California’s State Active Duty: Skeleton in a Politician’s Closet

Bloggers Notes: The San Bernardino Terrorist attacks catapulted National Security into Presidential politics. This week’s Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) strike at Brussels, Belgium has aroused the electorate’s concerns. 

Understanding that terrorists target America’s symbols of: government; military; economic; and decadence–what jihadists’ consider theme parks, concerts, athletic events, etc.–and knowing that national security requires cooperation of  the Nation’s security agencies and military, in this post I discuss how the California National Guard’s State Active Duty (SAD) program fits into the state’s Homeland Security unity of effort to include:  

  • History of the SAD program;
  • SAD controversies at the 9-11 crossroads;
  • SAD’s “fall from grace” with Homeland Security community; and
  • Senate Bill 807’s reforms impact on SAD’s role in Homeland Security.

I conclude with recommendations for bringing the SAD program into compliance to federal and state laws, and Homeland Security priorities.

For the record, I complained about the SAD flaws and  proposed remedies through the Cal Guard’s “state” Investigator General (IG) prior to my retirement in August 2013. I presume the Governor’s office is aware of my history of sharing my analysis with California’s chain of command  since all IG complaints are purportedly forwarded to that office.   


Visionaries. Maj. Gen. Thomas Eres’ (Left) imaginative initiatives to fuse Cal Guard intelligence and operations with lead civilian security agencies, and Maj. Gen. Paul D. Monroe’s ambitious initiatives to transform the State Military Department into a Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ) are proving providential. But their efforts to bring the Cal Guard’s State Active Duty (SAD) were never rooted in policy, making it a weak link in California’s Homeland Security.
Visionaries. Maj. Gen. Thomas Eres’ (Left)  attempted to operationalize Maj. Gen. Paul D. Monroe’s (right) State Active Duty Joint Transformation initiatives, but was blasphemed by critics as forming a “spy unit.” Several in the Homeland Security community believe the San Bernardino terrorist attack and infiltration of a California’s power grid wouldn’t have happened if their vision had matured.

Military Politics in California

The California National Guard’s State Active Duty (SAD) policies are out-of-step with Homeland Security, and potentially the trigger for a Brussels-like Terror attack in California if left uncorrected.

And if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is indicted for compromising National Security, a so-called “Governor’s Mandate” could become a military skelton in Gov. Jerry Brown’s “closet should he, as U.S. News and World Report hints, emerge as the Democratic Party’s dark horse candidate to replace the embattled Democratic Presidential frontrunner.

The SAD Mesozoic Era

California is the only state National Guard with a full-time SAD program; all other states use SAD only for emergency response. SAD are state employees with military training and experience unavailable in the civilian sector. They are paid military salaries using current year Military Pay Charts, that include both the base pay and tax-free basic housing allowance (BHA). If a SAD employee is still an active Guardsman, they still receive their drill and annual training (AT) pay, are permitted up to four weeks military leave for AT, an additional 30 days annual leave, and are protected under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) if activated for federal missions.

According to Historian Brig. Gen. (CA) William Hamilton, SAD was never intended to be permanent. Hamilton says the legislature authorized full-time SAD to backfill for the massive California National Guard World War II mobilization. When the war ended, the legislature didn’t disband SAD, but allowed it to remain as a cadre staff to launch, sustain, and recover National Guard assets used for state civil emergencies; a proviso being that SAD must conform as nearly as practicable to federal laws governing the United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Navy.

Adjutant generals, whether wittingly or unwittingly, failed to conform to changing federal laws governing the Armed forces. The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act mandated the Military Branches unify their command structure with a cadre of “Joint Command Staff”–a natural fit for California’s SAD.  Authored by Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) and Rep. William Flynt Nichols (D-AL), the broad sweeping, bi-partisan, legislation maximized military proficiency, reduced duplication, and eliminated inefficiencies through a unified Joint Branch Command.

California’s SAD failed to follow suit, falling behind the active military, and also behind California’s emergency management community when California Lawmakers mandated they transition to the Standard Emergency Management System (SEMS) following the chaotic response to the 1991 catastrophic East Bay Hills Fire. Through SEMS, California’s Emergency Managers received the equivalent of military command and control training, once exclusively available to military personnel, rendering the SAD classification arational.

