Chiefs Oppose Guard Seat on Joint Chiefs
November 11, 2011
While emphasizing the importance of the
National Guard to national defense efforts at home and abroad, the top
U.S. military officer advised Congress today against making the chairman
of the National Guard Bureau a statutory member of the Joint Chiefs of
“The argument to change the composition of the JCS is simply not
compelling,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It’s uncertain to
me what problem we’re trying to solve.”
Such a change, proposed in pending National Guard Empowerment and
State-National Defense Integration Act legislation, could have negative
repercussions, Dempsey said, particularly respective to representation
The chiefs of the Army and Air Force provide a single voice for their
respective branches, including both their active- and
reserve-components, the chairman noted. In that role, the chiefs bear
sole responsibility for making resource decisions required to produce an
organized, trained and equipped force, he said.
“The proposed change could undermine this effort,” giving at least the
appearance that the Army and Air Force have greater representation than
the other services on the JCS because the National Guard incorporates
both elements, Dempsey said.
Dempsey also noted that unlike the service chiefs, the National Guard
Bureau chairman is not subject to the civilian oversight of a single
“Elevation to the JCS would make him equal to the service chiefs without
commensurate accountability,” he said. In this regard, the proposal runs
counter to principals in the Goldwater-Nichols legislation designed to
create intra- and inter-service equities, he told the panel.
Dempsey praised the insight and experience Air Force Gen. Craig R.
McKinley, the current National Guard Bureau chief, already contributes,
calling him a welcomed participant in JCS meetings.
“The [National Guard Bureau chairman] has a voice and it is heard,” he
said. “I want and need him in the Tank.”
The Army and Air Force chief consider this advice carefully as they make
decisions affecting their services, making any change to the current JCS
structure unnecessary, Dempsey said.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said during today's Pentagon news
conference that he supports Dempsey's position and believes President
Barack Obama would, too. "If I know this president, I think he would
seriously take into consideration the recommendations of the chairman of
the joint chiefs," Panetta said during the press briefing.
During the congressional hearing, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported on the close, positive
working relationship he and McKinley forged when they served as
commander and deputy commander, respectively, at U.S. Northern Command.
However, the legislative proposal could “send a corrosive signal that we
have two different United States Armies and two United States Air
Forces,” he said.
“Second, while the legislation may send a positive message to the
terrific men and women in the Guard,” he said, “I’m concerned that it
will send a very negative message to the remaining 40-plus percent of
our nation’s reserve component that they are somehow of lesser
importance, and that future decisions could be taken at their expense.”
Army Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, also praised the
National Guard Bureau as a partner in national defense but expressed
“explicit opposition” to making the Guard Bureau chief a JCS member.
Such a change “will create confusion [and] imbalance and challenge
interoperability,’ he said, and threaten to undo progress made toward
jointness. It also would run the risk of creating a “bifurcated force”
one focused internally and the other, abroad, Odierno said, and lead to
divided or redundant management processes.
Air Force Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the Air Force chief of staff, agreed
that the proposal could “disrupt the lines of authority and
representation” in place within the JCS for the Army and Air force
“This current effective arrangement should not be altered,” he said.
McKinley was lone dissenter at today’s hearing, calling arguments that
the legislative proposal would create a separate military service
“divisive and unfounded.”
He recognized specialized capabilities the National Guard contributes to
defense operations, particularly in areas such as domestic response and
response to weapons of mass destruction.
the service chiefs provide advice on National Guard operations conducted
under federal authority, McKinley said only the National Guard Bureau
chief can speak on authority about their capability to perform both
federal and domestic Title 32 state missions.
McKinley dismissed the notion that adding the National Guard Bureau
chief to the JCS would create a service imbalance, pointing to the seat
currently held by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James F. Amos.
“The Marine Corps is part of the Department of the Navy, and their
budget request to Congress is included inside the Navy request. Yet no
one would argue that the Marines are hindered by this construct in being
able to articulate their requirements or deliver their unique
capabilities,” McKinley said.
“The CNGB has a similar department-level role,” he said, “and also
possesses significant budget authorities and responsibilities.”