General Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, expressed acceptance of the Army’s aviation restructuring plan recently. Though there had been resistance to this plan by some in the Guard and in Congress, General Grass’s comments indicate the Army should be able to move forward with this plan that benefits both the active force and the Guard.
The Army’s plan calls specifically for the transfer of all of the Guard’s 192 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to the active component. The Guard will be given 15 percent of the active component’s UH-60 Blackhawk utility helicopters.
This plan enables the active force to replace its aging Kiowa scout helicopters with a combination of Apaches and unmanned aerial vehicles. This will continue the Army’s reconnaissance mission requirements while preserving the ability to respond to targets of opportunity and increased surprise. The transfer also ensures that Apache pilots maintain necessary training levels. Guard members should not be expected, due to the nature of the service, to put in the same amount of flight hours as their active-duty counterparts.
The Guard benefits greatly from the transfer by gaining additional Blackhawk aircraft. These utility helicopters—which have the ability to transport medical crews and supplies and lift heavy equipment such as generators and food aid—fit well into the Guard’s role as a national responder force during emergencies. The Apache, an attack aircraft with limited space or carrying capacity, lacks these capabilities.
Congress can see to it that this Army aviation restructuring plan gets implemented without delay. Congress should reject any proposal for a commission to study the Army’s plan. The Army has conducted an exhaustive analysis of all practical options, and its current proposal saves the most money while also preserving force structure and total force capabilities, maximizing their ability to modernize both active and Guard aircraft, and protecting National Guard capabilities even at the expense of capacity in the active force. Congress should provide the Guard and active-duty forces with the capabilities to execute their respective missions. If the Army realizes any savings from this plan, it should reinvest them into other modernization accounts.
The Army and National Guard both play integral and unique roles in providing for the common defense of America. It is important that Congress facilitate the Army’s ability to move forward with its aviation restructure plan.
Richard Moxley is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please click here.