Delaware’s military turf war [video]

 (Del. Nat. Guard Facebook photo)

(Del. Nat. Guard Facebook photo)

Remember the sequester? The trillion plus dollars in automatic spending cuts that took effect even before the government shutdown? Major General Frank Vavala certainly does.
 
“It affects about 400 of our employees; half of those in our Delaware Army National Guard, the other half in our Delaware Air National Guard.”
 
The Delaware National Guard’s top officer says the sequester furloughed his soldiers and airmen for six days between July and September, amounting to roughly a 10 percent pay cut.
 
“I’d say for the most part most of them have deployed one, two, three or more times in support of our national objectives, but yet we’re targeting them for furlough,” Vavala lamented.
 
Capt. Robert Ford was among those furloughed. 
 
“Initially there was a little bit of panic that set in, especially at home, trying to answer questions for my wife. How is this going to impact us,” Ford said.
 
Operational readiness
 
Vavala says the furloughs have ignited a country-wide turf war between National Guard troops like his and the active duty military, whose paychecks are protected from sequestration.
 
“There was that paradigm shift after 9/11. We’re no longer the ragtag militia and the weekend warriors of the past,” Vavala said, adding his troops have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with active duty soldiers and airmen on multiple deployments since 9/11. 
 
This year alone, Delaware has seen the largest number of Guardsmen deployed overseas since World War II.
 
“From our perspective, I mean right now because of the deployments, we have the best trained, best equipped, best led and most veteran force that we’ve ever had,” said Vavala.
 
And to be the best, the Guard gets $115 million in federal dollars a year augmented by $5 million from the state. Money that will keep coming in so long as the guard keeps deploying.
 
Arguing case before Congress
 
But at a time when Congress is trying to save money, why pay to train and deploy part-time Guard members when full-time active duty troops are already on the payroll?
 
“No detriment to the active Army or the active Air Force, but I think over time and attrition, we can bring down that standing Army and that standing Air Force, rotate missions into the Guard and be able to do it cheaper because you’re only paying us for overseas service when you need us,” Vavala said, pointing out that for the cost of one active duty soldier or airman, you could pay three National Guardsmen to do the same job. 
 
“We’re a more economical and efficient force because we don’t require all of the infrastructure that the active component does. We don’t need the swimming pools and the bowling alleys and the golf courses because, again, our people live and work in the communities in which they live… I’m very hopeful that Congress is going to see it our way.”
 
And it doesn’t hurt to have Delaware Sen. Chris Coons seated as a member of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
 
“I think there ought to be another BRAC round – a base realignment and closure round,” Sen. Coons, D-Del, said. “I think we could save tens of billions of dollars by closing antiquated military bases in United States that aren’t currently needed for our war fighting missions, and I’m confident that Dover Air Force Base would not be affected.”
 
All of which could amount to a tremendous opportunity for the Delaware National Guard and the state.

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