Transitioning the SAD staff to a joint staff in compliance with Public Law 99-433 (Goldwater-Nichols Act) was the only viable reason for retaining the classification. But the Cal Guard dragged its feet, lagging behind California’s emergency management community’s modernizations, making the SAD program a dinosaur on the verge of extinction, trapped in Homeland Security’s Mesozoic Era.

Meriba and Massah

As if having a premonition of 9-11 and the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), when Congress mandated the Reserve Components comply with Public Law 99-433, Maj. Gen. Paul D. Monroe Jr  started transforming the SAD staff into a Joint Staff. Monroe converted the Office of the Adjutant General (OTAG), that interacted primarily with security agencies within California’s borders, into a Joint Force Headquarters that interfaced with the entire civilian authority and military communities on a regional scale. And he set the stage for powering down temporary SAD to pay part-timers selected for Joint Task Force (JTFs) commands and staffs designated to lead tactical emergency response missions in support of California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA)-1/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Incident Command Task Forces (ICTF).

Just as important, Monroe modernized the Cal Guard’s personnel, intelligence, operational, logistics, and cyber operational systems to be managed by officers, but supervised, maintained and operated by non-commissioned officers (NCO). Monroe had the Cal Guard in the lead when, in the wake of 9-11, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act in 2002; amended Title 10 and Title 32 to approve joint military-civilian training and missions as “Joint Activity” for response to terrorist attacks and regional catastrophes; and President George Bush’s Homeland Security Presidential Directive-5 (HSPD-5) requiring the Nation’s Security Agencies to convert to the National Incident Management System (NIMS)—a replica of California’s SEMS.

When Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Thomas Eres, however, attempted to operationalize the Joint Branch concept with the “Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion Center,”a core SAD group committed to the status quo vilified his modernizations as a “Spy unit.” Able to politically overthrow Eres, this clique clung to pre 9-11 policies, and resisted complying to modern military and emergency management systems.

Threatened by competition for their jobs, this core group fought the post 9-11 joint training and education programs that Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau (NGB) launched.  Blum help negotiate the Advanced Joint Professional Military Education (AJPME) for reserve components, and established the Joint Staff Training Course (JSTC) and JTF Commander’s Course (JTFC).

These education and training programs upgraded joint staff competency at all command levels; and, in California, opened the possibility for California-stationed Army, Air Force, Navy, and United States Marine Corps Reserves to apply for SAD jobs since the 2006 National Security Strategy (NSS) required all Military Components to coordinate their Homeland Security response missions, and subsequently consolidate as a “Joint Branch Command” under the National Governor’s Assicaiton’s Dual Status Command (DSC) (See paragraph 3.3 in link).

But a resistance group successfully claimed that this training and education was intended for future junior personnel, not them. Their resistance precluded modernizations in California National Guard policy (California Military Department 600-1); hindered the Cal Guard’s command capabilities fusion to military, state, and federal agencies; and blocked career advancement for Guardsmen outside the resistance’s inner circle.

Like the Israelites at Massah and Meribah, SAD employees murmured among themselves, debating the merits of the NSS, quarrelling whether to stay the course mapped by Department of Homeland Security, or resist change, and chart their own interpretations of Homeland Security policy.

9-11: A SAD Commentary on ” We Will Never Forget”

This core resistance remained passive during former CAL EMA Director Matthew Bettenhausen’s efforts to steer California’s Emergency Managers on course with Homeland Security Strategies. Bettenhausen and the SEMS Advisory Group emphasized planning and training.  They recognized California’s Emergency Management System’s strong history of being in the forefront of modernization, and seemed to have adopted  a 9-11 “We Will Never Forget” philosophy.

Bettenhausen along with then Governor’s Emergency Operations Executive Council (GEOEC) pushed the emergency management workforce to polish their skills, directing employees to complete FEMA’s Incident Command System (ICS)-series courses. Meanwhile, the Cal Guard procrastinated with the NGB-equivalent instruction, training that blended Goldwater-Nichols mandated AJPME, JSTC, and the JCTC  with FEMA’s ICS instruction. This instruction was the Cal Guard’s SAD Joint Staff’s’ opportunity to maintain pace with the GEOEC’s initiatives.

