MARCH 6, 2020 – The U.S. military cannot do its job without the capabilities inherent in the National Guard, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel told the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee Wednesday.
Lengyel, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the panel the National Guard is not just a reserve, but an integral part of the military that enables the whole force to deter enemies and win the nation’s wars if deterrence fails.
“On any given day, approximately 30,000 Guardsmen carry out federal missions around the world, and an additional 10,000 Guardsmen conduct state and federal missions within the United States and its territories,” Lengyel said in a written statement to the committee. “National Guardsmen are part of an operational force nearly 450,000 strong that provides strategic depth to our nation’s Army and Air Force.”
While most Americans know the Guard for its role in aiding fellow Americans struck by disasters, the reason for the force is warfighting, pure and simple, the general said. “Being ready to fight and win America’s wars drives our training, our equipment and maintenance requirements, and our recruitment efforts,” Lengyel said.
From Africa to Afghanistan and from Europe to the Middle East, Lengyel said Guard members serve alongside active-duty personnel and bring their own unique expertise and experiences to complex problems of war and peace.
“Our current threat environment requires the National Guard to be prepared for complex, global operations in the most demanding conditions.”
The National Defense Strategy requires a total force effort and National Guard members are adapting to the return of great power competition with China and Russia. “China and Russia are undermining the international order through various means, exploiting all domains to change the character of warfare,” Lengyel said.
The component will shift focus, but it still must keep an eye on threats emanating from Iran, North Korea and violent extremist organizations, he said. “The changing and global nature of threats shape the warfight, and the National Guard is evolving rapidly to meet new demands,” Lengyel said.
Great power competition requires units to be ready to conduct high-intensity combat operations. The Guard is the principal combat reserve of the Army and Air Force. The Guard provides strategic depth to support combatant commands.
The terror attacks of 9-11 shredded the myth of the Guard as “weekend warriors,” Lengyel said. Since that day, more than 1 million Guard members have mobilized and deployed — many multiple times.
A traditional Guard member drills one weekend a month and two weeks a year. This is the foundation of the force.
But the demands of the future will require more from service members. “In order to fully leverage readiness that lives in the National Guard and to empower our Guard men and women, mobilization requirements need to be predictable,” Lengyel said. “This structure, predictable in time but geographically agile, will afford the DOD greater flexibility during this period of great power competition. This flexibility in employment also requires an enterprise approach to modernization of the total force in order to remain deployable, sustainable and interoperable with the active components.”
To that end, the National Guard requires parity with active duty service members in training, facilities and equipment. “There is only one standard for readiness, and there should be only the highest standard for our equipment,” the general said. “Without parity, we cannot integrate with the active components; if we cannot integrate, we cannot be the lethal force necessary to help deter, fight and win America’s wars.”
By Jim Garamone | DoD News