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Lawmaker tries to block transfer of Guard Apaches and personnel cuts

Feb. 3, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
The Army has proposed divesting OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and using AH-64 Apaches to meet the armed aerial scout mission.
The Army has proposed divesting OH-58 Kiowa Warriors and using AH-64 Apaches to meet the armed aerial scout mission. (Army)
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In what is likely the opening shot in a looming battle between Congress and the Army, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., has introduced a bill that would freeze the Army’s plans to transfer all of the National Guard’s AH-64 Apache helicopters to the active-duty force and prevent most of the proposed Guard personnel cuts.

Introduced on Jan. 27, the bill is meant to stop a repeat of the 1990s, when the Army’s active component, Guard and Reserve all had to compete for scarce resources, said Caroline Delleney, a spokeswoman for Wilson.

“The Congressman is hopeful that by acting early, the National Guard and the Army will be able to resolve disagreements and design a mutually acceptable plan,” Delleney said in an email on Monday. “Under sequestration, the active Army, Guard, and Reserve will all have to make sacrifices. It is important that they work together to ensure that the total Army is strong because infighting will only weaken the Army and place our national security at risk.”

The Army has proposed divesting its OH-58 Kiowa helicopters and using Apaches from the Guard to fulfill the Kiowa’s reconnaissance and scout role. In return, the active-duty force would give the Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, which the Army believes are better suited to the Guard’s homeland defense and disaster response missions.

But lawmakers are concerned that taking away all of the Guard’s Apaches could be the first in a series of moves that would undermine the Guard as the active-duty force’s combat reserve, a congressional staffer said Monday. Next, the Army could take away the Guard’s Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

The bill, which currently has 34 co-sponsors, would also set the Guard’s end strength at 350,000 instead of the Army’s target of 315,000, the staffer said.

If active-duty Army and National Guard cannot reach an agreement on the helicopters and end strength, a form of the bill would likely be part of the proposed fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization bill.

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