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National Defense > Blog > Posts > Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers
Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers
By Sandra I. Erwin

Gen. Ray Odierno

At the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Army active-duty soldiers made up 51 percent of the force. The other 49 percent was a mix of reservists and members of the National Guard.

Over the coming years — as budgets shrink and the active-duty Army thins its ranks — that split will shift in favor of the Guard and Reserve, said Gen. Ray Odierno, Army chief of staff.

The Army is comfortable with a 46/54 share, Odierno said Jan. 7 at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C. But any further rebalancing would not be acceptable, he said, because it would leave the Army with too many part-time soldiers.

Odierno insisted that each component of the Army — active-duty, Reserve and National Guard — has unique skills and missions, and that all are needed.

The chief’s comments come amid a torrent of congressional criticism that the Army is dipping into the National Guard to help pay for training, operations and other priorities. In letters to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last month, leaders of the House and Senate grumbled about Army proposals to trim the National Guard down to 315,000 troops, or about 35,000 fewer than the pre-9/11 force.

The issue has stirred tensions inside the Pentagon and carries an undertone of class warfare pitting well-compensated full-time soldiers against part-timers. Guard and Reserve advocates contend these soldiers cost far less than active-duty troops and offer a better deal to the U.S. taxpayer. “We are convinced that end-strength reductions in the Reserve component are not a practical or long-term solution to ensuring our nation’s security in an era of fiscal restraints,” lawmakers wrote in a Dec. 13 letter.

Odierno pushed back, noting that the active-duty force is bearing the bulk of the reductions. The Army’s original plan was to downsize from a peak of 570,000 to 490,000 by 2018. In the wake of sequester cuts last year, the goal was accelerated by two years. The current force stands at 527,000, with projected annual cuts of 20,000 through the end of fiscal year 2015. “Then we will have to make decisions on where we go from there,” depending on “available resources,” Odierno said. The Reserve and Guard combined currently have about 555,000 troops.

If the active-duty Army has to drop below 490,000, he said, the Reserve and Guard can also expect further cuts, said Odierno. “We're still working on what those numbers are.”

Each component is important, he said, but the “capabilities are not interchangeable.” There is a reason why the active component is more expensive, he added. “It gives you a higher level of readiness because they're full time.”

National Guard soldiers perform valuable duties, he said, but they train only 39 days a year. “To say that the National Guard is cheaper and can replace the active-duty force is not true,” he said. The same can be said about active-duty troops not being adequate substitutes for guardsmen who have unique responsibilities in homeland defense under state governments. “It's about getting the right balance between the two,” said Odierno.

The 2014-2015 budget deal that Congress approved in December gives the military some relief from sequester cuts but not enough to spare the Army from deep cuts, Odierno noted. “I'm grateful” for the budget agreement, he said. In the long term, however, the Army still has more people, missions and programs than it can afford. After next year, “We go back to the problem of the balance between end strength, readiness and modernization,” he said. “I can't get that balance until 2020. That creates six years of vulnerability.”

The reduced spending caps that Congress mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011 — which still are in place for eight years after 2015 — could compel further reductions in ground forces, Hagel warned in July when he unveiled a "Strategic Choices and Management Review" as a preview of what future budgets might entail.

One scenario would be to shrink Army end-strength to between 420,000 and 450,000 active-duty troops and between 490,000 and 530,000 in the reserves.

Hagel cast the spending choices as a tradeoff between a larger, but poorly equipped force and one that is smaller, but more technologically advanced. “The balance we strike between capability, capacity, and readiness will determine the composition and the size of the force for years to come,” Hagel said.

As the debate over how to divvy up resources within the Army components continues, Guard leaders are bracing for a fight. Playing to the Guard’s advantage, they point out, is that the Defense Department is struggling to curb rising compensation costs incurred by the active-duty force. Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said that during these times of fiscal challenges, the military should rely more heavily on the Guard. “We think from a National Guard perspective, we provide the nation a great opportunity to take a look at saving some of that compensation,” Grass told reporters in November. “You pay for guardsmen 39 days a year unless you’re using them full time, so you can ramp down when you need to, and you can ramp up when you need to go to war as we have throughout this war.” Including both the Army and Air Force National Guard, 750,000 have deployed, he said. “At the same time we’re probably averaging 3,000 to 4,000 a day doing missions in the homeland, so we see a real value proposition here for the nation to get after this compensation issue.”

