The Peter and Paul Principle

So last week I saw this story about Guard brigades being pulled from Sinai and Horn of Africa deployments and being replaced with Active Duty units. That raised some flags for me and I was planning to write about it then.

The article says that Big Army says that this does not mean that there is a new shift away from our “new” role developed over the last eleven years as an operational reserve.

An Army Times report this week quotes Gen. John Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff, as saying concerns that the service does not view the Guard as an operational force are “absolutely ridiculous.”

But others think the writing may be on the wall now that the Army has called the move a cost-cutting effort.

I think, and thought last week, that that characterization as a “cost-cutting move” is inaccurate, if not disingenuous. What it is, really, is cost preservation.

There’s a new article out this week, that, to my mind, confirms that idea and it’s not just the Army either. Sinai deployments have been a Guard mission for a long time. Now the Active Army wants it. And now, also, the Active Air Force wants the Guard’s traditional firefighting mission. And not unusually, the Air Force is both more and less subtle than the Army in this. Rather than poach the mission outright, they just want to take away the authority.

“The purpose of this memorandum is to get your approval to place [U.S. Air Force Reserve] and [Air National Guard] personnel in Title 10 . . . duty status for the conduct of aerial fire suppression operations using DoD C-130 aircraft equipped with the U.S. Forest Service-owned Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) when requested by the National Interagency Fire Center on behalf of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).”

The memo, which is not dated, says this action “will establish a clear line of command authority from the Secretary of Defense to a Supported Combatant Commander for the conduct of this Federal mission.”

NGAUS sums up the objections well:

In a blog posting, Mary Catherine Ott, the NGAUS legislative affairs manager for air and cyber programs, calls this a “mission grab” and says moving the MAFFS mission from Title 32 to Title 10 status “will create a risk in an already established and very successful response framework.”

She points out that the move would remove the mission from the control of governors, who would have a better awareness than the Pentagon of any wildfire situation in their states. It also adds to Guard concerns of more “mission grabs” by the active component using the justification of “clear lines of authority,” Ott says.

It also kicks proper coordination of local authorities such as civilian law enforcement and fire rescue services in the head, creating an environment that either usurps control of them by necessity, or excludes them, whether by neglect, lack of communication channels, or as a correction for not just acquiescing to federal domination.

And the unstated reason for all of this is the budget. The Active components would rather that the Guard get shorted in resources than they, and believe that the way to accomplish that is to show that they have so many more duty cycles than the Guard. If they’d do an honest analysis, they’d find a partnership would better serve the Services (as a whole) and definitely the country, far better than playing against their own team.

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