Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement at today’s Full Committee hearing to receive testimony from Major General Arnold L. Punaro, USMC (ret), Chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, on the conclusions and recommendations included in the Commission’s second report to Congress:
“Today we take into consideration the second report from the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves. When Congress created the 13-member Commission in the Ronald Reagan National Defense Authorization Act of 2005, we asked the Commission to provide a comprehensive independent assessment of the National Guard and Reserves. Today before us we have the Chairman of the Commission, Major General Arnold Punaro United States Marine Corps, retired. Welcome, Chairman Punaro.
“To give a little background to our hearing today, in April 2006, H.R. 5200, the “National Defense Enhancement and National Guard Empowerment Act of 2006,” was introduced in the House. It proposed some significant modifications to the way the National Guard would be structured and how it would be resourced to fulfill both its domestic responsibilities and its war-time missions, among other changes. Because the provisions of H.R. 5200 were so sweeping, in the John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007, Congress directed the Commission to issue an interim report on the advisability and feasibility of implementing the provisions of that bill. Congress also directed the Commission to look at the role and responsibilities of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, National Guard officers’ authority to command, and National Guard equipment and funding requirements, in terms of the Guard’s capability to execute its Federal and State responsibilities. The report before us today is the fruit of the Commission’s effort.
“And what an incredible effort it has been. Congress creates these commissions when we do not possess the in-house resources – either the expertise or the time – to pursue complicated matters as thoroughly as needed. This Commission, and its staff, has really gone above and beyond the call of duty. They have been tireless in their endeavors. They’ve had held hearing after hearing, and consulted hundreds of witnesses and other experts. They’ve traveled when necessary to get “ground truth” and they’ve done the in-depth historical and legislative research needed to fully understand the 2 nd and 3 rd order issues surrounding each proposal.
“They have done all that because they are true patriots who’ve answered their government’s call, and also because they understand the importance of this issue. So much of our national security hinges upon having a National Guard and Reserve force that is responsive to the full range of missions for which it may be called. This could be to support and fight alongside our active duty forces overseas when the drums of war sound, or it could mean being first on the scene of some domestic emergency, such as a hurricane like Katrina or some sort of terrorist attack upon our homeland. That is easier said than done. Implied in that simple sentence are not just issues of manning, training and equipping the Guard for its dual role, but also how the nation postures itself to meet the challenges facing our homeland; how the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security will jointly work together to determine requirements; and how lines of command and control will run in the event of a crisis.
“This is so important, because our men and women in the Guard and Reserve – our citizen soldiers in the proud tradition of our Minutemen and Militia – and the employers who support them - do all that we ask of them so well. They deserve to have the best support structure possible that insures that we do not unnecessarily complicate already difficult tasks.
“These are complex questions and it is appropriate, therefore, that in addition to answering the statutory requirement to address the provisions of H.R. 5200 the Commission’s report has taken a broader look at six focus areas: The Defense Department’s Role in the Homeland; The Role of the States and Their Governors; The National Guard Bureau; U.S. Northern Command; Reserve Policy Advice; and Reserve Component Officer Promotion. In just a moment I will turn the floor over to Chairman Punaro, and we will look forward to hearing the Commission’s recommendations on this matter. We should all listen very closely to what he has to say, so that we can take the Commission’s counsel into consideration as we move forward on producing this year’s National Defense bill.”