National Guard Chief: Quality of Force More Important Than Quantity (UPDATED)

By Yasmin Tadjdeh

As the U.S. military downsizes active-duty forces, some policy makers have suggested it might be time to increase the ranks of the National Guard. That idea, however, is unrealistic in today's fiscal environment, said Army Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Part-time troops are less expensive than active-duty forces. Nevertheless, it is difficult to support a plan that asks the Guard to expand while budgets are slashed every year under the Budget Control

Act, Grass told reporters Nov. 19 during a breakfast meeting in Washington, D.C.

"We're not getting any more money unless somebody changes the law," he said.

Maintaining readiness and ensuring equipment modernization are higher priorities during these budget crunch times, he said. "In the situation we're in, if we can figure out how to pay the bill and retain as much capability capacity that we can for the nation and for the government, that's my goal," he said.

The National Guard, with a force of 460,000, is currently at its highest level of equipment readiness in its history, Grass said. 

Though the war in Afghanistan is wrapping up, Grass anticipates that Guard forces will stay busy training the Afghan National Army. "We've seen a bit of a trend change over the last year where we have moved out of combat forces to support forces," said Grass. "The Guard … will be engaged for a while as the drawdown occurs."

Grass recommends keeping the force size stable. "If you create too much turbulence within the Guard, you'll create a bill that the nation cannot afford."

Correction: An earlier version of this article had a misquote.

Topics: Defense Department, DOD Budget, DOD Policy, War Planning, Homeland Security

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