The Corner

Subject: General Blum Is Right



General Blum is right, and so were the other ten former heads of the National Guard Bureau.

Not only do Guard (and Reserve) units get hand me downs, in many cases there are no hand me downs to hand down. Very rarely are all the active duty units up to full complement in areas like communications, logistics support and motor transport. This was a problem even during the fat years of the Reagan Era. (The Clinton administration was able to improve overall on hand readiness in the Army by simply shutting down entire divisions. The reason so many guard units are equipped with modern systems like the M1 is that Clinton reduced the number of Army divisions from 18 to 10. It’s a good thing we didn’t need that big Army anymore!)

Why? Because there is no natural political constituency for awarding big fat procurement contracts for “luxuries” like field radios and armored vests. It goes without saying that while the President proposes Congress disposes. A nifty new destroyer keeps thousands of high paying skilled laborers employed at the Bath Iron Works, in Maine. A contract for 1,500 Sincgars radios might employ 150 people for five years in one congressional district. Then that’s probably enough field radios to equip ten battalions of the National Guard.

All that said, the idea that a field radio is obsolete is a bit of a stretch. If the primary requirement is capability to talk from point A to point B, then the old style PRC and VRC radio sets from the 1960s function well enough. I will acknowledge that those radios are less capable than modern sets and that due to age they may be more difficult to keep in service. Still, all you need for disaster relief is basic push to talk technology.

I’m all for giving the bestest most modern stuff to all the services. When it comes down to choosing between radios for the Guard and a bridge to nowhere in Alaska, that’s an easy one.

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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