A Really “Poor Choice of Words”:

A key criticism levied on the final report of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves is that it recommends converting the National Guard into a domestic-only force. At last week’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, commissioners adamantly disputed that was their intent. Retired Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Gordon Stump, one of the 12 commissioners, acknowledged that he could understand the confusion, saying, “It was probably a poor choice of words.” The wording in one of 95 commission recommendations prompted Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, NGB chief, to declare it would “unhinge the volunteer force and we would break the Total Force.” However, the head of the commission, retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, told lawmakers at the Feb. 7 hearing, “We absolutely do not recommend converting the National Guard into [a] domestic crisis response force only.” That was not the only source of confusion. In another key recommendation, the commission purportedly suggested a change in status that would reduce reserve force pay by half. “When read carefully and accurately, what is proposed in Recommendation 22 is a 50-percent cut in reserve pay,” said Assistant Secretary for Homeland Defense Paul McHale at a joint briefing with Blum on Feb. 1. Yet, commissioner Patricia Lewis, a former Navy civilian and Congressional staffer, said, “I want to make crystal clear that this recommendation does not include any recommendation for a cut in reserve pay.” It does recommend a streamlining of the current 29 duty status categories to just two: either on active duty or not. But Lewis maintained that it also recommends changes that would “put additional money in reservists’ pockets.” The Pentagon is not the only entity to take exception to the final report, the Senate National Guard Caucus already has called some recommendations “counterproductive.” However, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) believes the Feb. 7 hearing “clarified a number of issues,” but he intends to gather comments from affected agencies over the next few weeks and give the commissioners an opportunity to respond for the record before they formally adjourn at the end of April.