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Branstad, governors send letter to President Obama with concerns on National Guard cuts

DES MOINES – Gov. Branstad on Friday joined a letter signed by 50 governors to President Obama to express overwhelming bipartisan concerns regarding the Obama Administration’s proposed Army budget.

The governors write:  “For more than a decade, our National Guard has demonstrated that it is a cost-effective, operational force that is critical to our national security at home and abroad.”

This past weekend, Gov. Branstad discussed his concerns about the cuts to the National Guard with his colleagues during the meetings of the National Governors Association.  He also directly shared concerns with President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of Defense Hagel, and additional high-level Pentagon leaders.

In addition, President Obama yesterday announced he reappointed Gov. Branstad as co-chairman of the Council of Governors.

The Council of Governors was established by the National Defense Authorization Act in 2008 to strengthen further partnership between the Federal and State governments as it pertains to national security. The council is balanced by political party and serves the nation as a whole. The governors serve two-year terms and are appointed by the President. The President designates two members of different political affiliations to serve as co-chairs of the Council. The governors work closely with the Adjutants General, including Major General Timothy Orr, to help amplify the states’ perspective in Federal policy discussions.

Governor Branstad stated the following: “Iowans are served extremely well by the men and women of the Iowa National Guard.  The Guard has helped communities across Iowa effectively respond to disasters, like floods and tornadoes, and Guard personnel have aptly served our entire nation abroad since 9/11.”

Lt. Governor Reynolds stated the following: “In a time of fiscal constraints the Guard provides our nation with a cost-effective hedge against risk, provides capability and capacity, and the ability to quickly surge to meet our nation’s security needs.  With the Guard we get double value as Guard personnel serve our citizens at home during emergencies, and serve effectively in operations overseas.”

Major General Timothy Orr, Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, stated the following:  “The Iowa National Guard has proven its readiness, reliability, and cost-effectiveness continually over the past 12 years. The performance of our Soldiers, Airmen, and units during the historic operation tempo of our nation’s military has been second to none, particularly as evidenced by the deployment of more than 17,000 Iowa National Guard Soldiers and Airmen in defense of our nation since Sept. 11, 2001. We are deeply appreciative of the efforts of Governor Branstad and all of the nation’s governors to maintain the readiness and organizational integrity of the National Guard.”

Since 9/11, significant growth in the Army active duty was not matched in the Guard personnel increases.  Governors and Adjutants General are now encouraging congressional leaders to preserve National Guard force structure and end-strength.  State leaders understand the need to cut Federal spending and want Federal leaders to work with the Adjutants General to find and achieve cost savings and common ground.  State leaders do not want the Guard to return to its former role as a strategic reserve.  The Guard also helps drive connectivity between the 1% of Americans who serve and the 99% of Americans who do not or have not.

The full text of the letter is as follows:

February 28, 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The nation’s governors strongly oppose the potential cuts to the Army National Guard advocated by the U.S. Army’s fiscal 2015 budget request.

For more than a decade, our National Guard has demonstrated it is a cost-effective, operational force that is critical to our national security at home and abroad.

As commanders-in-chief, we appreciate the need to reorganize, restructure and modernize the military to meet new threats and economic realities. All sectors of the military need to be involved in meeting the targets set by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the realities of having fewer forces engaged abroad. In doing so, however, the Army Guard’s operational capabilities and 350,000 end strength level must be preserved.

The Army’s proposed cuts suggest a pre-2001 strategic reserve construct. Governors are extremely proud of the role that the National Guard plays in protecting this nation and its citizens. The modern National Guard is a highly experienced and capable combat force and an essential state partner in responding to domestic disasters and emergencies. A return to a pre-9/11 role squanders the investment and value of the Guard and discredits its accomplishments at home and as an active combat force.

Two years ago we opposed similar efforts to dramatically cut personnel and equipment from the Air National Guard. Congress subsequently chose not to impose the cuts and called for a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. That commission recently concluded that the Guard is a cost-effective and invaluable force that should be a critical component of the total force structure. The Commission’s conclusions and the ongoing Army debate strengthen the case for a similar independent review of the Army’s future force structure and active and reserve component mix.

We respectfully request that you reconsider proposed cuts to the Army National Guard and changes to the Guard’s combat aviation capabilities, and that you work with us to fashion solutions that provide a scalable, cost-effective force that best serves the interests of our nation.

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