June 1, 2013  

Army Total Force

I read Col. Paul Shelton’s article on the creation of an Army reserve affairs functional area with a great deal of interest [“Reserve affairs,” April]. As a full-time Army National Guard officer working at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., I was curious about Shelton’s ideas on the integration of the active and reserve components (AC and RC), a concept called for in the 2012 Army Total Force Policy directive. I agree with the author that we have some distance to go in order to bring the three Army components — Active Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve — together into a cohesive and more efficient whole. I also largely agree with his rationale on how an officer trained in reserve component matters might add value to the total force. There is clear value to be found on both sides in the type of cross-pollination among the active and reserve components called for in the piece. The functional area proposed in the article, however, seems somewhat redundant when compared with capability already resident in the Army National Guard and Army Reserve.

The Title 10 AGR (Active Guard and Reserve) force represents a small yet critical cadre of experienced personnel, the majority of whom serve at either the National Guard Bureau or Army Reserve Command. Additionally, hundreds of AGR personnel are distributed throughout the Army Service Component Commands, Training and Doctrine Command, Army Forces Command, the Army Staff, the Army Centers of Excellence and beyond. These core groups of full-time professionals represent their respective components on a broad variety of issues, including policy, resourcing, training, mobilization and deployment. AGR officers are not just internal and external advocates for their components; they are resource allocators and sounding boards for active component commanders and staffs. They are undoubtedly an efficient resource as well: the Title 10 AGR force in the Army National Guard comprises just under 1 percent of the organization’s 350,000 end strength.

While the concept of active component reserve affairs officers is intriguing, the advantage of full-time reserve component officers working on RC-specific issues is clear. We have in most cases risen through the organizations we represent, and thus understand the unit-level perspective on strategic-level discussions. No learning curve must be surmounted in order to voice concerns and recommendations to our active component brethren on topics of mutual interest. Additionally, opportunities exist for Title 10 AGR officers to return to the field for broadening assignments like the command and staff jobs mentioned in the article.

This arrangement is particularly desirable in the Army National Guard, as officers from the 54 states and territories periodically swap with counterparts at the National Guard Bureau, thereby allowing both parties to benefit from a renewed perspective. Rather than design an entirely new Army functional area and establish its associated doctrine, proponent office and training in the midst of an era of contraction, I would recommend that we continue to leverage the AGR force as the high-return-on-investment subject matter experts they are.

Maj. John D. McRae

Alexandria, Va.