The rear guard action being fought to keep Boeing’s AH-64 Apaches in the National Guard instead of transferring them all into the regular Army has been bolstered following the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by Congress last December.
The legislation includes $1.25 billion for the National Guard and Reserve to address modernization shortfalls (not requested by President Obama’s administration) and blocks any transfer of Apaches from the National Guard to the active component (Army) in the 2015 fiscal year.
The Commission, to be carried out by the GAO, was brought in by Congressmen Joe Wilson and William Enyanrt, who was adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard until his retirement in 2012. It will study “the appropriate balance between the Active force and the Guard.”
The legislation states that the provision “clarifies the limitations on the authority of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Army with respect to the potential transfer of up to 48 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters in FY2016 from the Army National Guard to the regular Army pending certification from the Secretary of Defense.”
The Aviation Restructuring Initiative (ARI) was publicly revealed by Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum during an Association of the United States Army (AUSA) meeting in January 2014. Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno had approved the initiative in December 2013. It represented a deliberate move by the chiefs of Army Aviation to meet the challenge of sequestration by planning their own force cuts rather than having “blanket” force cuts imposed on them. The resultant “salami slicing” from such a draconian measure would not do any good, they reasoned.
As with any reduction in budget, there is always a downside for someone. Inside Army Aviation, the axe fell on the armed scout mission with the entire Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior fleet slated for retirement. With no money in the budget for a replacement, which would have been the Armed Aerial Scout (AAS), the Army sought to improvise a solution by combining Apaches with unmanned systems to create a manned-unmanned reconnaissance team, a concept that was already active and had been maturing since its first fielding as Task Force ODIN in Iraq from August 2006 onwards. The ODIN acronym could not be closer to the scout mission, standing for observe, detect, identify and neutralize.
While Congress is keen to acknowledge the ongoing contribution that the National Guard makes to the security of the nation, the Army has already been making changes in line with the ARI plan.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Brigadier General Frank Muth, the director of the Army’s Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) office, stated that the Army did not believe that a Commission was necessary due to the “analytical rigor” that had been applied to the question of budget reduction while the ARI was being formulated.
With the Commission not set to report in until February 2016, Muth said that the ARI plan involved much more than just the Apache moves. Colonel John Lindsey, director of aviation operations, plans and training, added that the Army was moving ahead with the implementation of aspects of the ARI with most of the early changes happening within the active component. “We have cancelled OH-58D training and turned in all the OH-58Ds from Ft. Rucker to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for demilitarization,” he said.
By the time the Commission reports in 2016, Army Aviation will necessarily be progressing down the ARI pathway, and any change to its format will likely entail additional expense instead of the savings that are required. In any case, the report could well be “after the fact” should deeper and more extensive sequestration cuts be required to both the active force and the Guard in FY2016.
Related: Military News