides to the Total Army. In response, nearly every governor signed a letter to the President strongly opposing the Army’s budget proposal [Appendix B].

After the release of the FY 2015 budget, DoD leadership updated governors on Army budget planning and included state adjutants general in a reexamination of the Army’s Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI) by the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office. Governors appreciate these efforts to improve engagement with states, but are frustrated that DoD and the Army have pressed forward with their original plans virtually unchanged, despite reasonable alternatives that addressed some of governors’ concerns.

Consequently, governors endorsed establishing this Commission and have worked with Congress to delay changes to ARNG force structure until the Commission can complete its examination. We hope the Commission and its review will help bridge the divide between the Army components and put the Total Army on a path to meet the future military needs of both states and the nation.

Maintaining the Guard as an Operationally Capable Force 
For well over a decade, the men and women of the ARNG have worked interchangeably with their active duty counterparts in Iraq and Afghanistan. That combat experience overseas has paid dividends as the National Guard has regularly responded to domestic missions here at home. Since 9/11, the ARNG has evolved into an operational force that is better trained, led and equipped than at any time in its history. Governors firmly believe that these capability gains and the taxpayer investment they represent should be maintained.

Last year, the Army released ARI, which consisted of three major components: divesting three types of aging, single engine aircraft across the Army components (Jet Ranger training helicopters and two models of OH-58 Kiowa armed scout/reconnaissance helicopters); transferring all ARNG Apache helicopters to the active component to replace the Kiowas; and transferring approximately 110 active Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to the ARNG. Governors recognize the need to restructure Army aviation, but oppose consolidating the Apache mission in the active component. We believe this plan not only undermines the ARNG’s ability to augment the Army as its combat reserve, but also fails to leverage the Guard’s cost-effectiveness to retain additional manpower, expertise and attack aircraft at a reduced cost to taxpayers. It is true that Apaches have limited application for the homeland mission; however, governors value and recognize the broader, long-term importance that strategic depth for the Total Army provides to their states and the nation.

In an attempt to address governors’ concerns with the loss of Apaches, the Army proposed to provide states with additional L-Model Blackhawks. Trading Blackhawks for Apaches is not an acceptable trade for states. While Blackhawks play an important role in domestic emergency response, there is currently no unmet need for additional Blackhawks. Mutual aid arrangements, such as the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, already provide a means for states to request additional equipment and manpower during times of disaster.

Rather than more Blackhawks, states need modernized aircraft to replace aging Blackhawks. However, the Army has not invested in this effort and states have had to rely on Congress to address this need. Giving the Guard older-model Blackhawks that are not required for an Army war-time mission will further reduce the Army’s incentive to fund their maintenance and modernization in the future. In addition, unlike Apache units, Blackhawk units have been broken into smaller detachments and spread over multiple states. This reduces the additional personnel and affiliated support, logistics and communications capabilities that governors can draw from to conduct domestic operations.

While only nine states have ARNG Apaches, their transfer to the active component will affect many more and the Total Army will experience a considerable and irreversible loss of combat experience. For example, while Minnesota does not have Apaches, the MNNG 34th Infantry Division headquarters and the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) provide mission command to the 1-189th Attack Helicopter Battalion located in Idaho.  Additionally, the 834th Aviation Support Battalion in the 34th CAB has Apache maintainer skill sets that would be eliminated under ARI. The removal of the Apaches and these skills from the ARNG diminishes the strategic depth and the ability of the Army to meet future security needs. Furthermore, the loss of attack aviation in the National Guard will make Apache air ground operations training much more difficult to facilitate. This lack of training may affect National Guard CAB, BCT and division headquarters’ relevance.

By removing the Apache mission from the National Guard, the ARNG risks losing combat experienced pilots and highly skilled maintenance crews developed over the last 14 years. The Army simultaneously loses the only means available to retain its own combat experienced air crews, maintainers and leaders upon separation from active duty service.

The second and third order effects of ARI, once the transfer of Apaches is complete, will be of significant concern to the long-term sustainment of ARNG equipment and strategic depth for the Total Army. A CAPE study of both ARI and a National Guard Bureau (NGB) counterproposal acknowledges that the NGB plan would provide 20 percent more capability for the Total Army at a relatively modest 2-3 percent ($90-$170 million) additional annual cost [Appendix C]. The results of a subsequent review of ARI by the Government Accountability Office confirm that questions remain about the plan’s long-term costs and operational impact. 2 Maintaining a place for combat experienced pilots and mechanics to serve in the ARNG benefits all soldiers and guardsmen through improved operations, training, retention, leadership and morale. As the Commission reviews ARI and the Apache transfer plan, governors encourage you to consider these concerns and alternative proposals that would retain additional capability in the ARNG at relatively little additional cost.

