WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 2, 2011) -- Reserve Component senior leaders met on Capitol Hill, July 27, to discuss maintaining the Reserves as an operational force and measures to keep it funded in such a capacity.

"As a member of the Total Force, the National Guard has successfully transformed into an operational force," said Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "This transformation could not have been possible without the significant investments this Congress has made in the National Guard and Reserve."

McKinley told lawmakers the Guard must continue to be used as an operational force so the investments made in it are not wasted. He also asked that budget cuts not "disproportionately affect the Reserve Component in our new role as an operational force."

Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter and Air Force Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt echoed McKinley in their remarks to the House Armed Services Committee subcommittee on Military Personnel.

"Congress had the wisdom to provide the funding and the authorities needed to create and sustain an Air National Guard," said Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard. "A Guard that is capable of functioning as an operational force, augmenting the active duty's day-to-day operations -- allowing the total force to rapidly expand its capability and capacity to meet threats to our national security."

Carpenter said the Army National Guard is the "best value for America," adding that the force structure and military power can be sustained in the ARNG as an operational force for a fraction of the regular cost.

"Supporting capability in the Army National Guard makes good business sense, and is a twofer -- that means that the same force is available to the governor of the state, territory and district as well as the president of the United States," Carpenter said.

It isn't simply funding that concerns the three Reserve Component leaders, but also accessibility.

"Of particular importance to us is assured access to the National Guard," McKinley said. "That is why we worked closely with the Army, the Air Force, the secretary of defense and the governors of this nation to develop a legislative proposal ... to ensure the secretary of defense can support combatant commanders' needs for missions other than war."

McKinley also said continued support of the Guard means programs like the State Partnership Program can continue to aid and influence the militaries of nations around the world.

"As the need for partnership building missions continue to grow in the future, the National Guard will stand ready to provide its years of expertise," McKinley said.

For the Air Guard, Wyatt said he is looking to the future and working with the active-duty component to make sure that the Air Guard remains a ready and accessible force, "so that the investment and faith put into it is not lost."

"The U.S. Air Force must have confidence that they can obtain the Air Guard's help when needed," Wyatt said.

"In fact, our Guard Airmen have answered every call, participated in every contingency and supported the full spectrum of domestic response," Wyatt said after his testimony.

McKinley said it is crucial the operational force remains fully funded, stressing that fiscal decisions made today would dramatically affect the Reserve Component of the future and the nation's ability to respond to future operations at home and abroad.

"The Department of Defense must embrace the reality of the Reserve as an operational force and the associated cost and adequately address them in future programming," he told the committee.