August 07, 2014

With Shrinking Budgets, Pentagon Should Rely More on Guard, Reserve Troops

By David W. Barno and USA (Ret.)

The release of the 2014 National Defense Panel reportlanded with a quiet thud last week as most of Washington headed out for August vacations. Much delayed from its original congressionally mandated release three months after theQuadrennial Defense Review, the NDP review seemingly ignored today’s intractable budgetary realties by arguing for an even bigger defense budget. At the same time, it offered few tradeoffs and even fewer creative ideas for building a more effective and efficient military. 

Among many opportunities missed in this consensus report was the chance to call for a new appraisal of the fractious compact among the nation’s active, Guard and reserve forces. In an era of ever-tightening budgets, the United States must think more creatively about both how to structure and when to use reserve component capabilities. As multiple reports have noted, these part-time forces are less expensive, while they retain critical equipment and skilled uniformed personnel that might otherwise be slashed from the force entirely as budgets plummet. The NDPdoes not mention the reserve component at all in its 17-page Executive Summary, and only sporadically throughout the remaining 64 pages of the text – and then largely to buttress current roles and missions.   

A better recommendation from the NDP would call for a full re-examination of how the nation can derive more capability from the large investment already committed to the Guard and reserves. Over the last 13 years, Guard and reserve units and individuals played crucial roles across the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan  — indeed, many even in the active component would argue those wars would have been unsustainable without the all-out commitment of the nation’s reserves, the largest such commitment since the Korean War.

Read the full op-ed at Defense One.

  • Congressional Testimony
    • July 20, 2021
    The Fiscal Year 2022 Defense Budget and Future Options for the Pentagon

    Submitted Written Testimony I. Introduction Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Rodgers, distinguished members of the committee and staff thank you for inviting me to testify today...

    By Stacie Pettyjohn

  • Reports
    • July 20, 2021
    Risky Business: Future Strategy and Force Options for the Defense Department

    Executive Summary Despite the overarching strategic priorities laid out by the Biden administration and initial indicators provided by the Department of Defense (DoD), it is u...

    By Stacie Pettyjohn, Becca Wasser & Jennie Matuschak

    • Commentary
    • War on the Rocks
    • June 15, 2016
    Au Revoir QDR

    Whatever version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) emerges from the House-Senate conference process later this year, it seems likely that the 20-year old Quadre...

    By Loren DeJonge Schulman & Shawn Brimley

    • Commentary
    • May 12, 2016
    The DIUx Is Dead. Long Live The DIUx.

    Defense Secretary Ash Carter launched his high-profile Silicon Valley outpost a year ago to great fanfare and high expectations. Less than a year later, he has completely over...

    By Ben FitzGerald & Loren DeJonge Schulman

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia