Chief of the National Guard Bureau

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Chief of the
National Guard Bureau
Flag of the National Guard Bureau.svg
Gen Lengyel (2016 4-Star Photo).jpg
Gen Joseph L. Lengyel, USAF

since August 3, 2016
Formation February 14, 1908
First holder COL Erasmus M. Weaver, Jr.
Deputy Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau
Website Official Website

The Chief of the National Guard Bureau (CNGB) is the officer appointed to command it by the President of the United States with confirmation by the Senate. The highest-ranking officer of the National Guard of the United States,[1] the Chief since 2012 has been a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).[2]

The Chief of the National Guard Bureau differs from the other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in that he is not the commander of a service branch, nor the Chairman nor Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The National Guard is not a service branch, nor does the Chief of the National Guard Bureau command any troops, in the field or out of it. The Guard is in part a joint reserve component of the United States Army and the United States Air Force. The mission of the National Guard Bureau is to ensure the readiness and accessibility of the Guard as a resource for the Army and Air Force, which they utilize by "federalization," a form of reserve activation. This unique mission descends historically from the dual status of the National Guard.

The dual legal status of the National Guard

The National Guard is fully defined by Title 10 of the United States Code, Subtitle E, Reserve Components. The Code is a codified statement of the national laws in effect, including those that define the government itself. This is not a fixed body of law. It is changed by Acts of Congress, including the substructure of the Department of Defense (DOD or DoD), as well as the responsibilities and duties of its senior officers.

Although the President is the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, exercising command through the Department of Defense, the agent defining and establishing the structure, as well as changing it, is Congress. The President and individuals of the Department of Defense can still change the nature of the military, but they must do so by proposing legislation, which is accepted or rejected. This is the mechanism for keeping the military consistent with contemporaneous ideas concerning government and defense.

Those ideas change and have changed frequently in the long history of the National Guard. Although often questioned, the Guard itself has been kept, despite many efforts to abolish it. Its fundamental nature is its duality of service.

Federal status

The dual structure of the defense forces takes its cue from Article One of the United States Constitution, which authorizes Congress "to raise and support Armies..." and also "to provide for calling forth the militia..." and "for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States...." The "Armies" mentioned have descended to the U.S. Army and Air Force (formerly the Army Air Force), while the Militia has become the National Guard. "Employed in the Service" is now Active, while the remainder must be an implied unemployed in the Service, or Reserve. From the Federal standpoint, the Guard not Active is not covered by Article 1 and by implication not to be governed by the Union.[3]

Since they can be "called forth," they can be made active and come under Federal government, a process called "federalization" in modern times. Alternative terms are activation, mobilization, or deployments. Activation is mainly a decision of the President, although it is automatic in some situations and is allowed for a limited time to some other officials. Notification is to individuals through the unit, which must have some system in place: letter, telephone call, etc. Typically but not necessarily some waiting period is given.[4]

Mobilization can be of the entire National Guard for a state, or any portion of it, such as specialized units, or just simply a required number of individuals, as few as one, or individuals with needed skills. Activation is the prerogative of the President, except when mandated by law; however, he or his subordinates must know whom to activate. For that he relies on the advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff including the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. The National Guard Bureau with its extensive staff maintaining data on the entire Guard is an information broker. The service chiefs or their designated subordinates share their needs with the National Guard Bureau, which formulates suggestions based on the availability of Guard units and Guardsmen. After a joint decision the President is advised.

Strictly speaking, federalized individuals are no longer in the Guard, which from a Federal point of view is a Reserve only. They are in the Army or Air Force. When they report for duty they are an integral part of the units in the operations for which they were activated. Alternatively the field commander may create special units for them, which may or may not bear the names of their Guard units. They are not under the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. The National Guard Bureau is an advisory group only. At the end of their active period the individuals revert to their Guard status again.

State status

National Guard Armory, Lansing, Michigan, a typical Guard meeting hall and armaments storage facility.
National Guard convoy in Coney Island, New York.

