ARLINGTON, Va. (9/10/13) – The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called on National Guard and reserve service component leaders to be creative, make hard – sometimes bold – choices and improve institutional efficiency in the face of budget and other challenges.
Navy Adm. James Winnefeld also had high praise for the performance of the National Guard and Reserves since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks during remarks at the 2013 Reserve Forces Policy Board Annual Dinner here last week.
“Our means are pressurized, because we as a nation are confronting the national security imperative of deficit reduction, since no strong nation ever had a weak economy,” Winnefeld said. “At the same time, the ways we fight wars are also being pressurized as we accelerate into an era of network warfare, intelligence and operations integration [and] improved technology – technology that our adversaries are copying as fast as they possibly can.
“If we’re to retain the ability to address our many national security interests – our ends – with dramatically fewer means, we’re going to have to be creative in the ways we do it in both the active and reserve components.”
Winnefeld cited successes already achieved in a tough budget environment:
The Air Force’s Total Force Task Force has been transparent – for example with the inclusion of two adjutants general and the cooperation of the Council of Governors – and bold, experimenting with shifting from a 65:35 active component to reserve component ratio to a 55:45 ratio, Winnefeld said.
“[General] Mark Welsh’s task force is asking how far the Air Force can push forces into all missions of the reserve components without losing operational capacity or responsiveness,” he noted, referring to the Air Force chief of staff, who is also a member of the Joint Chiefs.
“While the Air Force itself will admit that it had a very tough time during our last budget cycle … they’ve really recovered,” he said. “When we’re transparent with the reserve component, the reserve component in return understands the problems we’re facing and is more likely to contribute to the solution.”
The Army has introduced regionally aligned brigades, which Winnefeld called a good innovation and an opportunity for contributions from the reserves.
But Winnefeld left no doubt about the tough financial environment in a time of increased global geopolitical uncertainty or about the challenges ahead.
“We find ourselves with no idea how much money [the Defense Department is] going to have in 2014 and beyond,” he said. “No idea when we’re going to know how much money we have in 2014 and beyond. And no idea what the rules are going to be when we find out. … We really are looking through a glass darkly.
“We have to lean out this entire defense enterprise by becoming more efficient – which means fewer people and slower growth of compensation, all while we’re maintaining a sharp edge on all of our forces, our Total Force, the military instrument of power, with reduced capacity.”
Winnefeld suggested that the current environment is as much an opportunity for the reserve forces as it is a challenge.
“A way or means that becomes an efficient and quickly employable tool to serve either high-ranking ends or many ends or both will be in an advantageous position,” he said. “Any tool the reserve component employs that’s useful in both overseas and domestic contingencies is going to be in an advantageous position.”
The vice chairman said he sees slightly different trajectories for each service in the future:
Air Force: “The reserve component is pretty much at the same level of proficiency all the time as the active component,” he said. “The major variable to me is what kind of rotations the Air Guard and the Air Forces Reserves can support in a major contingency. Is it one in three? Or is it one in five?”
Winnefeld predicted some missions, such as defense against hijacked airliners, may be modified or shrink because of technological advances and improvements in capabilities, including at outside agencies such as the Transportation Security Administration.
Army: “We will always have to take and hold ground,” Winnefeld said. “We have to look at how that’s going to happen in the future. … I personally don’t see another 10- or 12-year [counter-insurgency] campaign on the horizon. The country won’t accept it.”
The Civil War and World War II both were short, each lasting four years, he noted. “We’re going to have to make some assumptions regarding how long our future wars are going to be, what kind of force rotations we’re going to need.”
Regardless, “We need to ensure that our reserve component – especially our Army reserve component – is always ready to respond to the needs of Americans in trouble right here at home, and we need to make sure that, as the Army goes through a significant downsizing and restructuring, its reserve component is right there [at] the table.”
Navy and Marine Forces Reserve: Winnefeld described both reserve components as incredibly important and noted that the Navy and Marine Corps are pushing their reserves into new missions.
“Our reserve forces can help us find lasting solutions,” Winnefeld said. “They can offer us great lessons-learned from their military experience and also their civilian experience – best practices.
“Americans expect us to protect our homeland and the nation’s interests abroad while being responsible stewards of our resources.”
Winnefeld concluded with a mission for reserve leaders: “Balance the over-riding fiscal realities of the day with the great value we get from the reserves and the readiness profiles we need to have to be able to go fight tonight and sustain that fight for a while.”
The RFPB is a federal advisory committee established by statute within the Office of the Secretary of Defense that independently advises the secretary on strategies, policies and practices to improve and enhance the capabilities, efficiency and effectiveness of the reserve components.