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Forty minutes into a wide-ranging question-and-answer period at the National Press Club, Odierno said the Guard would not be capable of taking on more of the active-duty Army’s responsibilities because the full-time force brings a higher level of readiness, which, he said, costs more money to maintain.
Shortly afterward, the president of the National Guard Association of the United States, the Guard’s lobbying arm, called the remarks “disrespectful and simply not true.”
Walz said in an interview Friday that Odierno has yet to respond to his letter. A spokesman for the Pentagon said Odierno was traveling and unavailable for comment.
In the letter, Walz, a co-chairman of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus, pointed to figures that he said show that the cost to maintain one active-duty component infantry brigade combat team is about twice that of a reserve component because Guard units don’t require such things as subsidized base housing, they train less often, and they are called on only when needed.
“This is quantifiable,” Walz said. “When we’re making sure the first priority is this nation’s national security, but making sure it is in the most cost effective manner, you can’t dispute the facts. To make the comment that they are not ready sets the wrong tone.”
Walz remembers a time when the Guard was regarded as nothing more than weekend warriors, left with aging equipment or sometimes no equipment at all. At one point after the first Gulf War, Walz said his Guard artillery unit had to conduct drills by taping the outline of a howitzer cannon on the gym floor and using toilet paper rolls as the powder charge.
“That was a horrible way to do business, it was a horrible way to do national security and it was very wasteful,” Walz said. “It should not be a pick-and-choose, but when it got tight it appears the Pentagon slipped back into its ways.”
Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434