National Guard Gets Joint Chiefs of Staff Slot For No Apparent Reason
In a move that makes no sense whatsover, Air National Guard General Craig McKinley has become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Army Times (“Top Guard officer joins Joint Chiefs of Staff“):
The National Guard Bureau’s top officer is now a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A provision in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law Dec. 31 by President Obama, adds the Guard leader to the nation’s highest military advisory group.
As of Tuesday, the biography of the current chief of the Guard, Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, was on the Joint Chiefs website, alongside bios for the other military service chiefs.
The addition of the top Guard officer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been hailed by Guard historians as the “most significant development” since the Militia Act of 1903 codified the modern day dual-status structure of the Guard, according to a statement from the Guard Bureau.
“We are grateful for the efforts the executive and legislative bodies have gone to in placing the chief of the National Guard Bureau on the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” McKinley said in a statement. “We look forward to working alongside the other Joint Chiefs to provide our nation’s senior leaders with a fuller picture of the non-federalized National Guard as it serves in support of homeland defense and civil support missions.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff advises the president on national security matters.
Its members voiced firm opposition during a hearing on Capitol Hill in November as lawmakers pushed to create a seat for the Guard.
Before the authorization act was passed and signed into law, the Joint Chiefs was made up of the four service chiefs — the Army chief of staff, Air Force chief of staff, chief of naval operations and Marine Corps commandant — and a chairman and vice chairman appointed by the president.
During the Nov. 10 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the six four-star generals voiced opposition to the proposal, saying it would create needless confusion and reduce their authority.
“There is no compelling military need for this change,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said at the time.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also opposed the measure, telling reporters in October that membership on the Joint Chiefs should “be reserved for those who have direct command and direct budgets that deal with the military.”
So, the entire Joint Chiefs and the Secretary of Defense opposed this move and yet it was made anyway? Why? The article doesn’t say but, presumably, it’s because the Guard has an enormous amount of clout in Congress and because sympathy for the institution is at an all-time high after a decade of more-or-less continuous deployment.
But the opposition from the rest of the military establishment is perfectly reasonable, not simple turf protection.
Simply put: Either the Guard is a state militia that’s only part of the United States Military when called to national service–in which case it has no business on the Joint Staff–or it’s a part of the Total Force and therefore already represented on the Joint Staff by the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and Air Force. (There is no Navy or Marine Guard.)
The former was the traditional view of the Guard; the latter was pushed after the post-Cold War drawdown necessitated more frequent utilization of the Guard and Reserve for routine missions. As late as Desert Storm, the Guard was widely viewed as a joke by the Active force, at least in the Army. While certain specialty units in the Reserve were called up, only a handful of Guard units were and none was deemed ready to deploy to theater by war’s end.
Over the last twenty years–and certainly since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq kicked off in 2001 and 2003, respectively–the old norm became obsolete. The operations tempo has simply been too high to sustain with a relatively small active force. Guard and Reserve personnel have been deployed routinely and are more-or-less indistinguishable from their Active counterparts.
In light of this change, I understand the desire to elevate their stature and recognition. Making the Guard chief a 4-star general probably makes sense, for example, and it’s likely time to re-evaluate the promotion and, especially, pension systems. We can’t demand active duty-like commitment and still offer “one weekend a month and two weeks each summer” rewards.
But, again, putting the Guard on the Joint Chiefs just makes no sense. We have four military services under three departments (the Marine Corps is under the Secretary of the Navy but otherwise an autonomous service). Guardsmen are already represented by two service chiefs. For that matter, why the Guard and not the Reserves?
Additionally, I’d note that the inclusion of the Guard would seem to undermine the very Mission of the Joint Staff:
The Joint Staff assists the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in accomplishing his responsibilities for: the unified strategic direction of the combatant forces; their operation under unified command; and for their integration into an efficient team of land, naval, and air forces.
As of yesterday, it’s less unified, less efficient, and less integrated. Amusingly, despite his bio now being on the JCS page, it continues to bolster my argument:
Appointed by the President, he serves as principal adviser to the Secretary of Defense through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on National Guard matters. He is also the principal adviser to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army, and the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force on all National Guard issues.
So, he’s both an advisor to and a peer of two other Chiefs? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?