WASHINGTON -- Lawmakers recently approved a $521 million National Guard reimbursement plan to help the military bureau recoup funds it used to secure the National Capital Region in the wake of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
National Guard training and readiness opportunities were at risk if Congress did not approve the $2.1 billion total spending plan that included nearly $450 million in Army Guard funding, Lt. Gen. Jon A. Jensen, director of the Army National Guard, said Thursday.
In total, the National Guard mobilized over 25,000 Army and Air Force Guardsmen to the Washington metropolitan area to create a safe environment and a peaceful transfer of power during the presidential inauguration, he said during a virtual engagement with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
"All states came to the support of Washington, D.C.," said Jensen, adding that assistance for the operation manifested in a short span of time. "I am proud of the Soldiers and Airmen that responded to that event.”
If the spending bill had not been approved, the National Guard would have been forced to cut back on training and cancel professional military education opportunities from August to September. The Guard is hoping to be reimbursed in early August.
Nearly 1,300 Soldiers would have lost their chance to go to school and further their careers, he said. Additionally, medical readiness levels across the Army Guard would have seen a slight decrease, impacting domestic and overseas missions.
"It has been an incredible year with what [the Guard and Reserve] have done both at home and abroad," said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville. "From COVID-19 to wildfires, storms and social unrest -- it has just been an incredible contribution. And I could not overstate just how proud I am of what they're doing every single day for the nation."
McConville said the operations tempo continues to be extremely high for all three Army components, with more than 173,000 Soldiers deployed in support of combatant commanders across the globe.
Of the total deployed, close to 11,000 Reserve Soldiers are mobilized to support the Army's global calling, said Lt. Gen. Jody J. Daniels, chief of Army Reserve and commanding general of U.S. Army Reserve Command.
Additionally, the Guard has nearly 22,000 troops out on missions to meet the Army's demand, Jensen added.
In June, the Army released its $173 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2022, emphasizing funding for people initiatives, readiness goals, and modernization efforts. The proposed budget has a $3.6 billion reduction from last year's enacted spending plan.
McConville said that proper, timely, and adequate funding, along with allocated durations for military training, are vital to readiness. The service brings in close to 130,000 new troops each year, and they need sufficient repetitions to develop themselves as Soldiers.
"[Readiness] is fragile. If you move away from [training] or don't get the resources ... readiness can be lost," McConville said.
The Army's response during COVID-19 and other state-requested missions all impacted the service's ability to train. At the peak of operations in 2020, the service had over 39,000 Guardsmen on duty, while the Reserve provided 18 Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces, a new concept that placed teams of 85 physicians and medical providers on the front lines of COVID hot spots, senior leaders said.
"I am proud of what the Guard and Reserve have done to get after this COVID threat," McConville said. "It is a clear and present threat to our citizens."
An estimated 70% of the active-duty force has been fully vaccinated, with a slightly lower number of vaccinated personnel across the Guard and Reserve, he added. The exact number of Soldiers vaccinated throughout all three components is hard to determine as some individuals have opted to get vaccinated by an outside provider.
"Vaccinations are available for all Americans right now, and we are encouraging our Soldiers, family members, and civilians to take advantage because that is the best way to defeat this invisible enemy," he said.
While the vaccine is not mandatory for Soldiers, Department of Defense leaders are in ongoing discussions about future vaccination efforts, especially with the rise in Delta variant cases. Until a decision has been made, the Army will educate personnel to help them make an informed decision, McConville said.
In the coming years, the Army will need to balance readiness priorities while simultaneously implementing modernization initiatives, McConville said. To support, the Army will transition to the new Regionally Aligned Readiness and Modernization Model, or ReARMM, starting next fiscal year.
ReARMM will help integrate and synchronize the total force to meet regional requirements while providing predictability during training, modernization, and mission efforts.
"We have lots of modernization coming into the regular Army, Guard and Reserve," McConville said. "We have to give them the time to get their new tanks [and] new aircraft, and we need a predictable model to do that. That is what [ReARMM] is designed to do -- it is a model that creates predictability for units."