Photo Credit: U.S. Army


Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

It is nothing short of appalling that a COS of the Army can dismiss the readiness levels of the National Guard, who made up 35% of the Army Total Force during the last decade, and last time I checked did just as well as AD.   And then attempt to dismiss the real cost effectiveness of the Guard versus active duty personnel like no one can do simple math.  With active duty, you pay 24/7, 365 and with the Guard you only pay them when they are activated.  Its very sad to see the the entrenched Army bureaucracy stoop this low and be unable to consider the realities or possibilities of a new way of doing the business of national security in the real world.  Appalling.
J. McCartney at 1/10/2014 7:17 AM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

This is disconcerting to say the least.  The Army National Guard is an operational force that is chartered by the US Constitution, public law and DoD Policy that clearly shows that the Composition one (Active Army ) is tooled for shorter and less enduring missions.  This is why there is a composition two (Army National Guard) which is a combat arms organization is well trained and has a complete compliment of BCTS, two SF Groups, Ranger and LRS just to name a few.  Case in point, the active duty has a hard time maintaining an adequate number of Special Forces Soldiers and has to rely in the ARNG to augment their forces in order to be mission effective.  Never in the history of the ready reserve has there been such a robust, better equipped, well trained and armed with 13 plus years of combat experience as we have now.  This is why there was a ratified vote and a bill signed into law putting the Chief of the National Guard on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Lastly, to the author of this article and for that matter to the readers, know that the word “Soldier” is a proper noun therefore capitalized.  It is a title.  A title that comes with a great amount of pride, respect and honor, which is synonymous to our sister and brothers in the United States Marine Corps, uses “Marine.”  Please provide the same respect.         
Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers at 1/10/2014 8:44 AM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

As a National Guard Soldier, I feel hurt to see what the CoS says about the Guard. Does it make sense to say that the National Guard saves our tax payers a ton of money by only training 39 days out of the year and does the same if not a better job the the Active duty when they are full time (365 days a year)??? Not only that, the National Guard serves two missions "State" and "Federal". The National Guard is very uniqe in many ways. One of the Unique ways about the National Guard is that "we" National Guard bring many experience to the table due to the fact that National Guard Members work in many different fileds and bring that experience with them when called up to duty. We must preserve the National Guard as a force that is ready whenever is needed whether by the President or the State that it serves.
Soldier at 1/10/2014 9:17 AM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

I agree with all above comments. Except, soldier is not a proper noun. Neither is sailor or airman. However, Marine is. Check the Associated Press stylebook.
Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers at 1/10/2014 9:59 AM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

AD "just as capable" as NG? Come on. Also, double check Ranger units in the R/NG. I'm pretty sure that's false.
Brad at 1/10/2014 10:23 AM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

Odierno has hit the nail on the head.

I'm sorry it makes the RC folks feel hurt (as one of you said), but AD folks spend more time in the field than you spend doing everything you do, in a single year -- I don't mean that as an insult, merely a statement of fact.

BTW, before you cast stones at me, I was AD, USAR and commanded a NG unit. RC folks are good folks who work very hard, but just don't have the time to commit on an annual basis like the AD does.
Jsmith at 1/10/2014 11:21 AM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

Ok, challenge accepted, stones inbound. As an active duty AH64 pilot for 13 years, and NG AH64 pilot for 5, let me tell you that there is a world of favor of the Guard. NG Aviation is far more experienced than our AC brethren. Don't believe me?  Review the safety record.  First glance, go to Then analyze what's happened from FY09-present. 15 AH-64 destroyed. 13 active duty.  10 of 13 had pilot error as a causal or contributing factor. The 2 of 15 NG AH64 accidents had material failure as the cause. Pilot error was not a factor in either of these.

