Concern About Commission on Army Structure

Two House Republicans are concerned that the Commission on the Future of the Army, group that is tasked by Congress to study the future of the US Army, National Guard, and Army Reserve, may not be functioning as it was intended.

According to DefenseNews.com Rep. Kay Granger, (R-TX), and Rep. Steve Womack, (R-AR) sent a joint letter last month to the leaders of the commission, hoping that the commission could "identify areas where improvements can be made, and efficiencies found", but also were concerned that "the scope and breadth of the commission's work is narrower than Congress directed" and that the commission "appears to be focused on small, incremental changes rather than comprehensive changes."

The lawmakers specifically mention two items they are most concerned about: the Army's Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) and the issue on National Guard dwell time. The commission is supposed to present their report to Congress on Feb. 1 - less than four months away.

They Army's controversial ARI - the plan to move all Apache attack helicopters from the National Guard into the active duty Army - has come under much attack, being proposed back in late 2013, and despite Congressional language to slow the consolidation, it has still proceeded according to the Army's planned 5-year time frame. Rep. Granger has long been opposed to the ARI transition, having sent a letter - signed by 213 other House Representatives - to both Senate and House Armed Services Committees requesting that they forbid the Army from any ARI transfers until the Feb 1 report is issued.

The letter sent by both Granger and Womack called the ARI a "poorly thought out, ill-informed, budget-driven plan that strips the National Guard of its attack capability and relegates them to the sidelines of the fight." They said that they have repeatedly asked for details on the cost and savings of the ARI plan, but have yet to receive a satisfactory answer.

The National Guard Association, the lobbying arm of the National Guard, has also argued to Congress that it needs to be able to mirror the active duty force, and that includes having attack helicopters and pilots - as well as transport and reconnaissance. The NGA also states that if this capability is taken from the Guard, it will be essentially impossible to return it when it is next needed.

The letter from the lawmakers also requests that the commission re-examine the Pentagon's guidelines for dwell time - the length of time that National Guard members are stationed back at home. The letter points out that over the past 14 years "the National Guard provides a significant cost-savings in dwell while providing an equal capability when deployed."

These restructuring issues - in particular the transitioning of attack helicopters from the Guard to active duty - have been a major point of contention between the two branches for almost two years. While this commission was put together in order to look at the Army's entire force structure for non-destructive cuts, Granger and Womack don't think that this has been accomplished, "Every time we dig beneath the surface of this plan, we become more alarmed with the harmful impacts it will have on the Army, Reserves and National Guard."