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American Forces Press Service

Unit Rebalance Will Make Guard More Effective, Army Secretary Says

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 18, 2006 Rebalancing the types of brigades being added to the National Guard will make that component more effective in its two-fold mission and will contribute to the overall capability of the Army, the secretary of the Army said here today.

In a Pentagon press briefing, Francis J. Harvey stressed that the National Guard will not be reduced in size, but will simply have different kinds of units added to it.

The initial plan for the transformation of the Guard called for the number of brigade combat teams to be increased from 15 to 34, Harvey said. That is now being changed to 28 brigade combat teams, and the number of combat support units is being increased, he said. This change came about because the Guard has a dual mission, he explained: overseas operational missions and homeland defense missions.

"They need a capability that's somewhat different than the active component," he said. "So we decided that it's appropriate to adjust the number of brigade combat teams."

The combat support units that will be added to the Guard will include military police units, engineers, chemical specialists, air defense personnel and civil affairs units, all of which are important to the Guard's homeland defense missions, Harvey said.

So far this year, the Guard has maintained a troop strength concurrent with the average 2005 troop strength, Harvey said, but if that number grows, the Army will fund the growth as it comes. This is a new approach to funding that will allow for more flexibility, he said.

"It's really a more realistic approach," he said.

To continue compensating for the Guard's lack of funding in the 1990s, the Army included $20 billion for National Guard equipment in the Future Years Defense Program, which will take effect over the next six years, Harvey said.

"The Guard is going to be organized and equipped in the same way the active Army's going to be organized and equipped," he said.

The active Army is also transforming to become more combat capable and ready, Harvey said. In 2005, the Army created four new modular brigade combat teams and one Stryker brigade combat team, and completed the transformation of seven existing brigades to the modular design. Now, 37 combat or support brigades have either completed transformation to the modular design or are well along in the process, he said.

Under the Future Years Defense Program, 30,000 soldiers will be transitioned out of the institutional Army and into the operational, or warfighting, Army, he said. The jobs these soldiers leave behind will be filled by civilians.

The transformational changes being done have already started to achieve the Army's goal of a more combat-ready force with less strain on deployable units, Harvey said.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, the Army sent 50,000 soldiers in just over a week while still maintaining operational tempo in the war on terror, he pointed out.

"Especially noteworthy is the contribution of the Army National Guard and the Army Reserves; 2005 re-affirmed that we are truly an 'Army of One,'" he said.

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