In this case, it appears the full-time players are JV league, while the part timers NFL caliber.  "39 days" (ha!) of training with experience beats a full year of inexperience, anytime, anywhere baby!
RWilliams at 1/10/2014 4:00 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

Moving 2 CABs to the National Guard saves $ 1 Billion per year.   Keep AH-64 Apache Helicopters in the NG!

Moving 2 CABs (Combat Aviation Brigades) to the National Guard (NG) will save the federal government approximately $1 billion annually.  Using the Army's budget numbers, a National Guard CAB costs only 1/3 of an active duty CAB.  Also, the NG has been doing approximately 1/3 of the deployments to combat zones.  National Guard aviators have the same flight training requirements as active duty aviators.  NG aviators have been flying combat missions in Afghanistan and Iraq for the last 12 years and have performed just as effectively as active duty aviators and, in many cases, better -- due to the many years of flight experience and thousands of flight hours these seasoned NG aviators have.
Sam at 1/10/2014 5:38 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

Many of the senior NG aviators have over 30 years of flight experience and provide a large amount of continuity to the NG aviation training programs, whereas the majority of active duty aviators have very low flight experience; there is also a retention problem with senior aviators in active duty.  In the last 5 years, the NG Apache Class A accident rate DUE TO PILOT ERROR is zero; whereas, the active duty has 10 Class A accidents due to pilot error.  An AH-64D Longbow Apache costs approximately $30 million each; take this times 10 active duty Longbows destroyed = $300 million loss of aircraft for active duty and ZERO aircraft loss for the National Guard in the last 5 years.
Additionally, several of the NG's senior Apache maintainers (aircraft mechanics) have over 20 years of experience in maintaining Apaches and are superior mentors to the rest of the maintainer force.  These senior maintainers are hired on a full-time basis to only maintain Apaches, with no other tasks authorized; contrast this to active-duty maintainers who have multiple distractors which take them off the hangar floor.  These distractors have made the active duty force become reliant upon civilian contract aircraft maintenance support.

To be continued...
Sam at 1/10/2014 6:00 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

National Guard aviators and mechanics train much more than 39 days a year.  NG part-timers can train up to 135 days a year (1/3 of 365 days) and still cost MUCH less than active duty; this is done by using 72 AFTPs (Additional Flight Training Periods), 48 Drill periods, and 15 days of Annual Training.  NG aviators also fly JUST as much as active duty aviators, so the NG Apache units get the SAME training for MUCH less cost.
Army active-duty senior leaders have proposed a course of action (COA) to remove all CABs and AH-64s from the NG and give the NG only Aviation Brigades (AB) -- notice the word "Combat" is missing.  The goal of active duty leaders is to remove the NG's ability to have a stand-alone operational reserve combat force (which is against the U.S. Constitution).  Active duty is doing in this in a self-preservation effort, due to massive budget cuts and sequestration ($1 trillion out of the Defense budget over the next 10 years).

To be continued...
Sam at 1/10/2014 6:29 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

Is the nation willing to dismantle NG AH-64 Apache Battalions and throw away one-third of the AH-64 Apache aviators and maintainers who are the most experienced (and least costly) in the US Army?  The Army would actually INCREASE its vulnerability by axing one third of the MOST experienced aviators and mechanics.  If qualified personnel in the NG are reduced by 1/3, it will take YEARS (as in 15 to 20) to train a replacement force for the loss of senior aviators and maintainers.
Consider an alternate course of action: The National Guard retains their 8 COMBAT Aviation Brigades, plus move 2 active-duty CABs to the NG, for a total of 10 CABs in the National Guard -- leaving Active Duty with 10 CABs, resulting in Active Duty and Guard being a one-for-one match.  This allows the NG to deploy to combat zones more often at a cheaper cost than possible with active duty and with less aircraft destroyed.  This would also retain all AH-64 Apaches in the NG.  Move 2 CABs to the National Guard and save ONE BILLION DOLLARS annually.  For further cost savings, if 4 CABs were moved to the National Guard, this would save TWO BILLION DOLLARS annually!
A Concerned Citizen
Sam at 1/10/2014 6:52 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

I agree, A Medevac unit from Nevada in the National Guard saved my son's life. When compared to the Active units, there is no doubt the crew (specifically the civilian trauma nurse working as an Army medic) saved my only son's life. I am completely confident if it were an active Medevac unit, that wouldn't have happened. A young army medic with basic skills cant hold a candle to the National Guard medic that has tremendous experiences as a civilian soldier.