Resourcing the Guard’s Dual Mission
In addition to ARI, the Army also has proposed reducing ARNG end strength to its lowest level since the Korean War. While it makes sense to increase or decrease active duty personnel depending on our engagements overseas, governors rely on a stable and consistent ARNG force to meet state needs.

Governors routinely depend on the National Guard to respond to both natural and man-made emergencies. National Guard personnel, equipment and capabilities are key resources built into states’ emergency response plans and the federal National Response Framework. The National Guard also has the unique ability to perform law enforcement functions that have proven valuable in the response to natural disasters, recent episodes of civil unrest and other national special security events. These capabilities are enhanced by well-developed relationships with state and local emergency managers, state homeland security advisors and law enforcement agencies. In addition, more than 80 percent of the Army’s chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) response capability resides in the ARNG, with every state possessing at least one CBRNE team. Both the Federal Emergency Management Agency and state and local law enforcement rely on these capabilities during hazardous materials response.

Cutting National Guard personnel risks stripping states of critical capabilities, weakening partnerships and upending years of carefully crafted emergency response plans. End strength reductions of 8,200 personnel proposed in FY 2016 coupled with 7,000 soldiers in FY 2017 would bring the ARNG’s size to its lowest level in decades. The unique structure of the ARNG means that proposed cuts to end strength will affect nearly every state and degrade ARNG readiness nationwide. Ensuring a minimum level of readiness across all states in order to meet state mission requirements will require an estimated 15,000 positions be retrained and shifted to accommodate for the loss of 8,200 personnel in FY 2016. To fully implement such changes could take three to five years, creating instability and uncertainty for states and undermining the ARNG’s ability to support emergency response requirements, including its critical CBRNE mission.

As part of this reduction, the Army has proposed to downsize the Guard’s full-time staff by 1,700 positions, which are critical to maintaining the Guard’s operational readiness for both domestic operations and combat missions overseas. These are professional positions required to manage complex Army manning and equipping systems; work which cannot be performed efficiently by either traditional Guard members or a part-time rotational support staff. Currently, the number of full time positions in the ARNG is about 68 percent of the level identified in guidance developed between the Army and NGB in the late 1990s. This guidance was developed prior to the events of 9/11 to ensure the ARNG maintained enough full-time positions to support a strategic reserve [Appendix D]. Even while supporting two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ARNG never met 100 percent of the recommended strategic reserve requirement and now the Army is proposing to reduce these levels even further. These full-time positions are responsible for keeping units ready to deploy in support of Army demands overseas. During domestic emergencies, they provide immediate response capability, organize and deploy response assets and regenerate unit resources after traditional Guard members return home.

As DoD stated in a May 8 letter to the Council co-chairs, it is the department’s goal to reduce stress on the force to the maximum extent possible and preserve readiness while reducing costs [Appendix E]. The effects of the Army’s proposals on the ARNG, however, are turbulence and instability in states without significant cost savings. Unlike other military components, cutting National Guard force structure in one state frequently requires shifting personnel and assets from other states to fill gaps and maintain readiness across the force. It also means removing a capability for up to a decade. While the active component has the ability to replenish units through world-wide reassignment of personnel, ARNG soldiers are connected to their local armories and new units cannot be created quickly.

The turbulence created by force structure and personnel cuts affects people, readiness, training, equipment and facilities. This all comes with a cost to implement, which NGB estimates would be about $179 million in its first year. Funding to cover these costs was not included in the Army’s FY 2016 budget. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cuts to ARNG personnel would save the Army only $170 million in its first year – $9 million less than the unfunded implementation costs. When these costs and effects are considered, governors believe it simply does not make sense to implement the Army’s proposals. While some reductions to ARNG force structure may ultimately be necessary, they should be done through a collaborative approach that considers future needs, limits turbulence and maintains readiness in the Guard.

Leveraging the Guard to Meet National Challenges
Time and time again, the Guard has proven itself a critical partner and a value to the taxpayer. According to an analysis of fully burdened lifecycle costs by the Reserve Forces Policy Board and by CAPE, a Guardsman costs one-third that of an active duty service member when not mobilized and is still less costly when mobilized. Given that the ARNG also provides 39 percent of total Army capabilities for only 13 percent of the total Army budget, governors believe more should be done to leverage the National Guard’s cost effectiveness, combat experience and ability to provide surge capacity during conflicts.

The State Partnership Program demonstrates the ARNG’s cost-effective strategic reach. Fifty-two states and territories have established civil-military and military-military relationships with 69 countries around the world.

