May 06 2014

Graham, Leahy Introduce Bill To Launch Commission To Evaluate Army Budget Changes Proposed by the Administration

WASHINGTON - Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, are leading a bipartisan group of 19 senators in introducing the National Commission on the Future of the Army Act, to establish an independent panel that will be responsible for analyzing the major changes to the U.S. Army proposed in the President's budget.

Leahy said, "The Army's budget for Fiscal Year 2015 puts us on a path to major, irreversible changes to Army capacity and capability that cannot be ignored by the Congress, particularly in the Reserve Component. Neither the Active nor the Reserve Component can be rebuilt cheaply, so as the Congress considers how best to approach the structure of our Army in order to retain the capability of the Total Army, it is essential we remain unbiased by requesting an independent review."

Graham said, "The changes fundamentally alter what it means for the National Guard to be a combat reserve of the Army, and they would render the nation's operational reserve insufficient in its ability to retain gains in experience and readiness the reserve has achieved over a decade of deployment."

The Commission legislation will allow several of the Army's proposed cost-avoidance measures to move forward, while permitting time for the Commission to study the major changes that have been proposed. In addition to tasking the Commission with considering overall size and force mix of the Army, the senators in the bill ask for an evaluation of force generation assumptions.

Leahy added, "The policies put into place during 13 years of war are not the same as those that will be needed post-drawdown, and determining the right modifications is essential to planning for the use and structure of the Army of the next decade. We look forward to working with members on both sides of the aisle to ensure that we fund a balanced Army, and that we do not repeat past mistakes by needlessly discarding away the depth of our forces."

As original cosponsors, the bill includes:

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD)
Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS)
Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)
Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN)
Senator Ron Wyden (D-WY)
Senator James E. Risch (R-ID)
Senator Christopher A. Coons (D-DE)
Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE)
Senator John E. Walsh (D-MT)
Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
Senator Mike Lee (R-UT)
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA)
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KN)
Senator Joe Manchin III (D-WV)
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)

Comments Of Cosponsors

Senator Mikulski:

"I am pleased to be an original co-sponsor of Senator Leahy's and Senator Graham's National Commission on the Future of the Army Act. It is time for a national Commission on Army Force Structure to defend the Guard against budget cut attacks. I want the National Guard to have a seat at the table while the Army makes decisions on the National Guard's future fate in this more frugal fiscal environment. A robust National Guard means a more safe and secure Nation, protecting lives and livelihoods. The National Guard is always on the job protecting us at home and abroad whenever there is danger or disaster. That's why I'm standing sentry to support the men, women and families of the National Guard."

Senator Tester:

"Montanans serve our nation at some of the highest rates in the country. With more than a decade of deployment experience, our National Guard has been instrumental in protecting our state and our nation. We need to fully consider the value of the Army Guard as we adjust to future missions and make smart fiscal decisions. Our bill will do just that."

Senator Risch:

"I fully support an independent commission to review the Army's decision and make recommendations to Congress. Although a commission would force a pause in the decision process, a pause is better than a hasty move that could have negative implications on the National Guard and our nation's overall war-fighting ability."

Senator Wyden:

"In basketball, it pays to keep every player well-trained and ready to go at a moment's notice. But by trying to take the National Guard's attack helicopters, the Army sure seems like it's asking Congress to put the Guard on the bench. My colleagues and I are simply calling for an outside commission to conduct a full, independent review before the Army pushes ahead with such a controversial proposal."

Senator Walsh:

"As a 33-year veteran of the Montana National Guard I know firsthand how important our guard and reserve components are for our state and nation. This bill will take a close look into the proposed changes to the Army National Guard as we transition out of conflict. It is essential to the security of this country that we have strong citizen soldiers like those I served alongside in the Montana National Guard."

Senator Crapo:

"Our nation's budget challenges have forced the Army to consider restructuring its Army Aviation units. Many Idahoans have contacted me to express their concern that the Army's current proposals do not adequately consider the national security value and contribution of the Guard and Reserves. I share their view that this Commission is necessary to ensure that the Army's fiscal constraints do not compromise our military readiness and capability.

Senator Donnelly:

"As the Army begins to transition to a leaner force, it is critical that we find the appropriate balance between the active component and reserve component, including our National Guard, to protect our country and maintain the most effective military in the world. This bipartisan bill would allow for the Army and National Guard to make changes they need to stay on budget, while holding any major, irreversible cuts until we have the commission's input. We need to have the fullest picture possible before moving forward with force structure changes that would be very expensive to reverse."

Senator Lee:

"We all understand the enormous budgetary constraints that the Army is currently facing. There are tough decisions that have to be made, and everyone will have to share the burden. The decisions about the force mixture of the Army must be made in an informed, careful process and with all options weighed in a transparent and accountable fashion - it is too important to our national security to do otherwise. Active Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserves are necessary components of our combat and combat support systems, and I believe this commission will provide a comprehensive analysis and thoughtful recommendations to Army and to Congress."

Senator Markey:

"Massachusetts cannot afford to reduce the readiness and effectiveness of the Massachusetts Army National Guard by eliminating 650 soldier positions as included in the Army budget request. We need an independent review of this request to ensure that the Massachusetts Army National Guard will be able to appropriately respond to emergencies and support its federal mission. The National Commission on the Future of the Army Act is essential for that to happen, and I commend Senators Leahy and Graham for their leadership."

Senator Manchin:

"As a former Governor, I know firsthand the incredible value of our National Guard," Senator Manchin said. "These dedicated men and women have performed admirably alongside active units not only throughout the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in countless regions around the world. That is why I remain concerned that the Army's proposed cuts and modifications to the National Guard threaten to diminish their capabilities as a vital piece of America's combat reserve force. Our nation is facing tremendous budgetary pressures and I cannot accept that cutting our most efficient and cost effective fighting forces is the correct course of action. I believe that the Army's proposal does not account for the true value of the National Guard and emphasizes short-term gains. I support an unbiased examination by a commission, external to the Department of Defense, and I hope that a thorough investigation will provide clarity and strengthen the Army's combat power."

Senator Roberts:

"As a Marine, I stand in strong support of the men and women of the Kansas National Guard and believe an outside, independent Commission is in the best interest of our nation's security. It is imperative that the capabilities that make the National Guard a unique asset are preserved as all of our services face budget constraints and cuts."

# # # # #