The nation's governors plan to continually press Army leadership to let the National Guard keep its assets after a bitter battle last year when the service said it would move helicopters out of the Guard.
The Army originally planned to consolidate the Guard's Apache attack helicopters into the active duty, while the Guard would receive several hundred Black Hawks and retain its Lakota multi-use helicopters.
In the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress blocked the move, along with changes to related personnel, until at least 2016.
The bill also creates a National Commission on the Future of the U.S. Army to study the size and force mixture of active and reserve components.
"Congress did the right thing by saying no to a Pentagon plan to cut the Army National Guard and remove much of its combat air capability," Utah Gov. Gary Herbert said today at a State of the States speech in Washington. "This year, a commission will review the role of the Army National Guard. We fully intend to communicate how the Guard's cost-effectiveness and more than 10 years of combat experience should be leveraged to meet the new threats and economic realities facing the nation."
The Pentagon will revise its plans for restructure for the fiscal 2016 budget, a move that will face more opposition from state leaders.
"We already know that the Pentagon intends to resubmit plans to reduce the size of the Army Guard and to remove the Guard's Apache helicopters," said Herbert, who serves as the co-chairman of the National Governors Association. "Governors and Congress said no once. And we will say it again. The Guard is the most cost-effective, combat-ready force in our nation's arsenal."
The newly created commission will include eight independent commissioners, set to be appointed by Congress and the president. It closely mirrors the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, which was created following a bitter battle between state leaders and the Air Force in fiscal 2013 on the future of the Air National Guard. That commission led to 42 recommendations, including moving personnel and aircraft into the Guard, which have largely been approved.
Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said the commission has led to the best relationship between the Air Force and the Air National Guard that he's ever seen. As of now, 87 percent of the commission's recommendations have been implemented.
"From that perspective, I couldn't ask for a better outcome," Grass said.
The hope is the Air Force's experience could serve as a model for the Army, provided the commission has "the time to do the analysis they need to do, and take that independent look," Grass said.