Lawmakers call on Secretary of Defense to preserve dual mission capabilities

December 19, 2013

Rahall, Rockefeller, Manchin Lead Bipartisan Effort to Support National Guard

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Department of Defense completes its year-end budget review, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall and Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin (all D-W.Va.) are leading a bipartisan coalition of House and Senate Members urging Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to protect and strengthen the National Guard in next year’s Army budget.

“The Guard has a critical dual-use role, not only to serve overseas but also to ensure the security of our homeland and to protect our State’s and its residents during times of natural disasters. By better using our National Guard and Reserve Component, we can find cost-savings in the budget and avoid draconian cuts that would hurt our Nation’s and State’s defense capability, as well as our men and women who serve and sacrifice in behalf of us all,” said Rahall.

Rahall, a Member of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, is leading a bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives to urge the Secretary to oppose proposals under consideration that would reduce the Army National Guard to 315,000 soldiers – 35,000 fewer soldiers than pre-9/11 levels.

Senator Manchin, joined by Senator Jay Rockefeller, is leading a similar effort in the Senate, working in a bipartisan manner with his Senate Armed Services Committee colleagues, to urge Secretary Hagel to fully consider the role of the National Guard as the most cost-effective defenders of our nation.

“Our National Guard is a critical and unique component of our Army, thanks to the supreme dedication and incredible work of all those who serve,” said Rockefeller. “Making cuts to the Guard could jeopardize the safety and preparedness capabilities they provide that are critical during emergency responses. Instead, during these challenging fiscal times, we should maximize the capabilities of our National Guard. This would provide support for our nation’s security efforts and allow for greater efficiencies in our military budget.”

“The National Guard is America’s longest serving military fighting force and has always answered the call when the American people need help in the most trying of times – from lending a hand in floods, snow storms, tornadoes, and life-threatening emergencies to fighting side by side with our armed forces overseas,” Manchin said. “Now, as our nation faces budget deficits, the Guard can undertake the toughest missions anywhere in the world at a fraction of the cost. We must remain the strongest country in the world, but we need to act in a cost-efficient way. And the National Guard gives us that option.”

In urging the Defense Department to rebalance its use of Active and Reserve Component Army units to find long-term budgetary savings, Rahall cited the Reserve Forces Policy Board at the Department of Defense that recently noted an increased role for the National Guard could sustain the Army’s combat capability while reducing costs.

“Our Nation is at a critical juncture, we must reduce our debt and reinvest in our infrastructure while also maintaining a strong national and homeland defense. The National Guard, just as the Founding Fathers envisioned, is key to solving this problem. The Guard is a cost effective and timely capability at home and abroad and I am glad our elected leaders believe we are part of the solution!” said Major General James Hoyer, Adjutant General, West Virginia National Guard.

“As I noted in my letter to the Secretary of Defense, I am convinced that cutting the Reserve Component is not a practical or long-term solution to ensuring our Nation’s security in an era of fiscal restraints. Congress last year rightly rejected similar proposals to cut the Air National Guard, and so I am pressing the Secretary to do likewise for the Army and to forgo large reductions that would inhibit our Army’s ability to respond to world events and domestic emergencies,” said Rahall.