On Guard

By Marjorie Censer / November 25, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Associated Press and others are reporting today that Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- in a widely distributed 41-page memo issued in response to the most recent Commission on the National Guard and Reserves report -- is calling for a broad review of the reserve component's ability to handle domestic disasters.

As Inside the Army reported upon its release in early 2008, the commission's report called for the Pentagon to better integrate the active and reserve components of the military and to “improve its capabilities and readiness to play a primary role in the response to major catastrophes that incapacitate civilian government over a wide geographic area.”

The report contended that the National Guard and Reserves “should play the lead role” in supporting the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies.

In the new memo, Gates also calls for a review to consider how best to ensure visibility of National Guard and Reserve equipment and funding.

The document, sent to a large group of Pentagon and service leaders, asks them to “complete the work done by the Commission and ensure that the Commission's efforts result in lasting improvements to our national security.”

Last month, Gates signed a new DOD directive -- first reported right here -- that changed official Pentagon policy to say the reserve components “provide operational capabilities and strategic depth to meet U.S. defense requirements across the full spectrum of conflict,” and that active and reserve components “are integrated as a total force based on the attributes of the particular component and individual competencies.”

Arnold Punaro, chair of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, told ITA earlier this month that the document was “one of the most significant documents in the Pentagon in a long, long time.”

We'll have more on the Gates memo shortly.