Iowa has one of the newest State Partnership Programs in the National Guard. Since starting its state partnership program with Kosovo five years ago, the IANG already has conducted more than 70 training exchanges and events. The Iowa program takes a holistic approach, linking not just the military sector, but economic, government, business, education and agriculture sectors into the overall program. Recently, leaders from the Kosovo Foreign Ministry Office were in Des Moines, Iowa looking for a location to open a consulate office. This office will be the first foreign consulate office in the state.

Likewise, Minnesota’s State Partnership Program relationship with Croatia has yielded measurable dividends. Not only has this nearly 20-year partnership assisted Croatia in meeting North Atlantic Treaty Organization military standards, but Minnesota National Guard soldiers also have embedded as operational mentorship liaison teams with the Croatian Army in Afghanistan.

The National Guard’s international relationships add to the rich traditions within each state.  The MNNG continues to enjoy the longest standing NATO reciprocal troop exchange with the country of Norway.  Over the past 42 years the MNNG has successfully maintained an exchange program that continues to evolve through the incorporation of inter-agency state and local law enforcement partners with that of the Norwegian Rapid Reaction Force. This exchange directly complements and contributes to the readiness of the National Guard.  Programs like the Norwegian exchange teach our soldiers intercultural communication skills, which will be indispensable in a future when U.S. deployments are increasingly elements of multinational forces. They also expose junior leaders to NATO allies and create confidence in both parties’ operational structure.

The growing cybersecurity mission is another important example of the National Guard’s ability to meet both federal and state needs. As the federal government and governors take action to improve the nation’s cybersecurity posture, the National Guard can be an important asset to fill capability gaps for defense of government networks and critical infrastructure. Both the Air Force and the Army have recognized the benefits of the Guard’s ability to tap into private-sector skillsets and leverage its dual-status role to support both federal and state cybersecurity missions. We urge the Commission to consider the ARNG’s value to this critical mission for both DoD and states.

Establishing Common Goals for the Future of the Army 
As the Army is forced to evolve in the wake of declining budgets and continuing global instability, governors hope this Commission will help bring the Total Army together to address these challenges in partnership.

Two years ago, governors opposed similar efforts to cut Air National Guard personnel and equipment. The Air Force Commission’s final report reflects the notion that the Guard is a cost-effective and invaluable force that should be part of an active and reserve component mix that meets the needs of the Total Air Force.  The work of the Air Force Commission, combined with the leadership of Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh and Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, contributed to a positive cultural shift and greater collaboration between the Air Force and the ANG.

We hope that the work of this Commission and a renewed commitment from senior civilian and military leaders across the Army components can strengthen collaboration and communication in a similar fashion. This will take a cultural shift within the Army, but we have seen this pay dividends in the Air Force in recent years as additional restructuring has been proposed.

Given the role of the Guard and the presence of our armed forces in states, governors want to partner with DoD and the military services to find solutions that are in the best interests of all involved. Governors understand the real effects, not only for the National Guard, but also for the active duty installations and defense-related industries within their states. Army restructuring will affect communities throughout every state and territory, leading to job loss, economic turbulence and potential uncertainty in the ARNG’s ability to respond to emergencies.

Governors urge the Commission to consider recommendations that will preserve the ARNG’s role as the combat reserve of the Army, resource and equip the ARNG to meet both federal and state needs, and leverage the Guard’s cost-effectiveness and operational capability as part of a Total Army solution for the future. To do otherwise would risk wasting billions of dollars invested over the past decade in making the ARNG an experienced, globally deployable and combat-ready force.

Governors will continue to advocate for a strong Guard that is “Always Ready – Always There.” The Commission is an important voice in this endeavor. On behalf of the nation’s governors and the Council, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. Governors look forward to continuing to work with the Commission to fashion solutions that provide for a scalable, cost-effective Army that best serves the interests of states and the nation.


1. See U.S. Code, Title 10, Section 12304; and NGA paper: “America Wins: The Struggle for Control of the National Guard

2. GAO Report GAO-15-430R: “Force Structure: Army’s Analyses of Aviation Alternatives”, Published: Apr 27, 2015, pg. 5; http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-15-430R

3. FY 2015: 60,185 total authorizations that are funded against 88,263 total requirements.

4. Reserve Forces Policy Board Report: “Eliminating Major Gaps in DoD Data on the Fully-Burdened and Life-Cycle Cost of Military Personnel: Cost Elements Should be Mandated by Policy.” Jan. 7, 2013; pg. 5

5. U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation Report: “Unit Cost and Readiness for the Active and Reserve Components of the Armed Forces.” Dec. 20, 2013; pg. 4

6. Army National Guard, Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Financial Report, pg. 2

7. DoD, National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force Final Report; Jan. 30, 2014; cover letter, pgs. 7-9, 11