I agree with General Odierno, there is a balance. Lets face it, the National Guard does some things far better than the active duty. Medevac is definitely one of those areas (thank god).

Jed at 1/10/2014 9:18 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

I recall putting on Khaki (Chief Petty Officer) as a reservist. As the Operations Chief of a Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare (MIUW) Unit there was no way that all the mission and training requirements to keep our training peaked could have been accomplished in the Paid Time allotted. I performed a lot of non-pay drills during the month conducting all kinds activities from inspections, evaluations, conferences, pre-deployment preparations, training, you name it. I was in 5 drill units and did two two-week ATs a year. It was normal for me to rack up 100 points and year and felt like I had just barely accomplished what was required for the job. National Defense is a PROFESSION ! ! ! not a Part Time Job! I am personally insulted by any senior officer who would even suggest that Reserve and National Guard troops are just 39 day a year troops. There may be some out there. However, the Active Duty troops who treat Reserve and National Guard augmentees with so little deference are part of the problem and demonstrate their lack of professionalism.
Curtis Conway at 1/10/2014 9:37 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

Sounds to me like it all amounts to each entity simply fighting for ones own interests, wherever those interests lie. OK, I know it's not that simple, but what of the interests of the American People in general; those citizens who take great pride and patriotism in the BCT from their State and the local heroes who comprise it? Has "Selfless Service" gone the way of the dodo, being replaced by "self-serving", "self-interest", and "self-centeredness?" Isn't it amazing that those who only months ago were putting their lives on the line for each other (NG for AC and AC for NG, ie. "One Team, One Fight"), are now doing their utmost to discredit, invalidate, and blatantly accuse one another? The wedge that existed between AC and NG prior to 9/11 was in large part all but erased during the past 13 years of combat. Why do you think that is? Might it have something to do with the fact that we're unbeatable when united? Not just unbeatable, but a fighting force who's strength is compounded when all players acknowledge and respect the strength of each individual component's capabilities.

DJ at 1/11/2014 1:42 AM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

WantWant to save $10 Billion a year?
Consider the following info about the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) costs.
$99 billion per year  divided  the 24 AC BCTs = $3.8 billion per year per AC BCT. 
$22 billion divided by the 28 NG BCTs =  $0.79 billion per year per NG BCT.  
Each AC BCT costs  $3 Billion more per year than a NG BCT.
Therefore transfer 3 AC BCTs to the NG and save $9 billion per year plus transfer 2 CABs to the NG and save $1 billion per year for a total of cost reduction of $10 billion per year. 
Sam at 1/12/2014 9:30 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

Why do we have AH-64s in the NG when they serve no real state mission?  Can AH-64s lift and transport supplies or stranded civilians from flooded/earthquake areas or conduct water drops into rugged areas during a fire? No, they cannot.

What can AH-64s do? They can look for hot spots after range fires are out.

What is best for the US Tax payer? Move all AH-64s to the AD. In return, move the majority of UH-60s and CH-47s to the NG in order to perform state and federal support missions.  Turn those outstanding AH-64 maintainers in to outstanding UH-60/CH-47 maintainers. We should look at what is best for the US Tax payer and NG, not a select few ego’s.
AJ at 1/13/2014 4:17 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

I agree that egos are part of the problem.  But adequate communication about what purposes we serve is also the problem. 

What problems do each entity of our defense establishment solve and how are they uniquely different? 

In the end, its an end sum game, same money, just divided differently. 

