Guard Up

By Dan Dupont / July 28, 2011 at 1:49 PM

The National Guard Association of the United States, which believes it is closer than ever to its long-sought goal of a Guard seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is not happy about the Pentagon's recent decision to choose an active-duty general, and not a Guard officer, to head a key command. According to NGAUS, it's one more piece of evidence backing its claim that the Guard Bureau needs more clout:

This week's nomination of an active-component Army general to lead U.S. Northern Command over two qualified National Guard officers underscores the need for National Guard empowerment at the Pentagon.

Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., the nominee to head NORTHCOM, is obviously a talented officer deserving of a four-star command, and the Guard community looks forward to meeting him and working with him.

But he was selected over two senior Guard officers who are far more experienced with the NORTHCOM mission of coordinating the defense of the U.S. homeland.

Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, is a former commander of the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command. Lt. Gen. Frank J. Grass is currently the deputy commander at NORTHCOM. Obviously, both are thoroughly familiar with the Guard, which supplies the bulk of forces available to NORTHCOM. And both know first-hand the complexity of interagency collaboration, which is so vital to operations here at home.

For the last three years, Defense Department officials have spoken publicly of putting a National Guard officer at the helm of NORTHCOM. The reasons are obvious: Domestic operations are a uniquely Guard mission. But twice now, uniquely qualified Guard candidates have been passed over.

Much has changed in the U.S. military over the last few years. Unfortunately, much remains the same. The Guard may have more of a voice at the Pentagon, but a voice without a vote in final decisions is far too often a voice in the wilderness.

This is another Pentagon decision that shows why the National Guard needs both a seat and a vote at the table. The U.S. House of Representatives and 43 U.S. senators and counting all support legislation that would provide the NGB chief with both a seat and a vote.