With New Defense Strategy, Vt. Guard Could Face Changes

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(Host) The Vermont National Guard has been transformed in the past decade.  The demands placed on the military by two wars thrust the guard into a critical role and with that came more money and services.

But cuts in the Pentagon budget and a new national defense strategy announced earlier this month will bring more changes to the guard.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind)  So far there’s only an outline of what the new national defense strategy would look like but it clearly envisions a smaller military with less money to work with. 

That could be good or bad news for the National Guard.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy is concerned that  the Pentagon might focus more cuts on the guard than on active duty forces.

(Leahy) "Yes there will be cuts in the military, but I do not want to see disproportionate cuts in the guard. Don’t make them the dumping spot."

(Zind)  Leahy also makes the case that the guard is a more cost effective force. 

That’s the argument being made by Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie.

(Dubie) "I think the national guard can provide capability at a reduced cost, exactly when America needs it, so I see more opportunity here than anything else."

(Zind) Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has indicated that the size of the active duty Army will be cut from 570,000 to 490,000 over the next decade.  Dubie says that could mean even more reliance on the guard than we’ve seen in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(Dubie) "There may be increased reliance on the national guard going forward but that may or may not include the traditional deployment that we’ve been used to for the last ten years.  Where I see that increased reliance on the national guard more than anywhere else would be in engagement overseas other than combat."

(Zind) Dubie says non-combat missions might include humanitarian assistance or training work similar to work the Vermont Guard has done in Macedonia for the past 15 years.

Retired Marine Corps Colonel Stephen Pomeroy has studied in national security strategy and teaches at Norwich University in Northfield.

He says some of the Vermont Army and Air Guard’s responsibilities in areas like cyber warfare training and mountain training may fit well in the future military.  

But he says there will be pushback from some who favor active duty forces over the guard. 

(Pomeroy) "The guard argument would be we’re already trained up and we’re relatively cheap to maintain.  The reverse argument from the regular forces might be, yes, but you’re dispersed and we have to take this small part and fit it into a larger organization that’s already worked together."

(Zind) Pomeroy says politics will play a part in decisions on the national defense strategy and he says the Vermont Guard could benefit from Senator Leahy’s seniority.

For VPR news I’m Steve Zind.

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