Magazine article National Defense

National Guard to Receive Largest Budget in History

Magazine article National Defense

National Guard to Receive Largest Budget in History

Article excerpt

The U.S. National Guard is set to receive its largest budget ever--$15.2 billion--in fiscal year 2001. This is significant, said officials, since the Guard is to play a more active role in the national security arena.

The Guard plans to focus its attention and dollars on modernizing an aging helicopter fleet and providing better training to its members should they be called upon in war-fighting or peacekeeping operations. All of the U.S. military services are gearing up for the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), where national security priorities will be established for the next four years. National Guard leaders are hoping that the QDR will take into account the growing participation of Guard members in military conflicts.

"As we prepare ourselves for the Quadrennial Defense Review 2001, I want to make sure the Guard can continue to be there when we are called," said Lt. Gen. Russell C. Davis, chief of the National Guard Bureau, in a speech to the National Guard Association of the United States at its annual convention, in Atlantic City, N.J.

"I mean to insure that we are given relevant and meaningful missions, both federal and state. I want the resources to do those missions--modern tools to do our job, that are interoperable with our active component partners," said Davis. "And I want the Guard to have a role in the decision-making process as a full partner. If we can do that, then we will insure our future."

President Clinton, in late October, signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2001, which allocates $309.9 billion to the Pentagon. This includes a 3.7 percent military pay raise, which goes into effect January 1, 2001. That means a pay hike for the more than 350,000 men and women in the Army National Guard and the 108,000-plus Air National Guard members.

The $15.2 billion National Guard budget is $1.5 billion higher than Clinton's original request and 11 percent more than the Guard's current budget. The Army Guard's portion will be $8.8 billion, and the Air Guard's share will be $6.1 billion. Procurement and modernization are major drivers for the increase. The Army Guard is expecting a 28 percent increase in procurement, while the Air Guard plans a 145 percent increase.

The authorization provides $206 million for 18 Blackhawk helicopters--16 basic models and two air ambulances--to be purchased by the Army National Guard. The UH-60 Blackhawk, manufactured by United Technologies Sikorsky Aircraft, is a staple in the Army National Guard's fleet. In addition to acquiring newer Blackhawk models, the Guard is hell-bent on modernizing its current fleet.

Sikorsky currently is refurbishing the Guard's UH-60A Blackhawk models, so that they meet 1989 production standards. The Guard has been plagued by having to train with older equipment, officials complained. But Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric Shinseki's plans to "cascade" newer helicopters to the Guard, he said, are welcome by guardsmen.

Shinseki told the convention of his plan to align eight Guard combat units with Army active-duty forces (National Defense, November 2000, p.98). This is important, some officials said, because the Army is behind the other services in staffing all its units.

"[The Army], in comparison to the other services, [is] way behind on full-time manning," said Gen. John W. Hendrix, commanding general of the U.S. Army Forces Command. "Essentially, the Air Force and the Navy are 100 percent manned, almost virtually 100 percent manned on their full-time support requirements. And ... we in the Army are way, way behind. We simply have to get it right. ... We need more people."

The Guard recently participated in peacekeeping, disaster-relief and counterdrug programs. Earlier this year, Guard units were dispatched to help fight the outbreak of wildfires that erupted in the West. This realignment, however, will give Guard combat units a higher profile, officials said. …

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