Resetting the California National Guard

Note:  With the Afghanistan drawdown, it’s practical for the Reserve Components to minimize their National Defense missions and assume larger roles in supporting civilian authorities emergency response to manmade and natural disasters.   The purpose of this article is to broaden the discussion of giving Reserve Components more National Defense missions within context of the National Guard’s state readiness mission, the true costs of Reserve Component deployments, and National priorities.  To provide an opposing view to Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin’s and the National Guard Association of the United States’ (NGAUS) argument for increasing the Reserve Components’ combat power, I write about the following:  

  • Whether large Reserves of Combat Power are necessary for the  National Guard’s state mission;
  • Restructuring the Guard for its State Mission
  •  Reducing the number of Reserve Component deployments and possible savings;
  • How Reserve Component deployment costs shift from the  public to private sector;
  • Stretching the defense dollar by partnering with Civilian Employers;
  • Structuring the Active Duty Components to accomplish their missions; and 
  • Compensating for sequestration.


Military Transportation  capable  of  fording deep water and maneuvering over rugged ground  is a critical asset for civilian  authorities during emergencies. California  National Guard Photo (FLickr)
Military Transportation capable of fording deep water and maneuvering over rugged ground is a critical asset for civilian authorities during emergencies. California National Guard Photo (FLickr)

Large Reserves of Combat Power Unnecessary for State Missions

The National Guard  risks squandering its opportunity to  improve its readiness for civilian emergencies if it pursues more National Defense missions advocated by Major General David S. Baldwin in the October 2012 Congress Blog.

Keeping the National Guard at the forefront of our national defense, as Baldwin envisions, neither maximizes the taxpayer dollar nor inspires “responsible” leadership in the budgeting process.  In fact, it arguably  wastes taxpayer dollars by funding combat  units that are only partially used for state emergencies and that are, in essence, idle National Defense resources during non-deployments.

Baldwin criticizes a Defense Department proposal to reduce the number of Active Duty brigade combat teams (BCTs) from 45 to 30, while maintaining the current number of Reserve BCTs at 28.   Baldwin’s counter proposal is to reduce the Active Duty BCTs to 22, and increase  the Reserve Components BCTs to 52. It’s arguably more sensible for the Reserve Component  to have 22 BCTs (decrease  of six from the DoD proposal)  and for the Active Duty Component to have 36 (increase of six) where they are needed, have fulltime maintenance, and staged for National Defense missions.

Restructuring  for the  State Mission

Reserve Military Police (MPs) contain the security capabilities that California’s law enforcement community require for state emergency missions to include, but not  limited to: guarding collapsed buildings and structures; checkpoints;  convoys; guarding strategic reserves of medicines and food; and suppressing insurrections. For emergencies requiring security beyond the MPs capacities, a small strategic reserve of BCTs  and artillery units, minus the combat hardware, are sufficient for augmenting the MPs security missions.

The military assets that civilian authorities historically request during state emergencies are what the Army categorizes as Combat Support (CS) and Combat Service Support (CSS).  Among the capabilities in these categories are: military police; aviation; ground transportation; engineers; medical; communications; and logistical support.

Structuring the  Guard with CS/CSS-type assets places military resources at state levels where civilian  authorities can rapidly acquire and employ them during an emergency.   A National Guard structured  heavily with combat assets, on the other hand, risks potential shortfalls of the military resources civilian agencies will need during emergencies, compelling the state to request active duty CS/CSS assets at higher costs to the taxpayer.

Annual Actve-Duty Days per Ready Reseerve Member

Reduce Reservists Deployments in Wake of Iraq and Afghanistan Drawdowns

A 2004 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report illustrates a trend that shows Reservists average 10 or fewer deployment days during “Non Deployed” periods. Reserve Component deployments steadily climbed in the late 90s during Bosnia and Kosovo deployments and gradually reached its zenith of  nearly a 75 day average for deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan following 9-11.

Assuming the Reserve Component deployment trends continuum were sustained from 2005 through 2013, civilian employers sacrificed approximately 29 percent of the work  year to military leaves of absence annually. Trimming these 75 deployment days from the DoD budget for the 354,000 Guardsmen currently serving nationwide, theoretically saves the taxpayer an estimated $6 billion annually while at the same time increases civilian employers’ productivity  in terms of military leaves  of absence they no longer subsidize.

It should be noted that Baldwin qualifies  his argument for  increasing the Reserve Components National Defense missions as a “striking bargain” for the taxpayer only during non-deployments saying, “that pay and operational  costs  are less than one-third the cost for an active duty soldier.” But this obviously contradicts  the  intent of  the National  Guard Bureau (NGB) Chief Gen. Frank J. Grass.  According to the October 2013 issue of the National Guard  magazine, Grass calls for overseas deployments of 5,000 to 10,000 Guardsmen annually in addition to funding their attendance at combat training centers. Perhaps the intent of the 2011 Budget Control Act , or sequestration,  is to identify expenses no longer applicable such as post Iraq/Afghanistan National Guard deployments and eliminate them from the budget.