The second face of Guard duality looks to the Governors of the states for their orders. Guard units not on Federal active duty are quartered and maintained by the states in National Guard Armories as a militia. Armories are also referred to as "readiness centers" by the Department of Defense. At least one Armory can be found in many cities. When not being used for Guard meetings they are typically rented to other functions. Some are now abandoned, and others are honored as historical monuments.

Although the Guard is considered an agency of the state, Federal law takes precedence over State Law, so the Guard is never entirely free to be used at the pleasure of the Governor. Most uses require Presidential approval, although Federal officers are not involved in the command structure.The Governor is granted privileges of activation and command not involving the National Guard Bureau nor the Federal services. The Governor himself is the supreme commander.

Ordinarily the Guard is in Inactive status in both the Union and the State. Inactive does not mean "no activity." Individual Guardsmen have training and maintenance responsibilities to be discharged on a part-time basis. This includes having to show up at the Armory for regularly scheduled drills and to receive news and new orders and equipment. They also attend summer encampment, traveling in convoys of trucks to predesignated and typically long-standing bases. They receive pay for these activities. Periodically an inspector confirms attendance with legal consequences for failure to attend.

The Governor may "call up" any or all Guardsmen and Guard units in the state to "State Active Duty" or "Full-time National Guard duty," with confirmation by the President. Their services are utilized on a full-time basis with full-time pay for purposes of Homeland Security or disaster relief. In this capacity Guardsmen have police powers; for example, citizens told by Guardsmen to evacuate a coastal area in danger of a hurricane are obliged to do so. State activation differs from Federal activation in that the Guard units retain their identity and are commanded as such by the Governor through their officers. Governors may also collaborate with other Governors to create an on-site de facto joint force.[5]

The Department of Defense reserve structure

Concepts of reserve

Artist's rendition of the Minutemen at the Battle of Lexington

The concept of a reserve is one of the most ancient and fundamental of military science. Etymologically it is troops that are ready to be deployed but are “held back” for later use in emergencies when additional troops are required but no more “regular” troops are available. At the tactical, or lower unit level, the operational commander designates battlefield forces to be used as a military reserve in the coming battle. In ancient warfare armies (and fleets) confronted each other in lines of battle. These were arrayed in ranks. In the front were the ”front-line troops” intended to take the main shock of battle. The rear line stood waiting. The best Roman commanders, such as Julius Caesar, salted it with the most experienced veterans, knowing that if the front were broken, the battle would be lost or won in the rear.

Whether the battle is won or lost, more and more men are required. The burden of warrior replacement must be shared by the citizens, but the replacements must be ready. The reserve concept at the overall, or strategic level (from the Greek word for “army,” strategos), brings into being the Military reserve force, a body of trained and ready soldiers who go about their daily business but keep up their training. When needed they can be made part of the active armed forces. This is an economical solution to the problem of defense. Armies in the field are expensive to maintain.

The extensive military reserves of the United States today are structured in a way that reflects the unique development of the nation from small, isolated English colonies, each of which had to conduct its own defense, in which all the colonists were required to participate. They were their own militia.

Subsequently, enough colonists arrived to separate the militias from the general population. These were the foundation of the future National Guard. During the wars the British conducted against the French and their allied Indians in America, these militias served as colonial reserves for the regular British Army. Many future revolutionary leaders, such as George Washington, were trained in them. As dissatisfaction with British rule grew, the militias took the lead in opposing that army, becoming finally the Minutemen (activated in a minute), the reserve of a clandestine organization calling itself the Sons of Liberty.

Despite the successes of the militias of the initial revolt in such encounters as the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and the Battle of Bunker Hill, George Washington did not defeat the regular British Army with militias. He found he had to build a permanent Regular Army, which would serve only the Union. They were called at first the Continental Army. With the help of the French regular army it defeated the British regular army finally at the Battle of Yorktown.

