WASHINGTON — Faced with questions about the make-up of the U.S. Army in a budget-constrained, post-war era, U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) has signaled his support for a national commission to study the future of the Army and National Guard.
Cochran, vice chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, is an original cosponsor of the National Commission on the Future of the Army Act. The bipartisan measure would establish an independent national commission to analyze President Obama’s budget recommendations to restructure the active-duty Army and its reserve component.
“Establishing a national commission to carefully scrutinize proposed changes to the United States Army is a prudent action. The Congress is faced with tough and far-reaching choices related to the structure of the Army. These changes will affect the capabilities of the Army, not just nationally but in Mississippi,” Cochran said.“Under this legislation, I believe we can achieve much of the desired savings from the budget request while maintaining our military capability and allowing for an unbiased and independent review of the overall size and force mix of the Army.”
The commission legislation was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), co-chairs of the National Guard Caucus. Cochran is also a member.
Within the President’s budget request, the leadership of the Army recommended transferring all Army Guard AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to active-duty forces. Under the Army’s aviation restructure plan, the Army Guard would receive 111 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters in return and retain all light utility helicopters already assigned to Guard units.
For Mississippi, the transfer of the Apache helicopters would directly affect the Army Aviation Support Facility in Tupelo. The restructure plan also recommends procurement of 100 Lakota helicopters, which are built in Columbus, for the active component.
The Senate legislation would prohibit the Defense Department from using FY2015 funding to reduce end strengths for Army personnel. The bill would restrict the Army from carrying out wide-scale Apaches helicopter transfers in order to maintain the Army National Guard’s role as a combat reserve while the commission analyzes the overall impact of the restructure plan.