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WASHINGTON (Feb. 13, 2020) — A Defense Department plan announced today to reprogram fiscal 2020 defense appropriations would drain more than $1 billion from critical programs that modernize some of the National Guard’s oldest equipment.
The Guard cuts include:
- $790 million for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account (NGREA);
- $169 million for two C-130J Super Hercules cargo planes for the Air Guard; and
- $100 million for the Army National Guard High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (Humvee) modernization program.
While technically “congressional add-ons” to the president’s formal budget request, the funds were intended to purchase unfunded requirements and are the product of longstanding programs in the annual defense budget process.
“The services have historically underfunded the National Guard,” said retired Brig. Gen. J. Roy Robinson, the NGAUS president. “They have done so more recently knowing that Congress will make up some of the difference. In fact, this gives the services something of an excuse as to why they don’t pay more attention to Guard equipment modernization.
“Any inference that these aren’t critical needs for the Guard is false,” he said. “This is just the Guard being used as a convenient bill-payer.”
NGREA has been around since 1982. The account has provided millions of dollars every year since for the Guard and Reserve to modernize or replace old equipment. The president’s defense request arrives on Capitol Hill at $0. Congress determines the amount in consultation with the Pentagon.
In recent years, NGREA has helped the Guard purchase radios, vehicles, training simulators, firefighting equipment and install new radar, avionics and engines on older combat aircraft. Every state is impacted.
“NGREA has allowed us to employ 20th-century aircraft in 21st-century fights,” Robinson said.
The two C-130Js would be one-quarter of the planes required to outfit a wing with new aircraft.
The Air Guard has 16 wings that operate C-130s, 14 fly the older H-model, which are on average 29 years old. They either need new avionics, engines and propellers or to be replaced with the more advanced J-model.
Congress provided funds in recent years to buy 16 new C-130J. They will be fielded starting in 2021.
The Humvee program is now in its seventh year. It has rebuilt more than 3,800 vehicles. Yet it has only dented the need. The Army Guard has some 40,000 Humvees. They contribute daily to Guard operations at home and abroad. About half are more than 20 years old and are not scheduled to be replaced.
The Guard reprogramming is part of $3.8 billion in the Pentagon announcement.
Robinson and Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, the NGAUS chairman, expressed their concern with the reprogramming to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a letter sent earlier today.