REDUCING THE DEFICIT: SPENDING AND REVENUE OPTIONS
Congressional Budget Office - March 1997


DEF-18 ELIMINATE FOUR GUARD DIVISIONS

	

Annual Savings							Five-Year  
Savings from			(Millions of dollars)		Cumulative
the 1997 Plan		1998	1999	2000	2001	2002	Total  

Budget Authority	55	221	450	691	828	2,245

Outlays			50	205	427	665	809	2,156

The Army National Guard is manned mostly by part-time soldiers and makes up about half of the Army's combat forces. At the end of fiscal year 1997, about 367,000 people will be members of the Guard, which operates units in all 50 states. Guard units are under the authority of state governors during peacetime, and state governments contribute to the Guard's operating expenses, particularly when units perform state missions. When mobilized for combat, Guard units come under the active Army's chain of command.

Eight divisions--each with three brigades--and an additional 18 independent brigades currently make up the Guard's ground combat units. Additional units in the Guard provide combat support (such as artillery) and combat service support (such as transportation) to combat units in the Army. The Army also relies on the skills of 215,000 largely part-time soldiers in the Army Reserve, most of whom perform support services.

Guard units were an important element of the combat forces the United States expected to deploy in a war with the former Warsaw Pact. Operating at roughly a quarter of the cost of a comparable active unit, Guard divisions and brigades provided a cost-effective way to reach the large force levels that would have been required in a land war against the forces of the former Soviet Union. According to the Army's planning factors, the United States expected to be able to deploy certain Guard brigades at the same time as their active-duty counterparts and to deploy the full divisions, which would require more time to prepare for combat, in a second wave that would have been sent to Europe about a month later.

The Army now contends, however, that those Guard units would require considerably longer to prepare for deployment than it had previously assumed. According to revised estimates by the active Army, full divisions would take up to a year to become ready to go to war. Other analysts maintain that Guard divisions could be ready much more quickly--perhaps within 72 to 120 days of mobilization--possibly in time to contribute to a short war. Brigades might take less time, perhaps as little as two to three months.

The Army's revised estimates--combined with a de-crease in overall force requirements for the smaller wars that are now the basis of DoD's planning--have raised questions about whether the Guard's combat units, and specifically its divisions, have a clear mission in a post-Cold War world. Indeed, the Commission on Roles and Missions suggested in its report that the Administration's deployment plans no longer include any of the Guard's eight divisions. That assertion would seem consistent with the relative brevity of currently envisioned wars and with the longer mobilization times now assumed for those divisions. Partly in response to that criticism, and in part to correct a perceived shortfall in Army support forces, the Army plans to convert 12 of the Guard's 42 combat brigades to support units. That plan would ultimately leave the Guard with 30 combat brigades--18 of which would be organized into six divisions and 12 that would stand independently--and 12 support, or "combined arms," brigades. Nevertheless, even after the reorganization, the Guard would still retain six combat divisions that do not have a clearly defined and validated role to play in current war-fighting plans.

This alternative would eliminate four of the eight combat divisions currently in the Guard. It would not affect the Army's plan to reorganize two Guard combat divisions into support units. Upon completing its reorganization plan and implementing this alternative, the Guard would retain two combat divisions and 12 independent combat brigades, which should leave the Army with sufficient combat forces to provide a hedge against unforeseen circumstances. Furthermore, since the Army has identified a shortage in its support forces, this alternative would retain all of the support personnel indirectly associated with the deleted divisions.

In order to achieve an orderly drawdown, this alternative would eliminate one Guard division each year starting in 1998 and continuing until 2001. Once fully implemented in 2002, such an action would save about $0.8 billion a year in operating costs. All told, DoD might save about $2.2 billion over the 1998-2002 period.

Eliminating Guard divisions presents a number of problems, however. The Guard argues that eliminating its divisions would harm its ability to provide assistance in domestic crises, such as natural disasters and civil disturbances. Although the remaining Guard units could help in such instances, some states might find themselves with little or no Guard presence. Of course, states could always choose to fully fund some of their Guard units to retain the emergency services. Indeed, guard personnel who were trained to render emergency services in domestic crises might perform better than those who were trained primarily for combat. In any event, the Guard has never been asked to provide a large number of personnel for state missions, though large percentages of individual states' Guard personnel have been called up during domestic crises such as Hurricane Andrew and the Los Angeles riots in 1992. One way to expand the number of Guard personnel available to state governors in a domestic crisis might be to establish interstate agreements, thus allowing the governor from one state to call on the Guard units of another state when needed.

A much smaller National Guard could also present problems at the federal level. The Administration plans to reduce the Army Guard and Reserve from the current level of 582,000 to about 575,000 reservists by 1999. That plan was agreed to in the 1993 "Offsite Agreement," an arduous negotiation involving active and reserve Army personnel as well as personnel from several associations that deal with issues affecting the Army, the Army Reserve, and the Army National Guard. Some of those participants would probably feel that further reductions in reserve personnel violated the terms of that agreement. Furthermore, proponents of the Guard would argue that giving it a larger share of DoD's missions and forces would be a more cost-effective way to restructure the Army's combat forces, because operating costs are much lower for Guard units than for their active-duty counterparts. Finally, some analysts argue that for relatively little cost, the Guard divisions provide a strategic reserve and insurance against unforeseen events or the emergence of an unknown threat.