The chief of the National Guard has told Congress that financial uncertainties will have a direct impact on the Army and Air National Guard's ability to respond to the operational needs of the nation.
Congress has until March to act, or watch automatic fiscal cuts become a reality. One alternative to delay this procedure, known as sequestration, would be enactment of a continuing resolution that would fund the military at the same level as in 2012. Either of those options would have a negative impact on the Guard, officials say.
"We may have to furlough soldiers and airmen serving as technicians," Gen. Frank Grass stated. The comment was made during a Congressional hearing about fiscal impacts if sequestration begins in March.
The budget uncertainties can reduce readiness, create maintenance backlogs in every state and impede response to emergencies and disasters, the general said. Even a continuing resolution to finance the Guard has the potential to be a negative impact, he added.
The general has directed the state commanders of the National Guard to curtail activities not directly related to readiness and to curtail travel and temporary duties.
"The National Guard has always done more with less, and optimizing responsible resource usage is one of the Missouri National Guard's strategic goals," said Maj. Gen. Stephen Danner, commander of Missouri's Army and Air National Guard.
As both the Adjutant General of Missouri and chairman of the National Guard Association of the U.S., Mr. Danner works closely with the National Guard chief and state Adjutant Generals to respond to Congressional inquiries and to be prepared to balance any fiscal impact on National Guard units.
Units are conducting necessary planning in preparation for possible fiscal reductions, the general said. Locally, there have been changes at the 139th Airlift Wing.
"We have modified the way we are spending money," said Col. Mike Pankau, Wing commander.
While there has been no work stoppage, there are changes, such as ceasing familiarization flights and training programs, that aren't vital to the mission, the colonel said.
But, the wing will cautiously spend funds to support mission issues and to maintain a safe working environment, Mr. Pankau said.
"If the Missouri National Guard faces decreased funding, our priorities will be to continue to support our Wounded Warrior Program, support our family programs and continue to train and equip our soldiers and airmen for their state and federal missions within budget guidelines," Mr. Danner said.