President Barack Obama ended the old year by signing the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which makes the chief of the National Guard Bureau a full and legal member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The language that gives the chief this boost of status in the Pentagon was the primary focus of NGAUS legislative efforts in 2011, making the president’s signature on the bill Saturday a fitting end to the year.
“The Guard finally has a seat at the table,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of NGAUS. “This does not mean the Pentagon culture with all of its historic biases against the Guard will evolve overnight. After all, this is a move every member of the Joint Chiefs opposed.
“But at least now, the Guard will have a voice among the president’s military advisors, one that can’t be ignored or excluded from the discussion. It’s a huge victory for the Guard. More importantly, it could be a catalyst for the type of change needed to defend the nation in the tough fiscal environment ahead.”
This step has been likened to the Militia Act of 1903, which ushered in the modern dual-status nature of the Guard.
In a statement from the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the chief, said, “We are grateful for the efforts the executive and legislative bodies have gone to in placing the chief of the National Guard Bureau on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We look forward to working alongside the other Joint Chiefs to provide our nation’s senior leaders with a fuller picture of the nonfederalized National Guard as it serves in support of homeland defense and civil support missions.”
The 2012 NDAA authorizes $670 billion in spending for Defense Department programs and Energy Department nuclear weapons programs.
Other provisions of the bill that affect the Guard include re-establishing the position of vice chief of the National Guard Bureau at the three-star level, while rescinding the two-star position of director of the NGB’s joint staff.
The bill also requires that National Guard general officers be considered for command of Army North and Air Force North and authorizes funding for the National Guard State Partnership Program.