The National Guard deployed more troops during 2020 than any time since World War II a top general said Wednesday, but White House budget cuts would mean a decrease in troops for the fiscal year 2022.
“Some states had a significant increase in the amount of [operational tempo] that they had previously had, and so they’ve asked for additional force structure,” General Daniel Hokanson told reporters during a Wednesday press event. “Those decisions are made at the Secretary of the Army and Secretary of the Air Force level.”
“Of course like all organizations, we would like to grow if possible,” he added.
The White House’s defense budget proposal, released late last month, called for a slight increase in the $715 billion budget, but it would also cut military forces by about 5,400 personnel – 500 of whom come from the National Guard.
The Army National Guard would see its force drop from 336,500 to 336,000 while the Air National Guard would maintain 108,300 guardsmen, according to the Military Times.
Hokanson pointed to Labor Day 2020 as one of the Guard’s busiest weekends and highlighted the different directions the reservist force was pulled in.
“That weekend, more than 64,000 National Guardsmen were on duty around the world. Roughly 20,000 were deployed across 34 nations,” he told reporters. “During the same weekend, more than 18,000 were helping their communities fight COVID-19.
“More than 3,500 were helping their communities recover from Hurricane Laura in Texas and Louisiana,” he continued.
Another 5,300 guardsmen assisted with protests, air patrol, missile defense and southern border patrol.
“This one weekend tells a story of many weekends for the National Guard,” Hokanson said. “It is no surprise the National Guard was ready for the challenges we faced in 2020, and continue to face in 2021.”
But the Guard’s extensive presence in 2020 through 2021 has come at a cost.
Top officials have warned that if the National Guard is not reimbursed the $521 million it is owed by August, it will be forced to reduce drill and annual training, along with operational maintenance.