It is from this first national army that the regular reserves of the armed forces developed, which are totally distinct from the Guard. The National Guard is the militias to which those states remain entitled, though subordinate to the Union. The Army Reserve, a totally different body, is the reserve of the national army recruited to defend specifically the Union.

The Total Force Policy

Nixon with Melvon Laird, proponent of Total Force

The current strategic direction of the U. S. defense forces, termed "the Total Force Policy," was given its initial impetus in 1970 by then Secretary of Defense, Melvin Laird under President Richard Nixon. With regard to the administration's direction of the Vietnam War, Laird had styled himself as "the loyal opposition."

As to why Nixon should empower the opposition with such a key office, the credibility of the government and the popularity of the military were at an ebb. The war had no foreseeable resolution. Its cost was becoming unmanageable. Society had become so divided that the Governor of Ohio had been allowed to activate the Guard and use it to quell student protest. The 1970 Kent State shootings, in which the Guard had been ordered to open fire with live ammunition, killing a number of citizens, became a national incident. There was talk of impeaching the President. The fact that President John F. Kennedy had planned to disengage American troops from Vietnam but was prevented from doing so by assassination was not forgotten.

Laird believed in a strong military, but he also believed that Kennedy's successor, President Lyndon B. Johnson, had lied to the citizenry about the cost and management of the war. Nixon appointed him to chart a way out of the war. If the Americans just left, they would be abandoning an ally, the Republic of South Vietnam. Nixon needed time to force the North Vietnamese to the bargaining table, so that the Americans could effect peace with honor.

Appointed in 1969, Laird was given a free hand to find solutions while Nixon conducted his campaign for honor. Laird's answer to the war was called Vietnamization: the Americans would train replacement units for themselves among the South Vietnamese Army, and then withdraw slowly, unit by unit. The North Vietnamese allowed these events to occur and finally came quietly to the peace table. When the Americans were militarily out of the country, the North Vietnamese stepped in and overran it with but little opposition. Nixon by this time was embroiled in the controversy over his impeachment. He solved it by resigning, being the first and only sitting President to do so.

Laird went on with his plan during the last years of the war, 1970-1973. A keystone was the abolition of the draft, the involuntary induction of untrained citizens. Its end would relieve the military of their insubordination and divisiveness and would be a major savings in the defense budget. The draft was suspended by Laird on January 27, 1973.[6] The measure left a large gap in the manpower resources of the military, which was accustomed to round out its units with draftees, necessarily of low rank and of low fighting quality and spirit. This disadvantage had been overcome in World War II by the clarity of the cause, but now no such clarity existed. The solution was apparent to many: the rigid division into service branches had resulted in duplication of effort. For example, there were three infantry services, the Guard, the Regular Army, and the Marine Corps. They all needed the same types of support, which were in triplicate. Some sort of condensation was needed. Proposals were made in Congress to abolish the Guard or to abolish the Marine Corps. They were all defeated. Instead of these, Laird offered the Total Force concept.[7]

Laird ordered its implementation in August, 1970, well ahead of the planned abolition of the draft. It was not to be envisioned as anything happening immediately as a quick solution; instead, it was a goal toward which the country would move by successive Acts of Congress and successive directives within the services. It was a whole-service effort. They were all to start in that direction and bring it about by common cause. The administrative walls between services and units at the division level and below were to come down. They were to be viewed as a Total Force from which commanders in the field, the expeditionary commanders, would be able to pick the units and individuals they needed, as a sort of military Smörgåsbord. The selections would be welded into new, joint-force units only for the term of the expedition.[8]

Laird's term ended in 1973. His policy was at first picked up by his successor, James Schlesinger. Within two years Schlesinger reverted to the view of the Policy's opponents, that the Total Force was creating a "hollow army." It was too late for that point of view. By making the Policy an ideal to be won by joint effort, Laird had thrown decision-making open to the citizenry through the military. The timing corresponded to Congress reigning in the authority of the Executive Branch by requiring the President to seek confirmation for foreign expeditions. Simultaneously the Intelligence Community, which was functioning quasi-autonomously, was made accountable to the Senate through committees. It became necessary to convict the National Security Advisor, John Poindexter, of breaking the law. Once the point was made, that the laws were not to be ignored even by clandestines (as well as Presidents), the conviction was reversed on appeal.

