Retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, president of AUSA speaks during the opening ceremony for the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., in October 2013. Sullivan has said a planned commission to adjust the Army to meet the national security needs 'indicates a profound lack of trust and confidence' in the Army leadership. (Mike Morones)
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In an open letter Tuesday, the president of the Association of the United States Army defended the organization’s opposition to a commission that would determine the Army’s force structure and sent a message to his critics: let’s trust our leaders.
“I am confident [Army, National Guard and Army Reserve] leaders are fully qualified and capable of assessing and adjusting the Army’s structure to meet national security needs at home and abroad,” retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan wrote. “Standing up a commission, as some advocate, indicates a profound lack of trust and confidence in these National Guard leaders and Army leaders to do what they were confirmed by the Senate to do.”
Sullivan’s most recent comments follow a Feb. 11 letter he wrote to House Speaker John Boehner. In that letter, Sullivan expressed AUSA’s opposition to a commission proposed in HR 3930, a bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.
The bill would establish a National Commission on the Structure of the Army and prohibit the Army from divesting, retiring or transferring any aircraft from the Army National Guard. It also would stop any end-strength reductions in the Army Guard at 350,000.
The bill has wide support from Guard advocates; the National Guard Association of the United States has called on its members to ask their representatives to support Wilson’s bill.
Tensions between the active Army and Army National Guard over end-strength cuts, force structure and tightening budgets came to a head publicly in January.
NGAUS officials slammed Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno for remarks he made during a press briefing, calling his comments, “disrespectful and simply not true.”
Odierno, in talking about the risks that come with shrinking the Army below the 490,000 floor set for 2015, said active Army and Army Guard “capabilities are not interchangeable.”
The Guard Association and some adjutants general also have fought back against an Army proposal to reorganize its aviation assets by divesting the OH-58 Kiowa and using the AH-64 Apache to fill the armed scout reconnaissance role. This would require moving the Guard’s Apaches into the active Army; in exchange, the Guard would receive more UH-60 Black Hawks.
The nation’s governors also have jumped into the fray. In a Feb. 28 letter to President Obama, the state leaders called for the president to keep the Guard’s end-strength at 350,000 and voiced their support for the commission.
“The modern National Guard is a highly experienced and capable combat force and an essential state partner in responding to domestic disasters and emergencies,” states the letter, which was signed by 50 governors. “A return to a pre-9/11 role squanders the investment and value of the Guard and discredits its accomplishments at home and as an active combat force.”
The Army is already cutting 80,000 soldiers from the active force for an end-strength of 490,000 by 2015.
Budget details announced last week call for the Army to drop to an end-strength of about 450,000 soldiers by 2017; that figure could drop to 420,000 if sequestration remains after 2016.
The Army Guard would go from 354,000 to 335,000, while the Army Reserve would drop from 205,000 soldiers to 195,000 by 2017.
If sequestration returns in 2016, the Army Guard would draw down further to 315,000, and the Reserve to 185,000.
In his letter Tuesday, Sullivan said a similar commission that studied the structure of the Air Force was “precipitated by the decision-making in the Air Force that did not fully include the equities of the Air National Guard. Under those circumstances, a commission was probably warranted. Those conditions do not exist in the Army.”
He also said he doesn’t know why others are questioning the “credibility of these battle-tested National Guard leaders” by calling for a commission.
“AUSA does not support undermining the authority and responsibility of these distinguished Guard, Reserve and active officers and experts,” Sullivan wrote. “A commission will do just that – undermine the trust that the troops, active, Guard and Reserve, have in their leaders. That is unacceptable to AUSA. We support Guard leaders, Reserve leaders and active component leaders to get the job done.”