GEN Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress yesterday he does not support adding the chief of the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to serve as a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).  Testifying along with Vice-Chairman ADM James Winnefeld and the Service Chiefs before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Dempsey said “there is no compelling military justification to support this historic change.”

Dempsey made clear he admires and is a strong advocate for the National Guard.  As Chairman, he said he ensures that the voice of the National Guard chief is heard.  However, he said two concerns that underlie his opposition.  First, Dempsey said the active and reserve components are fully integrated on the battlefield.  The Service Chiefs and Secretaries have “sole responsibility for making resource decisions that produce an organized, trained, and equipped force.”  Adding the NGB chief to the JCS would undermine this unified effort, he told the committee.

Second, Dempsey pointed out that each Service Chief is accountable to a single civilian Service Secretary.  The NGB chief has no singular civilian oversight, so elevating the NGB chief “to the JCS would make him equal to the Service Chiefs without commensurate accountability.”

Dempsey assured the committee that the NGB chief would continue to attend and have input to JCS meetings because it is important to include the National Guard insight and advice on important security issues.

ADM Winnefeld (Vice Chairman) and the Service Chiefs echoed and elaborated on Dempsey’s sentiments.  ADM Winnefeld was concerned that the reserve forces, which represent 40 percent of the total guard and reserve component, would seem of lesser importance.  Army Chief of Staff GEN Raymond T. Odierno said adding the NGB chief to the JCS “would run counter to intra-service and inter-service integration and negatively impact the progress we’ve made toward jointness.”

ADM Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, told the committee the change would unnecessarily complicate the principle of unity of command.  GEN James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, agreed with Greenert and said the move would “fragment the reserve community.”   Air Force Chief of Staff GEN Norton Schwartz told Senators he thought the change “would disrupt the lines of authority and representation that are already in place for the chiefs of staff of the U.S. Army and Air Force.”

Responding to these concerns, GEN Craig McKinley, current chief of the National Guard Bureau, disputed the claim that adding the NGB chief to the JCS would complicate unity of command principle.  He said “pride in our service affiliations [to the Army and Air Force] is a core competency of the National Guard.”  Having National Guard representation on the JCS, “would not degrade that relationship.”  He pointed out that both the Navy and Marine Corps chiefs serving as members of the JCS has not proven to be divisive. 

McKinley argued that the National Guard has significant authorities and responsibilities, especially in the area of homeland security and domestic missions, which should be directly represented in the JCS decisionmaking process.   These make adding the NGB chief as a full member of the JCS “the next logical step to improve the Joint Chief’s ability to provide the best possible advice to civilian leaders,” he said.