The military had, in a sense, been offered the opportunity to play a significant role in deciding its own destiny, which it adopted enthusiastically. Every officer formerly denied a chance to have a part in the debate now had one. They were eager more than ever to be the military of the citizenry and to restore the lost public credibility. The Army created the Multi-Component Unit (MCU), a joint force of Active and Reserve units, with the major component being called the flag-holder, and a suitable joint headquarters. The Reserve units kept their own identities though now Active. The Reserves were considered a "round-out brigade" to the division (in place of draftees). These round-outs were of high quality. Over the years many more Total Force laws were passed and policies established, such as the joint base.

The Military as total force

A total force is a joint force: a unit composed of different types of components, or subordinate units,[9] deemed necessary to accomplish the mission given to the total force. The "total" refers to the sufficiency of quantity and types of components. A total force is not a distinct service, or a unit of a distinct service, nor a restructuring of the old services. They remain as they were. For example, if the commander of a joint force was a General of the Marine Corps, he remains a General of the Marine Corps, but now, instead of commanding only marines, he commands select units and individuals from theoretically any service, just for the mission. A joint force might be a small, temporary unit of limited duration, or it might be an expeditionary army sent abroad for years.

A total force is therefore a policy of the established structure rather than a new and parallel armed force. The Total Force Policy is to use joint forces wherever possible. The Department of Defense does not attempt to define policy. Presumably its English meaning applies: a set of principles to guide decisions. Nor does the Department of Defense, in describing the Secretary of Defense as "the principal defense policy advisor to the President,"[10] define advisor, which must retain its English meaning of "a mentor or guide." As the President also mentors and guides the Secretary, there is an element of ambiguity in the term, which is widespread in the description of senior officers. Aware of the ambiguity, the Department of Defense has created the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, which is staffed by full-time experts to develop and interpret all aspects of "policy," such as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Capability. The policies change frequently. There is some evidence that the Total Force Policy is past its prime.

The National Guard Bureau

The National Guard Bureau is an agency of the United States Department of Defense (DOD). The Chief of the National Guard Bureau serves as the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense, through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on matters involving non-federalized National Guard forces and on other matters as determined by the Secretary of Defense.[11][12][13] The Chief of the National Guard Bureau also serves as the principal adviser to the Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Air Force, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, on matters relating to federalized forces of the National Guard of the United States and its subcomponents; the Army National Guard of the United States, and the Air National Guard of the United States.[12][13]

The Chief of the National Guard Bureau

The Chief of the National Guard Bureau is a federally recognized commissioned officer who has served at least 10 years of federally recognized active duty in any of the Reserves of the Army or Air Force.[12][13][14] The Chief is nominated for appointment by the President from any eligible National Guard officers holding the rank of major general or above,[12][13] who also meets the requirements for the position as determined by defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,[12][13] under the advice and/or recommendation from their respective state governors and their service secretary.[12][13] The nominee must be confirmed via majority vote from the Senate.[12][13] The Chief serves a four-year term of office at the pleasure of the President.[12] By statute, the Chief is appointed as a four-star general[12][13] in the Army or Air Force, serving as a reserve officer on active duty.[12][13]


In 2009, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau Craig McKinley was granted the rank of full general, the first bureau chief to hold that rank. The position also became the seventh member of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2012 with third expansion of the Joint Chiefs in the 2012 defense bill signed on December 31, 2011. McKinley was also bureau chief at that time. The sitting Joint Chiefs had opposed the addition of another member, but President Obama promised in his 2008 campaign to do so.[15]

On June 30, 2016, Lieutenant General Joseph L. Lengyel, the Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau, was confirmed by the United States Senate for appointment as CNGB and promotion to General.[16] He was promoted and completed a transfer of authority ceremony with his predecessor on August 2.[17]