90 percent of the Guard and Reserve are part-time. Nearly a quarter work for small business with 500 or fewer employees, and companies with more than 500 employees employ an additional 25% of all reservists.
90 percent of the Guard and Reserve are part-time. Nearly a quarter work for small business with 500 or fewer employees, and companies with more than 500 employees employ an additional 25% of all reservists.

Shifting Defense Costs to the Private Sector; State and Local Taxpayers

When combined with the same CBO study analyzing civilian employer profiles,  a picture emerges illustrating a 52% shift of National Defense costs from the public to private sectors.  The other 48%  of Reservists deployment costs are redistributed among  state and local taxpayers supporting agencies employing Reservists.

The CBO study breaks down as follows: 26% of all Reservists work for private firms with 500 or fewer employees; another 26% work for private firms with more than 500 employees; with the remaining 48% being self-employed, working for non-profit corporations, or for state, local and federal governments.

In California, this costs civilian employers of Guardsmen nearly $370 million annually. Extrapolating the CBO data onto California’s estimated 22,000 Army and Air Guardsmen reveals the following breakdowns: firms with 500 or fewer employees employ roughly 5,720 Guardsmen costing an estimated $96.1 million;  5,720 Guardsmen work for firms with more than 500 employees costing these firms nearly $96.1 million; and California’s local, state, federal government agencies, non-profit corporations, and self-employed Guardsmen collectively account for 10,560 citizen soldiers sacrificing an estimated $177.4 million in lost productivity, training temporary replacements, and other costs associated with military leaves of absences.

National Guard and Reserve trades are consistent with the Nation's needs for rebuilding the country's infrastructure, and California's needs for emergency response.
National Guard and Reserve trades are consistent with the Nation’s needs for rebuilding the country’s infrastructure, and California’s needs for emergency response.

Partnering with  Employers Strengthens Reserves:  Grows the Economy

President Barak Obama’s rebuilding America’s infrastructure initiative and the White House’s 2013 National Security Strategy (NSS) may hold a key for stretching DoD defense dollars.  The President calls for a “marriage of public and private investment” to rebuild America’s ragged roads, deteriorating bridges, and schools. The NSS directs the military to focus on “economic dynamism, a positive demographic growth pattern, and public/private partnering, or private-public partnerships (PPP), for investment in research and development.” Perhaps an opportunity exists within these directives for partnering  Reserve Components employers with private-public investors  for this infrastructure rebuilding.

The majority of Reservists work in transportation, construction and service industries, according to a 2004 CBO report. Suppose private-public investors were to give businesses employing experienced Reservists preference for infrastructure construction projects that the President advocates? Under  this scenario, employers conceivably receive a peace dividend, so to speak, for their nearly decade and a half of support in two ways: first, business contracts; second, training and schools Reservists are required to attend to maintain their military competencies, but for which employers don’t pay. Such ventures contribute toward powering economic  recovery in post Iraq/Afghanistan drawdowns.

Active Components Mission: Protecting the National and State Economies

A standing military force’s obligation to protect these economies takes on added significance when viewed through  the lens  of their worldwide missions.  The six Unified Combatant Commands, supported by three  functional commands, have geographic responsibilities in the Pacific, South America, Africa, Europe, Southwest Asia, and North America to protect National interests.  Funding these Commands requires a force structure beyond “a special forces” focus advocated in a Nov. 11, 2013 Sacramento Bee Opinion recommending drastic overhaul of military force  structure–an opinion that coincidently resembles the OP-ED  Baldwin authored in the Congress Blog.

These are some of the threats of which the Active Duty Component must be aware and prepared to deter. China seeks to dominate airspace centered around the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, a chokepoint for controlling the flow of oil, mineral, and fishing rights in surrounding waters; posing a threat to South Korea and Japan, two of America’s major trading partners. Russia continues to rattle its sabers in support of countries in Africa  with the potential of military conflict on the resource-rich continent. The United States, Russia, and all former colonial powers with a footprint on the continent seek influence because of its potential economic impact on world economies.

Active Duty Commanders should have enough force structure to accomplish their missions  and to protect land, sea, and air lines  of communication that support international commerce vital to the Nation’s economy.  Giving the National Guard and Reserves increasing roles in these National Defense missions not only extracts resources from our state and national economies at home, but also thins the Active Duty ability to protect our National Interests abroad.

Compensating for Sequestration

Congress establishes a spending cap with sequestration, but does not mandate the dramatic massive budget cuts naysayers are portending in the media. The challenge facing the Pentagon and the National Guard lies not in the drama of drastically restructuring the military forces or competing for a budget  appropriations, but economizing its budgets to accomplish their missions.  Part of the solution may be trimming unnecessary costs such as Reservists post Afghanistan draw down deployments. Another partial solution may rest with creative management and innovative relationships with private-public partnerships.

Baldwin’s argument for dicing up the defense dollar is tantamount to playing a shell game with military appropriations.  His attempts to manipulate Congressional and public opinion to influence decision makers to allocate more  funding under the National Guard shell is not in tune with the welfare of the Guard’s rank and file, nation, or state.  When the  Nation’s national defense and economic interests are at stake, it’s not worth the gamble of a shell game.


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