There is an old joke in academia to the effect that faculty disputes are particularly vicious because the stakes are so small. They are usually disputes driven by matters of ego, feelings, prestige or status. The same can sometimes be said of arguments within military services. They are generally far worse than the disagreements that occur between two services. These intramural disagreements also are often driven more by emotions than the facts.
A current example of this is the extraordinary disagreement between the Army leadership and the National Guard over the fate of the AH-64D Apache helicopters. Faced with severe budget cuts and the resulting need to restructure both Active and Reserve components, the Army has proposed cutting its entire fleet of aging Kiowa Warrior reconnaissance helicopters, replacing them with a combination of Apaches and Grey Eagle drones. Because the Apaches will have to perform both the scout and attack missions, and because of the training and maintenance requirements of a very complex platform, the Army wants to concentrate all its AH-64s in the Active Army and provide the Army National Guard aviation units with nearly an equivalent number of UH-60 Black Hawks. Overall, the Active Army will absorb more than 70 percent of all the cuts to aviation. If allowed to make these proposed changes, the Army says it can save $1 billion annually.
By the way the National Guard and its supporters reacted to this proposal one would think that the Army had questioned its honor, genetic heritage, family connections, social practices and destination in the afterlife. Basically the National Guard wants to keep virtually all its Apaches and force the Active Army to take even more cuts in its helicopter fleet. Guardsmen have accused the Army of wanting to treat them as second-class citizens, dismissing the service they performed in Iraq and Afghanistan and turning them from “gunfighters” into “truck drivers.”
Facts are hard things to ignore. The fact is that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are over and the Army must plan for a more complex and challenging set of threats, including high-end conventional maneuver warfare. The fact is that the Army is being forced to make very painful force structure cuts and that it is taking the disproportionate share relative to the National Guard. The fact is that the Army has had to cut training time overall by 25 percent which will make it difficult to ensure adequate individual operator proficiency for Active Component Apache units. The fact is that the newest model Apaches, the AH-64 Block III, require three weeks of special training for pilots already qualified on earlier models. The fact is that to this training time requirement must be added time to practice Apache-drone operations and unit training at battalion and aviation brigade levels. This exceeds the days available to National Guardsmen. In addition, the fact is that because Guard units cannot be activated as often as Active Army units and their training time is limited to 39 days a year, the discount rate for all Apaches retained in the Guard is very high. Finally, the fact is that the National Guard would get a platform much better suited to its Title 32 responsibilities to support state civil authorities.
As recent events have demonstrated, the world is not becoming less violent or dangerous. The Army is correct in wanting to be sure that it has available the requisite trained and equipped forces with which to fight and win the big fights. The National Guard should be spending its time criticizing the executive and legislative branches for their decision to cut defense spending over the next decade by nearly $1 trillion. This is the real reason the Army needs to concentrate all its Apaches in the Active Component. The Guard needs to keep its emotions in check and deal with the facts.
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