List of chiefs of the National Guard Bureau

Number Name Service From To
1 COL Erasmus M. Weaver, Jr. USA February 14, 1908 March 14, 1911
2 BG Robert K. Evans USA March 15, 1911 August 31, 1912
3 MG Albert L. Mills USA September 1, 1912 September 18, 1916
(Acting) COL George W. McIver USA September 18, 1916 October 26, 1916
4 MG William A. Mann USA October 26, 1916 November 26, 1917
5 MG Jesse McI. Carter USA November 26, 1917 August 15, 1918
(Acting) BG John W. Heavey USA August 15, 1918 February 5, 1919
5 MG Jesse McI. Carter USA February 5, 1919 June 28, 1921
6 MG George C. Rickards USA June 29, 1921 June 28, 1925
7 MG Creed C. Hammond USA June 29, 1925 June 28, 1929
(Acting) COL Ernest R. Redmond USA June 29, 1929 September 30, 1929
8 MG William G. Everson USA October 1, 1929 November 30, 1931
9 MG George E. Leach USA December 1, 1931 November 30, 1935
(Acting) COL Herold J. Weiler USA December 1, 1935 January 16, 1936
(Acting) COL John F. Williams USA January 17, 1936 January 30, 1936
10 MG Albert H. Blanding USA January 31, 1936 January 30, 1940
11 MG John F. Williams USA January 31, 1940 January 30, 1944
(Acting) MG John F. Williams USA January 31, 1944 January 31, 1946
12 MG Butler B. Miltonberger USA February 1, 1946 September 29, 1947
13 MG Kenneth F. Cramer USA September 30, 1947 September 4, 1950
(Acting) MG Raymond H. Fleming USA September 5, 1950 August 13, 1951
14 MG Raymond H. Fleming USA August 14, 1951 February 15, 1953
(Acting) Maj Gen Earl T. Ricks USAF February 16, 1953 June 21, 1953
15 MG Edgar C. Erickson USA June 22, 1953 May 31, 1959
(Acting) Maj Gen Winston P. Wilson USAF June 1, 1959 July 19, 1959
16 MG Donald W. McGowan USA July 20, 1959 August 30, 1963
17 Maj Gen Winston P. Wilson USAF August 31, 1963 August 31, 1971
18 MG Francis S. Greenlief USA September 1, 1971 June 23, 1974
19 LTG La Vern E. Weber USA August 16, 1974 August 15, 1982
20 LTG Emmett H. Walker, Jr. USA August 16, 1982 August 15, 1986
21 LTG Herbert R. Temple, Jr. USA August 16, 1986 January 31, 1990
22 Lt Gen John B. Conaway USAF February 1, 1990 December 1, 1993
(Acting) Maj Gen Philip G. Killey USAF December 2, 1993 January 1, 1994
(Acting) MG Raymond F. Rees USA January 2, 1994 July 31, 1994
(Acting) MG John R. D'Araujo, Jr. USA August 1, 1994 September 30, 1994
23 LTG Edward D. Baca USA October 1, 1994 July 31, 1998
24 Lt Gen Russell C. Davis USAF August 4, 1998 August 3, 2002
(Acting) MG Raymond F. Rees USA August 4, 2002 April 10, 2003
25 LTG H Steven Blum USA April 11, 2003 November 17, 2008
26 Gen Craig R. McKinley USAF November 17, 2008 September 6, 2012
27 GEN Frank J. Grass USA September 7, 2012 August 3, 2016
28 Gen Joseph L. Lengyel USAF August 3, 2016 Present

Previous flag


This positional flag for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau was used from 1998 to 2008. The dark blue represented the Army National Guard, the light blue represented the Air National Guard. The badge in the center is the branch insignia of the National Guard Bureau. The two triangles in the upper fly are "flight devices" and represent the Air National Guard.

