Guardsmen Still Want to Remain Operational

About one in three National Guardsmen is now saying their service at least somewhat restricts their civilian occupation according to the latest NGAUS Company Grade Committee (CGC) survey. But the results also show that Guardsmen are not tired of deploying, they just want more predictability with their deployments. "Guardsmen don't want to go back to being part of a strategic force," says the recently promoted Maj. John Fesler, who represents Air Guard company-grade officers on the NGAUS board and who was on the team facilitating the survey. "They want to stay operational. They want more deployments. However, with those deployments,they want predictability."

The online survey, which received 4,403 responses from across the ranks and the force, was conducted this fall with the help of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States. This is the CGC's fourth survey in three years and the second this year. Fesler says the plan is to continue working with EANGUS to better identify issues and trends across the Guard. Although less than 10 percent of respondents say their civilian occupation views Guard service negatively, 30 percent of respondents said Guard service "restricts" or "greatly restricts" them in their civilian careers.

In 2015, less than 20 percent of respondents said their service restricts them in their civilian occupation. And there has been nearly a 10 percentage-point bump since 2015 in the number of soldiers and airmen who feel Guard service "negatively" impacts their civilian occupation. Nearly one in four respondents feel their service has adverse effects on their civilian job. This has led the CGC to recommend that Guard leaders develop incentive packages that support employers, small businesses and families. The NGAUS committee also recommended that the Guard remain an operational force, while allowing for shorter and more predictability in deployments.

"National Guard service members continue to be eager and engaged," the committee wrote. "They want to see the same or more from the operational tempo, but length and predictability are important." The committee also added that "pay and benefits are important to a service member's retention, as is compatibility with their family life."

Committee members began surveying the force three years ago at the request of retired Gen. Frank J. Grass, then the National Guard Bureau chief, to identify and quantify thoughts, issues and trends in the force that could impact its future.

Since, Fesler says the results have been shared with senior NGB leadership. At the NGAUS board meeting last month, Lt. Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, the NGB vice chief, sat with the committee and went over the results. Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, the NGB chief, couldn't attend due to scheduling conflicts, but was provided the information. Some questions have been asked all three years to determine trends and to validate previous polling.

One trend has remained consistent-a high majority of Guardsmen want to remain part of an operational force. Sixty-one percent of respondents agreed with the sentiment in the latest survey. It was compared to the 77 percent of responses that felt that way in 2014. Only 11 percent say the Guard has required an "excessive" amount of deployments, while 25 percent of respondents say there are too few deployments. And 79 percent of Guardsmen say they are not tired of deploying, a trend that has prevailed in survey. When asked about drill weekend service, 64 percent of respondents believe they are being adequately compensated. While 23 percent of Guardsmen said they spend more than 15 hours on National Guard related tasks not related to their duty status.

Four surveys over three years also show that the top three reasons provided for joining the Guard haven't changed: patriotism/personal satisfaction, retirement benefits and education benefits. The latest survey included respondents from across the ranks and across all 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia. Sixty-five percent of responses from the Army Guard with 82 percent coming in from males. The mix and ranks and statuses was similar but not exactly the same as earlier this year. For example, this survey includes a lower percentage of senior noncommission officers (31 percent vs. 43 percent) and more junior enlisted (13 percent vs. 5 percent). Company-grade officers comprised 18 percent of respondents. They were 24 percent earlier this year.

The CGC plans to conduct its next survey in fall 2017. It will kick off at the 139th General Conference & Exhibition in Louisville, Kentucky, in September.

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Legislation Creates Base Closure Effort

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, wants Congress to consider getting rid of excess military infrastructure.

He introduced legislation that would create another Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

"We should not be wasting hard-earned taxpayer money to maintain excess infrastructure that [the Defense Department] has determined it does not need," he said in a statement. "It is time to do what's right for defense and move forward with this process."

The Pentagon has said about 20 percent of its infrastructure is excess. But a BRAC round in 2005 left lawmakers shaky. It was considered too costly and members of Congress were reluctant to take action that eliminated jobs in their districts and states.

McCain Proposes Major Defense Buildup

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has proposed an increase of $430 billion for the defense budget over the next five years. His plan is included in a paper called "Restoring American Power" and will be released this week. Several news outlets have received copies of the 29-page paper.

The paper is described as a "general blueprint to begin rebuilding and reshaping our military."

It continues, "It is not cheap... The cost of further inaction, however, is worse: We will irreparably damage our military's ability to deter aggression and conflict." It proposes a defense base budget of $640 billion for fiscal 2018.

McCain also wants to end sequestration, which was part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the president of NGAUS, said he welcomes the senator's ideas.

"This should serve as a great start to the dialogue about necessary increased defense spending," he said. "NGAUS is ready to be part of the conversation on Capitol Hill when Senator McCain's ideas are discussed and debated."

McCain's blueprint paper can be found here:

Bill Exempts Veterans from Federal Freeze

Democrats in the House are lining up behind a bill that would exempt veterans from the federal government hiring freeze put in place when President Donald Trump signed an executive order less than one week after taking office. Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., introduced the bill Monday.

He has 21 co-sponsors for the legislation, all of them Democrats, according to The Hill, a publication that covers Congress.

In a statement, Lynch said the freeze, which does not apply to the military, hurts Americans expecting a prompt response from a federal agency.

"Veterans have earned their hiring preference and I am deeply concerned that the federal hiring freeze will disproportionately hurt America's veterans," he said.

A report by the Office of Personnel Management released in November found that veterans make up 30.9 percent of the federal workforce.

Jobless Rate for Young Veterans Jumps

The unemployment rate for the youngest generation of veterans is significantly higher than the overall rate for veterans. Veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq showed an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent in January.

The figures reflect about 211,000 of those veterans looking for work, or about 46 percent of the total veteran population filing for unemployment benefits last month. The January unemployment rate for all veterans was 4.5 percent, which is less than 5 percent for the 20th consecutive month.

The figures come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Experts say that the rates can fluctuate more for the younger population because of smaller sample sizes, according to Military Times.

The national unemployment rate was 4.8 percent in January, up from 4.7 percent the previous month. Officials from BLS estimate that about 10 million veterans are working today, with about one third of them having served in the military after 2001.

Air Force, Airlines Talk Pilot Shortage

Gen. Carlton D. Everhart, the Air Mobility Command commander, met with commercial airline executives last week to discuss the shrinking number of pilots and solutions for the growing problem for the industry and the Air Force.

Everhart told Stars and Stripes that the meeting was a precursor to one set for May with Gen. David L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, and industry executives. Everhart told the publication that the meeting in May is expected to generate quick actions to ease some of the pressure caused by the pilot shortage.

"We are looking at all the possibilities, the ways we can increase the available pool [of pilots] that serves both the military and commercial industry, without going into direct competition," he said. According to Everhart, a potential solution is bringing more predictability to Air Force Reserve commitments or adjusting the required flight hours needed to join a commercial airline.

The Air Mobility Command is 315 pilots short of the manpower needed to meet existing operational demands, Everhart said. The command, which is made up of nearly 8,000 pilots from the active component, National Guard and Reserves, expects to lose about 1,600 pilots during the next four years.

"The reality is that we as a nation are not producing the amount of pilots we need to source the commercial requirement, the business requirement, the private requirement and the military requirement," Goldfein said earlier this month at an American Enterprise Institute conference in Washington, D.C.