WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 29, 2015) -- This summer the National Guard will stand up 11 new cyber teams, seven for the Army component and four for the Air Guard, Gen. Frank J. Grass, National Guard Bureau chief, said.

Grass and other reserve-component leaders testified April 29, during the Senate Appropriations Committee - Defense subcommittee hearing on the Fiscal 2016 National Guard and Reserve Budget.

"A big concern is where to put those units," Grass said of the cyber teams. "We don't want them all piled in one region of the country."

The initial goal is to have Guard cyber capability in each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, districts. "We're on a path to that," he said. Then eventually the Guard will expand that capability to every state that can support it. "That's my commitment to the governors."

For a state to support a cyber mission, the Guard would first need to determine if cyber-related mission skill sets and industries are available in a particular location, he said.

An obstacle that would need to be removed for future growth, is having Congress give the Guard the authorities it needs for the expansion nationwide, he told the senators. By authorities, he said he meant clarification of state versus federal authority.

So if the governor and president both call requesting cyber assistance, authorities would need to be in place to sort who does what. "We'll come to Congress at some point" to request those authorities, he said.

Grass summed up the Guard's cyber makeup for the future as roughly 80 to 90 percent "drill-status Guardsmen, who have civilian jobs in cyber" and the remainder full-time staff.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Clarke III, director, Air National Guard, said that cyber will offer huge benefits to the military services and to the communities they serve. Employers will see competitive advantages in hiring Guard or Reserve cyber experts, who can attend military cyber conferences during their training days to network and share skill sets.

RESERVE CYBER HUGE

Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Talley, chief of the Army Reserve and commander of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, tooted the cyber horn for the Reserve.

The Army Reserve's public-private partnership includes 3,500 cyber warriors and when adding in support from the private sector, it totals 6,500, he said. "We're the most connected to the private sector regardless of service or component."

Last week, a signing on Capitol Hill established a formal public-private partnership between 11 companies, including Microsoft, six universities and Army Reserve cyber, he said.

STATE PARTNERSHIPS

Other topics were covered during the hearing, including the Guard's State Partnership Program, or SPP.

The Guard now has 74 countries in its SPP, a program fostering shared training, disaster and humanitarian assistance, and interoperability. In some cases, SPP partners have served together during contingency operations. Mongolians and Alaskans served side-by-side in Afghanistan, Grass said.

This year, the Guard will probably stand up two more SPP partnerships in Africa, he said.

Last year, SPP "conducted over 700 engagements on behalf of the combatant commands," he added.

The senators commended the Guard for this effort and some wondered if SPP could be expanded even more, since partnering with other nations is a desirable outcome.

The budget for SPP has been "constant, so that's a limiting factor," said Grass, meaning that 76 countries is pushing the upper limits and further SPP expansion would need legislative support for an increase in funding.

MANAGING FIRES

Some of the senators commended the Guard for its state support in such things as putting out forest and grass fires with buckets of water dropped by helicopters.

Grass reminded them that "we'll lose that capability over time" if sequestration continues, because it will impact training, and training is critical for those leading the effort to "put out fires." Grass then corrected himself: "I mean manage fires."

Should sequestration take hold, the Guard will be the smallest it's been since the Korean War, he said, adding that the U.S. population has doubled since that time.

Should that occur, a lot of capabilities will be degraded, not just managing fires, he said.

The senators, and Grass himself, commended the Guard for its role in Baltimore during the last few days assisting first responders.

Lastly, Grass said the Army Restructuring Initiative, or ARI, which involves swapping Guard Apache helicopters for Black Hawks, will affect about 22 states. "Every state should be concerned about redistribution of assets," as it is an issue involving homeland security, he said.

Grass suggested putting a hold on ARI until the National Commission on the Future of the Army releases its findings to Congress or at least until the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act comes up for review.