The version of the flag which appears in the information box at the top of the page was adopted in 2008 when the position of Chief of the National Guard Bureau was upgraded to full General (four stars).

See also


  1. ^ "10 USC 10502 Chief of the National Guard Bureau: appointment; adviser on National Guard matters; grade; succession". Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 1 September 2017. 
  2. ^ United States Congress (2008). "SEC. 1812. ESTABLISHMENT OF NATIONAL GUARD BUREAU AS JOINT ACTIVITY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE". H.R. 4986 (110th): National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. govtrack. Retrieved 1 September 2017. 
  3. ^ For a presentation of the legislative foundation of the Guard and other Reserves refer to Dunn, Richard J. "America's Reserve and National Guard Components". 2016 Index of U.S. Military Strength. Retrieved 3 September 2017. 
  4. ^ "Activation and deployment". 2012 Insider's Guide to Guard and Reserve. Military Times. Retrieved 3 September 2017. 
  5. ^ For a presentation on State activation refer to "Understanding the Guard's Duty Status" (PDF). NGAUS Fact Sheet. National Guard Association of the United States. Retrieved 4 September 2017. 
  6. ^ A summary of Laird's activities with regard to the restructuring of the military to produce a Total Force can be found in NCFA Operation Subcommittee (2015). "The Total Force Policy and Integration of Active and Reserve Units" (PDF). National Commission on the Future of the Army. 
  7. ^ According to C. J. Gross, Laird expanded a concept proposed by a subordinate, Theodore Marrs, then Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for reserve affairs. Marrs, a former Air National Guardsman, suggested that the ANG be activated and used to round out regular Air Force units, instead of using draftees, as was then being done. He called his concept the "Total Force," which he did as early as 1953. It was competing with proposals to abolish the National Guard. Gross, Charles Joseph (2002). American Military Aviation: The Indispensable Arm. College Station: Texas A&M University Press. p. 219. Lay summary. 
  8. ^ No single document captures this total effort over so many years. One revealing example for the Army is Secretary of the Army (4 September 2012). "Army Directive 2012-08 (Army Total Force Policy)" (PDF). As one Total Force, the Active Army, Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve provide operating and generating forces to support the National Military Strategy and Army commitments worldwide.... The Army will ensure that the Total Force is organized, trained, sustained, equipped and employed to support combatant requirements as force packages tailored to achieve anticipated objectives.  Here is a document from the Navy: Roughead, Gary (January 2010). "Navy's Total Force Vision for the 21st Century" (PDF). We must ... Provide the right person, with the right skills, at the right time, at the best value to the joint force. 
  9. ^ DoD Terminology Program, CJCS. "Component" (PDF). DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms.  The DoD Dictionary is a mission of the Chief of Staff. Where there is a variation from Standard English, the DoD Dictionary is to be preferred within the DoD. In it, "Joint" is defined as "activities, operations, organizations, etc., in which elements of two or more Military Departments participate." "Total Force" is not yet defined (September, 2017), but the list of applications of "Joint" as a synonym covers pages. "Total Force" is used in the code and in the many publications of the services and individuals of the services.
  10. ^ U.S. Department of Defense. "About the Department of Defense (DoD)". Retrieved 18 September 2017. 
  11. ^ [1] 10 USC 525. Distribution of commissioned officers on active duty in general officer and flag officer grades.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j [2] Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i [3] Pub.L. 110-181: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 full text
  14. ^ Either from the United States Army Reserve, the Army National Guard of the United States, the United States Air Force Reserve or the Air National Guard of the United States.
  15. ^ Thompson, Mark (January 4, 2012). "The Changing of the Guard". Time. Retrieved July 11, 2017. 
  16. ^ Staff, News (July 15, 2016). "Texan Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel Leads National Guard Bureau". Focus Daily News. Retrieved July 11, 2017. 
  17. ^ "Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to Host Change of Responsibility Ceremony for National Guard Bureau" (Press release). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense. Press Operations. August 2, 2016. 

External links

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