- The Washington Times - Friday, May 16, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Air National Guard and Army National Guard will reduce the number of their headquarters in 54 states and territories by two-thirds, the chief of the National Guard system said yesterday.

Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum said at a Pentagon news conference that the consolidation plan will be presented tomorrow at the spring conference of the Adjutants General Association of the United States in Columbus, Ohio.

The plan will apply to Air National Guard and Army National Guard headquarters in all 50 states, the District and the territories of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

“The National Guard cannot remain the way it is,” Gen. Blum said.

Like the active duty force, the Reserve force must transform from Cold War-era practices to the reality of today’s defense needs, he said. That includes organizing itself in ways that bring the Air and Army elements closer together.

Gen. Blum said that in each of the 54 states and territories the National Guard has three separate headquarters — one for the Air Guard, one for the Army Guard and one for the “area command,” run by the state’s adjutant general. By Oct. 1 the three will be consolidated into one, Gen. Blum said.

He had no estimate of how much money the consolidation would save. The savings will be used to make the Guard units more combat ready.

Gen. Blum, who became chief of the National Guard Bureau in April, said he had not briefed the adjutants general on his plan but was confident they would accept it.

“I’m leaving them enough room” to determine how their states or territories will execute the consolidation, he said, “which takes lots and lots of the angst out of it.”

Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, the adjutant general of Hawaii, said in an e-mail exchange yesterday that he likes Gen. Blum’s plan.

“I was planning to do the same at the Hawaii National Guard state headquarters prior to Lieutenant General Blum coming on board,” Gen. Lee said. “Looks like we are thinking alike.”

Brig. Gen. David Greer, Tennessee’s deputy adjutant general, said in a telephone interview that he had not seen details of Gen. Blum’s plan and would withhold comment until he had studied it. He favors streamlining communication between the Army Guard and Air Guard.

Gen. Blum said other elements of his plan for transforming the National Guard include expanding its role in national missile defense and creating 10 National Guard groups capable of responding to chemical and biological incidents with decontamination and other capabilities.

There are about 350,000 members of the Army National Guard and about 105,000 people in the Air National Guard.

The Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve are not affected by the plan. They do not have the same state-based structure as the National Guard.


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