Consequently, the professional seam between the Cal Guard and the Emergency management community ruptured, a gap consistently exposed during emergency response exercises, according to after action reviews for: the 2009 Vigilant Guard (Earthquake); the 2010 Golden Guardian (Terrorist Attack); the 2011 Golden Guardian (Earthquake); and the 2011 Exercise United Response (UR), Dual Status Command (DSC) (Earthquake).

These exercises also proved the value of the joint operating systems that Monroe’s SAD initiatives produced in conjunction with NGB and DoD. And, Exercise UR 2011 in particular–the DSC exercise–validated Eres’ vision of using military intelligence assets to strengthen California’s Homeland Security.

The exercise was the first to include private-public partnerships (PPP), revealing a need for operational security (OPSEC) and Memorandums of Agreements (MOA) between municipal and private utilities and emergency managers. MOAs that include using military intelligence assets to protect private utilities’ market competitiveness and secrets, while releasing vital information emergency forces need for safety, response, and recovery–an epiphany of Apple’s dispute Federal Bureau of Investigation over decrypting the San Bernardino Terrorist’s cell phone.

But these processes were never drafted into SAD policy because of an emerging command’s stubbornness to conform with military and emergency management modernizations, as intended under section 148 of the California Military and Veteran’s Code (CMVC). Subsequently, the SAD policy is void of any substantive: mission criteria for fighting terrorism; procedures for functioning in unity of effort during regional catastrophes; qualifications for SAD Joint Staff positions; criteria for professional education; standards for training; and experience necessary to perform these jobs.

While the 9-11 battle cry, “We Will Never Forget,” spurred-on Bettenhausen, Monroe, and Eres, it seems it failed to inspire a core SAD staff, making it a SAD commentary of that 9-11 mantra.

Chinks in the Armor? (Left) Aftermath of San Bernardino terrorist attack. (Right) Wake of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attack at Brussels, Belgium. Is the Cal Guard’s State Active Duty (SAD) program a seam terrorists are exploiting?
Chinks in the Armor? (Left) Aftermath of San Bernardino terrorist attack. (Right) Wake of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attack at Brussels, Belgium. Is the Cal Guard’s State Active Duty (SAD) the chink in California’s Homeland Security ISIS can exploit?

The Monstrosity of Reform

Sadly, the State Military Department’s resistance swayed California lawmakers into believing the SAD wasn’t a compliance issue, but a question of reform. Senate Bill 807, sponsored by Sen. Lou Correa, increased probationary periods, decreased retirement benefits, and delegated the Governor’s authority to make rules and regulations governing SAD personnel to the Adjutant General.  The legislation was the antithesis of compliance and gave adjutant general Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin carte blanche to dump the staff that advanced SAD modernization, and promote permanency of SAD cronyism.

Absent incentives, deficient of quality training and qualification programs, and lacking guidance for fusing personnel, intelligence-sharing, operational, logistical, and information management with civilian security organizations, the current SAD program is the albatross on California’s Homeland Security. It  is one of the security gaps that lone wolves and homegrown terrorists have purportedly exploited as evidenced by: the sniper attacks on the Metcalf Power Grid in 2014; the San Bernardino County terrorist attack in 2015; and the Mexican drug Cartel’s alleged infiltration of San Diego-area armories to purchase guns, military ammunition and body armor in 2015.

And while the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is finding safe haven in Syria to exploit such gaps, fluff jobs are finding safe harbor in SAD policy. The Cal Guard has assumed grants, took-over of private-public foundations, and converted civilian Jobs to SAD jobs to include: Youth Program directors; museum directors; and a full-time employment officer with the mission to find unemployed part-timers jobs.  Although important, these programs are not Homeland Security priorities, and distractions from battling ISIS. They should not be part of the SAD program, but funded through private foundations and weaned off taxpayer dollars.

They distract California Military Regulation 600-1 mission focus, are out of synch with National and State Security agencies operations, and turns SB 807 into a monstrosity of reform.

