/PRNewswire/ -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has a ready solution at his disposal as he looks for ways to cut excessive overhead, bloat and needless spending in the Defense Department.
The solution is the nation's most cost-effective defense organization, one that provides nearly half of the Army's combat power and a third of the Air Force's combat capability for about 7 percent of the defense budget.
It's the National Guard, which National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) officials today said does more with fewer resources than any other component in the U.S. military and which can do even more with only a modest increase in funding.
"It's time for the nation to start talking about cutting the active-duty military and growing the National Guard," said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the NGAUS president. "Relying more on the Guard may be the only way America can reduce defense spending without cutting American military power."
In a speech over the weekend in Abilene, Kan., Gates said he wants the Pentagon to take a hard, realistic look at what defense capabilities America really needs in the 21st century.
Hargett said NGAUS welcomes the effort, but added that the discussion and debate should not be confined to Defense Department officials, who are often too wedded to active-component institutions to see defense solutions from other sources.
Congress, the nation's governors and the American public all need to be heard, he said.
"Today's economic and fiscal realities call for all of us to put America's future defense ahead of America's current defense institutions," he said.
"Unfortunately, the Army and the Air Force are already considering plans to cut the Guard at the end of today's conflicts," the NGAUS president said. "With a largely part-time force and barebones infrastructure, our overhead is much less. We simply can do the same job cheaper. But, too often, that does not matter to some decision-makers. Perhaps it will now.
"Our goal should be nothing less than maintaining the required military power to defend our nation, taking care of our troops, and saving money," Hargett said. "We can do all three, but only if we consider every possible solution."
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