Retired generals, defense insiders named to panel on Army’s future

T he decisions the Army has made or proposed as part of its required drawdown from 570,000 active duty soldiers to 450,000 (and potentially 420,000) have caused a considerable degree of heartburn on Capitol Hill and strained relationships between the active and reserve components. So, at the end of last year, Congress ordered the Army to freeze some of those proposals and ordered up a new commission to study the Army’s future. We now know who will serve on that eight- member study panel.

The legislation gave four picks each to the President and Congress. On Wednesday, the White House named:

  • Former Gen. Larry Ellis, who retired from the Army in 2004 and now is the president of VetConnexx, a firm that matches veterans with private sector jobs.
  • Kathleen Hicks, until recently DoD’s number two policy official. She now is the director of the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
  • Tom Lamont, the assistant secretary of Defense for manpower and reserve affairs from 2009-2013. He now runs his own consulting practice.
  • Former Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, who retired in 2012 as Chief of the Army Reserve and worked for Proctor and Gamble for most of his civilian career.

The four Congressional appointments fell to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate armed services committees, each of whom got one pick. They are:

  • Bob Hale, who served as DoD’s comptroller and CFO from 2009 until last year, and is currently a fellow at Booz Allen Hamilton (Named by Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the House Armed Services Committee’s ranking Democrat).
  • Retired Gen. James Thurman, who served most recently as the top U.S. military official in Korea (Named by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee).
  • Ray Chandler, who left the Army last year after a 34-year enlisted career. At the time of his retirement, he was Sergeant Major of the Army, the service’s top-ranking enlisted official (Named by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee).
  • Former Gen. Carter Ham, who retired in 2013 as the commander of U.S. Africa Command (Named by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

The new panel, which will report back by February 2016, has a broad mandate: “a comprehensive study of the structure of the Army and policy assumptions related to the size and force mixture of the Army.” But in creating the panel, Congress also instructed it to pay special attention to the “fully-burdened costs” of reservists compared to active soldiers, and explicitly ordered Army officials to freeze a key aspect of its aviation restructuring initiative that some members perceived as a weakening of the role of the Army National Guard.

That plan, which the Army first proposed last year, would transfer the reserve components’ Apache attack helicopters to the regular Army in exchange for Blackhawk helicopters, which Army officials argue are a better fit for disaster response and other missions the National Guard fulfills in its non- federal role. Those transfers are barred entirely until October. After that, they are limited to 48 helicopters until the commission issues its report.

In light of some of that Guard-friendly language in the authorization bill, Gus Hargett, the president of the National Guard Association of the United States, said he was disappointed that no retired guard officials were appointed to the panel, but that most of the officials appeared to him to have “open minds” about future Army structure.

“The ultimate objective here is a blueprint for Congress to use to raise the Army of the future,” Hargett said. “I believe lawmakers seek, and our nation needs, a force that features integrated components — active, Guard and Reserve — with interchangeable units, one that can truly respond quickly but also has a significant surge capacity. Army National Guard experience, capabilities and cost- effectiveness have much to contribute to that force.”

This post is part of Jared Serbu’s Inside the DoD Reporter’s Notebook feature. Read more from this edition of Jared’s Notebook.

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