Repeal and Oversight

A monstrosity, in my  opinion, California can correct if Office of Emergency Services (OES) Director Mark Ghilarducci can harness Bettenhausen’s 9-11 passion and take charge of the California National Guard’s state mission. In my opinion, Ghilarducci will have to reel in Homeland Security Grants funneled into the SAD program and pursue the following overhauls:

  • Repeal SB 807: Instead of reforming policy to establish a competitive SAD system that attracts the state’s brightest military personnel to work in unity with state and national security agencies, Senate Bill 807 has entrenched a cronyism network in policy. It enables the State Military Department to dodge compliance with federal laws governing the Armed forces, making it a weak link in California’s Homeland Security. A weak link that terrorists arguably discovered and are using to stealthily go under the California Homeland Security radar to infiltrate power grids and challenge local law enforcement. By repealing SB 807, the California Legislature will eliminate the distracting issue of reform, and reset SAD for compliance to power down military resources to the grassroots level.
  • SAD Oversight. Gov. Brown’s Military Council is perhaps the ideal body for SAD oversight. Consisting of retired generals from all military branches, cabinet representatives, California lawmakers, partners from California’s Defense Industry, U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies securing the state’s borders and Coastline, this Council has the platform to oversee the SAD program. Using the Secretary of Defense’s Joint Certification Board processes, the Council could annually validate SAD jobs, decide which to phase out, and review State Military Regulation 600-1 to validate whether it’s in compliance with federal laws governing the armed forces per Section 148, CMVC. Such oversight will maximize Cal Guard’s military proficiency, reduce duplication, eliminate inefficiencies, and provide a foundation for fusing its operations to those in the Homeland Security community.
  • DoD Input into SAD Policy. This will obviously necessitate updating California State Military Regulation 600-1. Therefore, invite  a DoD representative, preferably from US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), to sit on the Governor’s Military Council as its liaison for networking the SAD Joint Staff program into DoD polices and directives. It’s also California’s chance to reconcile issues that the DoD Investigator General (IG) found with including State Defense Forces, and by inference, the SAD program as part Defense Support to Civilian Authorities (DSCA) Response team. If further serves as the model for other state National Guards to engage in state-federal partnerships to form a proactive Reserve Component Joint Staff.
  • Fuse Operating Systems. Prior to my retirement, Baldwin and I discussed how to sway the DoD into formulating the SAD model in its Joint Branch policies and directives. With Federal laws in place, and tested systems available, Baldwin suggested the staff would have to pitch the idea to the Secretary of Defense. Instead of talking, it’s perhaps time to bring the operating systems predecessor adjutant generals produced to full operational capability (FOC), then convince the Secretary of Defense to sanctify them in DoD policy and directives. Although the Cal Guard has dismissed the state-paid SAD staff that developed these systems and mothballed them with private contractors, it’s time to either hold these contractors to legitimate timelines, or replace them with legitimate contractors who can complete the projects. FOC systems validated in DoD policy and compatible with those in Homeland Security community not only brings SAD Joint staff into compliance with state law, but hones California’s Homeland security effectiveness.

In hindsight, controversies that embattled the SAD program were not reform issues, but questions of compliance. Disputes California lawmakers can resolve through repeal and oversight.

Conclusion: A SAD Skeleton

With ISIS on California’s doorstep, and a Brussels-type ISIS attack Californians fear imminent, it’s time the Cal Guard stop worshiping its Mesozoic dinosaur, end its Meriba and Massah-like stubbornness, cut out its nepotistic cancer, and give SAD Homeland Security life with a transfusion of 9-11 urgency.

If ISIS strikes, and Californians’ die, doubtless California politicians will exonerate a “Governor’s Mandate” to correct SAD flaws, and deflect accountability for its failure. If Hillary is indicted and disqualified, students of Homeland security may dig into the California National Guard’s closets, and find shelved studies and forgotten after action reviews that reveal a SAD skeleton in a Dark Horse Presidential candidate’s closet, should the Democratic Party draft Brown.


  1. The California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) has since been re-designated the Office of Emergency Services (OES).



One comment

  1. You provided a lot of information on the flawed SAD program but one thing I’d like to add is that the program is also riddled with retired high ranking guard officers as well as individuals without any military experience but by having them join the state military reserve they can receive full-time employment. This is a huge waste of taxpayers money plus shows the “good ole boy” system is alive and well.

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