Washington DC- Today, Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced that they have written a letter to Acting Secretary of the Army, Patrick Murphy, in an effort to protect Pennsylvania’s National Guard. The Army has said it has plans to divest from the 55th Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), which the Senators have opposed. In a letter, Casey and Toomey said that should such a divestment go forward then the cost burden must not be borne by the Pennsylvania Army National Guard (PAARNG).
The Senators wrote, “We continue to strongly believe deactivating the 55th is the wrong course of action, but must prepare accordingly to mitigate further reductions in readiness. Enabling this transition must involve proper planning and funding. If the Army insists on moving forward with this course of action, the cost burden cannot be placed on the PAARNG, which is simply complying with the Army’s directive. Instead, we ask for your commitment to fund the transition costs from resources within the current defense budget.”
The full text of the letter can be seen below:
March 17, 2016
The Honorable Patrick Murphy
Acting Secretary of the Army
101 Army Pentagon
Washington, DC 20350-0101
Dear Mr. Murphy:
As members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, we write to convey our concerns about force structure changes in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard (PAARNG). Specifically, we are concerned that the Army and National Guard have not laid the groundwork for the PAARNG to absorb major force structure changes and maintain its high rates of readiness.
Our primary concern regards the Army’s plan to divest the 55th Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT), which we have opposed since it was first announced. The 55th ABCT provides experienced and essential combat reserve capability at a time of perilous reductions in the active duty force and high demand for armored brigades in Europe. However, we have been repeatedly informed that budget cuts and end strength reductions necessitate the inactivation of the 55th. Further, it is our understanding that the National Guard intends to backfill the PAARNG with a Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB) and additional units, bringing Pennsylvania’s anticipated end strength up in FY2017 to 15,434.
We continue to strongly believe deactivating the 55th is the wrong course of action, but must prepare accordingly to mitigate further reductions in readiness. Enabling this transition must involve proper planning and funding. If the Army insists on moving forward with this course of action, the cost burden cannot be placed on the PAARNG, which is simply complying with the Army’s directive. Instead, we ask for your commitment to fund the transition costs from resources within the current defense budget.
Accordingly, the Army and National Guard Bureau should present the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, the Governor, and the relevant Congressional Committees with a comprehensive plan for how the Army will cover the logistical and retraining costs associated with inactivating the 55th ABCT and standing up the MEB and other new units as described previously. We urge that this plan be finalized as soon as possible for our consideration, and look forward to being of assistance.
Further, we are concerned with the impact that deactivation of the 55th ABCT will have on its parent division, the 28th Infantry Division, which is also headquartered in Pennsylvania. It is our expectation that the Army and National Guard will begin transparent consultations with the leadership of the PAARNG about the best way to round out the division, including exploring a multi-component arrangement as advocated in the National Commission on the Future of the Army report.
The other element of major force structure change in the PAARNG is the Aviation Restructure Initiative, to which we have also previously objected. We were pleased to see that the National Commission on the Future of the Army report affirmed our concerns, recommending that the Guard retain a combat aviation capability in the form of at least four Apache battalions with eighteen aircraft in each. Prior to the Commission’s report, the PAARNG began to execute orders to transfer their Apaches to the Active Component. We urge that you halt the further transition of any Apaches out of Pennsylvania until the Army and National Guard determine how best to implement the Commission’s recommendations. Once this capability is transitioned, it will be difficult and expensive to reconstitute in the Guard.
Lastly, we ask for a meeting with you and your staff to discuss these force structure changes and hear directly from Army leadership about the resources, training, and additional mission sets that will be brought to bear to help thousands of our service members across Pennsylvania make this transition smoothly.
Thank you for your leadership during this important time for our national security.
Robert P. Casey, Jr. Pat Toomey
United States Senate United States Senate