HIPP: America’s National Guard: Citizen soldiers answering the call of duty today just as in 1776
The 4th of July is a time to remember what it means to be an American and what those early Americans went through to gain our independence and build the young republic. The Founding Fathers and the Continental Congress understood the “citizen-soldier” concept—a vital tradition that has made our military unique and withstood the test of time.
Today’s National Guard has its roots in the militias of the 13 original colonies. Most of the regiments of the Continental Army came directly from the militia. There were many discussions in the early American Congress of the 1780s and 1790s about the role of the militia, which led to today’s unique Federal and State roles of the National Guard. The militia has been called the National Guard since 1916.
In recent years, we’ve seen the Guard and Reserve in action in Afghanistan and Iraq. We’ve also seen the National Guard in action too many times on the home front recently in their role as America’s first responders dealing with hurricanes and tornados.
One thing we’ve overlooked is exactly how much the National Guard has saved the American taxpayers over the years in real dollars. We can train and equip 3-4 National Guard troops for every 1 active duty troop, but when you need them, you’ve got to be prepared to use them. Equally as important is the fact that the National Guard needs to be adequately equipped.
Because the Pentagon had a history of not properly equipping the National Guard, over 30 years ago Congress wisely established the “National Guard and Reserve Component Equipment Account (NGREA)” to ensure America’s National Guard had adequate equipment and supplies to respond to national security and homeland needs. The NGREA has been a lifeline for the Guard in recent years. It has enabled them to fight along side active duty troops at a fraction of the cost and respond quickly to natural disasters and homeland security threats.
The beneficiaries have been the American taxpayers who have reaped the benefit of real cost savings of putting more and more of this capability in the National Guard force structure. Unfortunately, just a couple of weeks ago, some 171 Democrats in Congress were joined by 20 Republicans in supporting the Van Hollen Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would have severely impacted the National Guard’s readiness. The Van Hollen Amendment included a provision to eliminate $400M from NGREA.
Fortunately, 22 common sense Democrats joined roughly 90% of all congressional Republicans in defeating the Van Hollen Amendment by a 232-191 vote. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon and the National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) were key players in defeating the amendment and maintaining the readiness of the National Guard. They knew the consequences. Without an adequately equipped National Guard, the nation might eventually be forced to shift this capability to the active force at an enormous cost of billions and billions of dollars to the American taxpayer.
This 4th of July we are reminded of the minutemen and “citizen soldiers” who comprised our militia and ultimately defeated the British against overwhelming odds. Today, those “citizen soldiers” as envisioned by our Founding Fathers and the Continental Congress, are serving America by responding to terrorist attacks, deploying overseas and responding to natural disasters on the home front, all at considerable cost savings to the American people.
As is so often the case, the wisdom of America’s Founding Fathers is once again clearly evident this 4th of July.
Van D. Hipp, Jr. is Chairman of American Defense International, Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm specializing in government affairs, business development and public relations. He is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army and currently serves on Board of Directors of the American Conservative Union and The National Capitol Board of The Salvation Army. Follow him on Twitter @VanHipp.