Commission to Examine Use, Funding of Reserve Components

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 6, 2006  - A congressionally appointed commission will commence the most comprehensive review of the National Guard and reserves in history.

Retired Marine Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro chairs the 13-member commission.

The reserve components have played an increasingly important part in the global war on terror, Punaro said during an interview. Congress formed the commission on the National Guard and Reserves as part of the 2005 National Defense Authorization Act.

Punaro said Congress felt an independent group needed "to take a more fundamental look at how the reserves are organized, trained and equipped." In addition, the commission will look at future threats and requirements to combat those dangers.

Nothing concerning the reserves is out of the scope of the commission, Punaro said. The group will look at laws governing the reserve components, and key issues include roles and missions of reserve forces, capabilities, reserve component organization and structure, readiness, compensation, and benefits and funding. The commission will also examine the relationship between the active and reserve components.

The commission stood up March 1 and must draft an interim report in 90 days. The commission will deliver a final report to Congress and the defense secretary in one year.

Use of the National Guard is a particular concern today, Punaro said. National Guardsmen are increasingly serving overseas but are also the troops that governors rely upon to handle natural or manmade disasters in the United States. National Guardsmen from around the country, for example, converged on the Gulf Coast to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. "The governors and state and local officials are a critical part of this review," Punaro said.

Reserve-component troops are "forward deployed" in communities all over the United States, Punaro said, meaning they are already in the areas where they could be needed. In many cases, these servicemembers are the police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians in their civilian lives, he noted.

Punaro said he already has met with governors who are worried about the availability of National Guardsmen in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

He said the commission's biggest challenge will be to "think smarter, not richer." The answer to every question on the reserves cannot be tied to funding, he said. "We can't have a National Military Strategy that's simply an adding machine," he said. "We can't just solve every problem in the Guard and reserves by just throwing more money at them."

He also said the commission will be mindful that reserve-component personnel are not full-time. "They are organized trained and equipped to respond to emergencies, to be able to serve alongside their active duty counterparts," he said. "If they wanted to be on active duty 365 days out of the year for 10 years in a row, they would be serving in the active-duty military, they wouldn't be in the reserves."

He said the commission will work to ensure reserve-component troops are informed about what the commission is doing on their behalf.

The commission is, in part, a response to the changing nature of reserve-component duty. DoD officials today consider the reserves an "operational reserve," as opposed to the Cold War's "strategic reserve," when the reserves would be called up only in the direst circumstances, Punaro said.

Today, the reserves are an integral part of the operational force. Already more than 500,000 reserve-component personnel have served in the global war on terror. Studying this change and the ramifications for reservists and their families is at the heart of the commission's mission, Punaro said.

He vowed that the commission's recommendations will not lie gathering dust on some bookshelf. "We will follow up," he said. "We're going to prepare our recommendations for implementation the day we report them. We're going to prepare the legislation, and all somebody has to do is take it down to the Senate floor and introduce it."