Internal Army Tensions Put National Security at RIsk

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Internal Army Tensions Put National Security at RIsk
By: Stephanie Sanok Kostro

The releases of the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request and the Defense Department’s latest Quadrennial Defense Review have reignited a hotly contested debate regarding the “right” balance between the Army Active Component (AC) and the Reserve Component (RC). With a looming fiscal crisis and evolving security challenges, each military service is looking to protect force gains made since 2001 and to maintain structure necessary to meet threats to U.S. national security.

Traditionally bubbling beneath the surface, the AC/RC debate hinges on identifying and resourcing the appropriate roles and missions for each component. The active Army and the Guard (which together with reserves constitutes the RC), for example, each typically questions the other’s cost figures, and the AC and RC frequently challenge each other’s perspective and engage in robust discussions about the readiness and capability levels needed to achieve Total Force objectives.

This time, however, the AC/RC discussion is not playing out behind closed doors. Earlier this year, one media outlet noted that a lack of resolution between the Guard and Active Army would lead to “open, brutal conflict on Capitol Hill.” Indeed, in 2012, the Air Force experienced a meltdown in AC/RC relations over its proposal to reduce reserve force structure and the ensuing debate over whether the reserves, governors, or Congress had been properly consulted. Despite its intention to avoid repeating the Air Force’s experience, bitter Army divisions are now blowing up in the public domain, revealing the deep distrust that exists between the Army’s AC and the Guard.

Lost in the noise is the long-term impact this warfare will have on the health of the Army, detracting attention from the fundamental issues that Congress and the administration should discuss regarding the Total Army’s roles, priorities, and requirements in the future security environment. In the coming weeks, the CSIS Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program will release a report that attempts to refocus attention on these key issues, providing policymakers and practitioners with independent insights and recommendations to shape the Army and advance U.S. national defense objectives.

Stephanie Sanok Kostro is acting director of the CSIS Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Program and a senior fellow with the CSIS International Security Program, where she focuses on a range of "seam" issues affecting defense, foreign affairs, and development. Other posts by .


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