McKinley: National Guard must take Domestic Operations to New Level|
by Army SSG Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau
3/23/2010 - NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. -- The National Guard must squeeze the most from limited resources; structure its manpower and equipment so that it can give the most effective domestic response possible; and operate jointly, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau said Monday.
Air Force Gen Craig McKinley challenged National Guard leaders gathered here for a week long domestic operations workshop to prepare for the worst-case scenario -- natural or manmade disasters in the homeland -- right now.
"We will be judged by how well we handle the domestic operation," McKinley said. "As well as we're performing in our mission overseas, [we] will be judged by how well we're performing here at home."
More than eight years of the heightened domestic and overseas operational tempo that followed the manmade disaster of Sep 11, 2001, have transformed the National Guard from a strategic reserve to an operational force.
McKinley's message: The National Guard cannot let up.
"We can do better," he said. "We've got [Guardmembers] ... at the highest state of readiness that they've ever had, but we've got to give them the tools to succeed," he said.
The National Guard has been a full-spectrum force throughout its 373-year history, he said, and it must balance preparation for domestic operations with the demands of the ongoing warfight.
"This is the time to think about it," he said, "to get your questions answered, to come up with a strategy, to work - Air, Army, and Joint [Staff] together - collaboratively, because maybe in a month we won't have any time like this."
Floods, earthquakes, hurricanes or manmade catastrophes can strike at any time with no notice, he reminded Guard leaders from the 54 states and territories and the District of Columbia.
Once disaster strikes, "We won't have time to plan, to organize, to equip, to train," McKinley said. "We're ... the force of choice ... domestically."
The Guard must stand always ready, always there despite an era of limited resources, he said. "There is not going to be more money and resources," he said. "You're going to be asked to do a lot more with fewer people or at least be doing the same amount with the numbers you've got. ... We're going to have to put the resources where they're most needed and most vitally used."
One part of making sure that happens is staying focused on increasing jointness. Following the Sep 11 attacks, the National Guard established joint state headquarters in every state and territory and the District of Columbia.
Like the rest of the Defense Department, it has increased its joint operations.
"We've got to get outside our comfort room and decide that everybody ... is one team, wearing Army and Air Force uniforms, but members of the National Guard," McKinley said, adding that it will take constant communication, collaboration, and cooperation.
The National Guard must also zealously protect its most important resource, he said.
In the event of a domestic catastrophe, "if we send our kids into a hot zone and they're not protected, shame on us," McKinley said. "We've got to train them, we've got to give them good leadership.
"You just don't throw 75,000 people at an emergency without command and control, without authorities and without all the infrastructure that goes with it and make it operate effectively - especially in a hot zone."
On Sep 11, 2001, McKinley was at the Pentagon, and he later was one of the military leaders called on to testify before a commission examining how the attacks succeeded.
"We weren't ready," he said. "It was a failure of imagination. We failed to imagine that anybody would do this. We failed to imagine that anybody would be successful at this. We failed to believe that ... anybody could have come up with this idea to do so much damage to this great nation and the world and put us in a situation where eight ... years later we are still fighting the same enemy.
"That gets me at the core. Failure of imagination. We better not have [another] one of those."
He challenged National Guard leaders nationwide to constantly ask what the vulnerabilities are in their areas of responsibility and alert higher authorities about concerns.
Leaders should be asking themselves, "Where's the next one going to happen? What part of my state, territory or the District [of Columbia] is vulnerable?" McKinley said. They also should be doing a constant self-assessment, asking themselves: Do we have the right equipment, the right training, the right supplies?
He cited the 2009 presidential inauguration, when a record crowd of about two million people gathered in the nation's capital as about 9,300 National Guard troops joined thousands of servicemembers from all components standing by, as an example of doing domestic operations right.
"If something had happened, natural or manmade, the National Guard would have been ready," he said. "We are the only organization that's built and resourced and equipped right now in this nation to do this kind of work.
"We're it," he told the Guard leaders. "You're it."