National Guard Empowerment Now Law of the Land

Washington  (All News Wire)  The National Guard community ? nearly 500,000 men and women in uniform plus hundreds of thousands of family members and retirees ? is hailing language in the fiscal 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that adds one of their own to the nation’s senior panel of military advisors.

President Barack Obama signed the NDAA on Saturday. It includes a provision giving the Guard’s senior officer, the chief of the National Guard Bureau (NGB), a permanent seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The president’s signature culminated a legislative effort to “empower” the Guard that began years ago. It gained momentum last spring after the House passed an amendment that would give the Guard a seat at the table and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, included the same proposal in a more comprehensive Senate bill.

The House and Senate ultimately agreed on a package of Guard Empowerment provisions, including adding the NGB chief to the Joint Chiefs.

“This is the Guard’s most significant legislative victory since the Militia Act of 1903 created the modern, dual-mission National Guard,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of the National Guard Association of the United States. “But the real winner here is the nation’s homeland security.

“The primary role of the Joint Chiefs is to advise the president, the secretary of defense and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security,” he said. “Without the Guard at the table, our civilian leaders didn’t have direct access to expertise on the Guard’s domestic-response capabilities. In the post-9/11 world, it was a void that had to be filled. And now it has been filled.”

The NGB chief ? a four-star general ? previously participated as an invited guest in some discussions with the Joint Chiefs. However, he was not a required participant and was often excluded from meetings. Nor did he have the ability to nominate Guard officers for positions that require Senate confirmation.

The provision in the NDAA enables 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 provide the Guard, for the first time, permanent representation among the nation’s senior military officers.

Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., co-sponsored the legislation in the House.

Other Guard Empowerment provisions in the NDAA include requirements for the Pentagon to delineate Guard and Reserve equipment procurement in future budget requests, to prepare a report to Congress on the costs of Guard and Reserve units versus similar active-component outfits, and to consider Guard and Reserve officers for appointment to certain command positions.

The NDAA also creates a new three-star position of NGB vice chief and provides permanent funding to the Guard’s State Partnership Program with democratic nations around the world.

About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified 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 educating Congress on militia needs. Today, 134 years later, the militia is known as the National Guard, but NGAUS has the same mission.

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