Guard leaders speak with Senate’s appropriations subcommittee

Equipment is a key to readiness, and the Army and Air National Guard have been affected in a significant way, two senior Guard officials told the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Appropriations in Washington, March 25

Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, director of the Army National Guard, joined the Air Guard’s recently appointed Director, Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt, at the hearing to outline their current and future goals for manpower and equipment in the Guard.

Vaughn told senators that the increase in equipment since 2006 has impacted the Army Guard.

“It has enabled us to have the world-class capability that we have today,” Vaughn said.

The Army Guard now has about 76 percent of its required equipment on hand, when deployed equipment is not included, officials said.

In 2006, the Army Guard only had 40 percent of equipment on hand.

“Our view is that we are getting better every day at equipping,” said Vaughn, adding that the effect on readiness is substantial.

Vaughn also said the Army is “making great strides” to ensure that equipment gets to its intended location.

Wyatt told senators that recapitalization was a primary concern for the Air Guard and the Air Force as a whole.

About 80 percent of the Air Guard’s F-16 Fighting Falcons, which fly the largest portion of the nation’s Air Sovereignty Alert missions, will reach the end of their life span in eight years.

Air National Guard fighter aircraft units fly 16 of the nation’s 18 ASA missions nationwide as well as participate in overseas rotations.

About 36 percent of the combat sorties flown in Iraq and Afghanistan last year were flown by the Air Guard, Wyatt said.

Officials said the average age of Air Guard aircraft is more than 25 years, with KC-135 Stratotankers being the oldest at 49 years.

High operations tempos since 1990 added flying hours that accelerated the aging process.

“It’s a very serious problem that we have, and we are working with the Air Force as they address their recapitalization issues,” Wyatt said.

According to the Guard’s 2010 Posture Statement, the Army Guard’s Recruiting Assistance Program and its Recruit Sustainment Program helped strengthen the Army Guard’s manpower.

Vaughn conceded that the Army Guard recruited above its congressionally authorized strength by more than 15,000 Soldiers because a high number of them enlisted and then waited at their units to attend basic training.

He said there is a plan in place to reduce end strength to the level authorized before the year’s end while keeping an eye on readiness.

“The way we will do that is to change our system,” he said.

Wyatt pointed out that the Air Guard’s end strength was approaching all-time highs. Its current authorized end strength is 106,756 Airmen.

The Air Guard finished the fiscal year 2008 with an assigned end strength of 107,679 Airmen and it achieved 126 percent of its recruiting goal.

But Wyatt explained to the committee that 2,228 additional Airmen are needed to fully man current and future missions with the Air Force, to assist in mobilizations and deployments and to manage recently introduced servicemember care programs.

Those personnel would also be needed to put Airmen at the joint force headquarters, which the adjutants general use to execute missions for their governors, he said.

Finally, Vaughn was commended for the Army Guard’s implementation of a Blast Tracker system, used to track the health of Soldiers exposed to detonations.

He said the Guard is getting better at tracking, but more work remained to track all Guard and Reserve service members before they return home.

“The Army is solidly behind this,” Vaughn added.

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