Its about more than pride and tradition, its about taxpayer dollars to acheive a common defense efficiently, which many taxpayers are not educated about today.

On the capabilities comment to AJ - We have Apaches in the NG because the NG is, as the Army has said, to be the depth of the Army for combat capability.  When the Army wants to criticize the NG for being unable (in their eyes) to do big daddy complex combat operations proficiently, is the Army accepting responsbility for their decisions, when they are constantly trying to make us look different than them - removing combat aviation, adding train and assist battalions, getting rid of MEBs in the AC but keeping them in the Guard. 

Very inconsistent in action from statements. 

The AC "chooses" to spend money on all the training on the AC constantly rotating into training centers.  I was there for 5 years, rotating to JRTC, NTC, doing SEDRES, EDRES, Warfighters constantly - 3-5 TC rotations annually, crazy. 

Yet after 9/11, we needed immediate reserve capacity for the depth of fighting a fight overseas?  If the AC was so trained and ready, why did they need the RC for the depth so soon?

Here is why, because the total force is too small, and so is the AC, for good reason, we cant afford it and the taxpayers are willing to carry the risk and be vested in a Guard that can stand up and fight when the 'nation as a whole has the will to do it' together.

We all need to be educated on the purpose of the Constitution and the Guard, and why our nation was founded with a militia in the first place.  As a nation we are a product of our own ignorance.  Time for a renewal of learning about our history.

CGII at 1/14/2014 10:22 AM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

"Why do we have AH-64s in the NG when they serve no real state mission?"

Ah, here's the rub. 

First off, the state mission is secondary.  It is a "BONUS" that the Active Component doesn't provide.  Remember, it is the NATIONAL Guard, not the "State" Guard.  Our paychecks come from DFAS, not the state.

Second, the AH-64 CAN do amazing things in search and rescue.  Yep, been called on a CTAF freq to help local cops find a lost Autistic kid in Winter.  It takes coordination, but can be done. 

Third, AH-64 Bns have A LOT of Trucks and Men Than CAN be used in a state emergence.  A lot more than your UH or CH BNs have.  (Bet you didn't see that one coming.)

Fourth, NG AH64 Bns have FAR MORE EXPERIENCE than the AC component BNs do.  We do it better (refer to the accident statistics), and cheaper.  Which is why the AC wants the threat/competition removed.

And finally, how about that whole "Reserve" thingy.  The Army had a tough time meeting the demands for AH-64s in a "One theater war" when it had a total of 23 ARBs on tap.  Do you seriously think going down to just 10 is the answer?

If we do this, the country is being set up for extreme pain down the road.
RWilliams at 1/14/2014 10:52 AM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

Learn the facts! Check out:
Sam Silverton at 1/18/2014 5:32 PM

Re: Army Chief: Part-Time Soldiers Cannot Replace Full-Timers

This is one of the dumbest debates which just goes on and on, with the inevitable over- and underrating of RC and AC capabilities.  It always gets emotional, nasty and does a disservice to soldiers of all components.  The Nation supposedly needs about a million soldiers--threat, budget and risk should determine the mix, not politics.  Consider this scenario, a sort of 1/3 rule:  During lean, low-risk periods, we have a force of 1/3 AC, 2/3 RC.  The force structure in terms of TO&E remains the same, determined by strategy.  Crisis comes, reverse the force ratio.  Whoops!  How many RC are prepared to sign up for the possibility of indefinite activation (as units) by Executive or Legislative action for(ever)?  How many AC senior officers are prepared to command larger(ly) RC formations?  On the face of it, this should work, even with the current compensation system, and a 90-180 day mobilization period. 
But short of another "Good War" it just won't happen, because we believe that Land power must be as hair-trigger ready as Air and Sea in order to win the budget battle.  We won the Good War because a very small professional Army was capable and visionary enough to rise to the challenge.  George Marshall & Co. provided leadership and statesmanship when needed--they knew they couldn't get the forces they wanted, so they built the potential to transform citizen soldiers into the victors of WWII.
Bruce Arlinghaus at 1/20/2014 2:45 PM

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