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Forgetting the Lessons of Vietnam: Army Force Structure Changes as a Result of Reduced Budgets

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Air War College, Air University Maxwell Air Force Base United States

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To meet sequestration budget requirements for fiscal year 2018, General Odierno, then Army Chief of Staff, proposed significant cuts to Army National Guard force structure. His plan to cut heavily from the Guard to preserve active force structure is contrary to how the Army has handled past budget reductions. Since 1974, the Army absorbed budget cuts by moving force structure from the active force to the Army Reserve and National Guard. Maintaining that same force structure in the reserve components costs 80 percent less than on active duty. Outcry over the plan from Governors and Congress led to the creation of the National Commission on the Future of the Army which was tasked with objectively reviewing the Armys plans to rebalance force structure. The Commissions recent report recommends against most of the Armys planned cuts to the National Guard. Despite having a new Army Chief of Staff and a commission report recommending cuts elsewhere, the Army has yet to form a plan to meet sequestration budgets that doesnt rely heavily on cuts to the Army National Guard. Significant cuts to the Army National Guard will have long-term effects on the Army and the nation. The planned cuts degrade the Armys capability reducing its surge capacity. Surge capacity for military operations is increasingly important for national defense with the historically small size of the active military force. Most importantly, the cuts to the Army National Guard will undo the Total Force Policy, making it easier for the president to go to war without first setting an end state and seeking the support of Congress and the American people.

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