ARLINGTON, Va. – The chief of the National Guard Bureau told senators June 7 that continued investments in the National Guard mean it will be able to effectively support the Joint Force while quickly responding to the needs on the home front.
“Today’s National Guard would not be possible without your continued investments,” Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. “It provides the manning, training and equipment for our primary mission: to fight and win our nation’s wars, which also makes possible our ability to serve our communities in their times of need.”
The Guard can operate effectively in this dual-status role partly because of its size.
“We’re more than 440,000 strong – 20% of the Joint Force, second in size behind the U.S. Army,” the general said. “Today, more than 43,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are on duty around the globe and here at home.”
Hokanson also highlighted the Defense Department’s State Partnership Program, which pairs Guard elements with 93 countries – representing 45% of all nations.
Notably, he said, one of those partnerships is between the California National Guard and Ukraine, now in its fourth month of combat following Russia’s unprovoked invasion.
“While much of the world underestimated the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ abilities, the National Guard was not surprised because we have been training with them for more than 29 years,” said Hokanson. He noted that the Florida National Guard now trains with Ukraine forces in various locations in Europe.
While these partnerships have proven highly valuable, Hokanson said supporting the Guard is crucial in helping deter near-peer adversaries.
“Having a modernized, relevant and capable reserve component to augment our active forces is perhaps one of the best deterrents that we have,” he said.
This is done by ensuring the Guard’s equipment is deployable, sustainable and interoperable on the battlefield to stay ahead of near-peer competitors, such as China and Russia, he said.
Hokanson said Air National Guard fighter jets need to be modernized to help meet future threats.
“We have 25 fighter squadrons, and I think our nation needs every single one of those,” he said. “So, it’s important that we identify a way forward to recapitalize those fleets, with newer aircraft so they can continue to provide 30% of the Air Force’s air capability in the next generation.”
To continue being an effective reserve component to the Army, Hokanson informed the committee the Army National Guard must boost intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for some of its divisions.
“We’re working very closely with the Army on equipment that is in the active divisions and that are currently not in the National Guard, specifically to the [MQ-1C] Gray Eagle,” said Hokanson, referring to the armed, unmanned aerial system used in overseas operations. “Our goal is that [Guard divisions] look exactly like the active component divisions – so they’re interoperable on the battlefield or whenever our nation needs them.”
But investments in equipment and assets only go so far.
It’s people, Hokanson said, that are the most important resource the Guard must continuously invest in. This means more resources for mental health assistance to help enhance readiness in the ranks, he said.
While it is difficult to pinpoint the causes of each situation, Hokanson said improved access to mental health care is “definitely going to make a difference.”
In closing, Hokanson expressed the honor he feels in advocating on behalf of Guard Soldiers and Airmen.
“I’m extremely fortunate to represent today’s National Guard force that is ready to fight and win our nation’s wars, ... serve our communities in their time of need, and ready to work with our partners at every level from local to international,” he said.