Guarded Optimism

By Dan Dupont / June 30, 2011 at 2:00 PM

The National Guard Association of the United States is touting unprecedented levels of support in the Senate for its long-running goal of a seat for the Guard director on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In a statement issued this morning, NGAUS says thirty senators "now sponsor legislation that would give the National Guard a voice in final resource decisions at the Pentagon."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced the National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act of 2011, S. 1025, in late May. Twenty-eight senators have since signed on as co-sponsors.

The bill includes a provision to give the Guard’s senior officer a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The House approved a similar provision last month, meaning it now only needs Senate approval to be sent to the president, who committed to a Guard “seat at the table” in his 2008 campaign booklet, The Blueprint for America: Barack Obama’s Plan for America.

“Thirty and counting,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS). “This legislation has real momentum because a growing number of lawmakers recognize that the Guard will be increasingly important to the nation’s defense and security, yet still goes largely unrepresented atop the Pentagon.”

A formal role in final resource decisions is part of an ongoing effort by many on Capitol Hill and NGAUS that three years ago elevated the chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon from a three- to a four-star general.

The NGB chief is now invited to participate in some discussions with the Joint Chiefs. However, he does not have a vote in final decisions. Nor does he have the ability to nominate Guard officers for positions that require Senate confirmation.

S. 1025 would enable the NGB chief to sit with the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines — none of whom have ever served in the Guard — and give the Guard, for the first time, representation in final deliberations on staffing and resources.

All of the living former NGB chiefs, who were not allowed to support a Guard seat at the table while they served at the Pentagon, have endorsed the legislation.