Chief of National Guard Bureau joins Joint Chiefs of Staff

Written by  //  January 3, 2012  //  Recent News

Move will strengthen ‘voice’ of reserve components at highest levels

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Jan. 3, 2012) – Florida National Guardsman and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Craig R. McKinley will officially join the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

President Barack Obama signed a bill into law on Dec. 31 that expands the membership of the senior military advisory body to include the Chief of the National Guard Bureau.

Under the new law McKinley, 59, will serve as a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which traditionally has only included a chairman and vice-chairman, and heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

“The real import of this legislation is to institutionalize the position of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau,” McKinley said during an interview on Dec. 19.

He noted that variables such as personalities won’t deter future National Guard Bureau Chiefs from having the “opportunity to give voice to the 460,000 members” of the National Guard.

“It will mean at the highest levels I can represent the Adjutants General better than I am doing today,” he added. “Future Chiefs will have the opportunity to brief not only the Chairman (of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), but the Secretary of Defense and the President on matters of domestic importance, especially during natural disasters like hurricanes.”

According to Adjutant General of Florida, Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., the move will improve coordination between the governors, adjutants general and federal authorities during domestic emergencies.

“The unique status of our National Guard – whether in federal or domestic operations – necessitates our Chief has a seat with the traditional military services on our nation’s highest military advisory council,” Titshaw said.

Titshaw added that since joining the Florida Air National Guard as a T-33 and F-106 alert pilot in 1980, McKinley has steadily moved through increasing levels of responsibility and has championed the roles of citizen-Soldiers and Airmen at every level.

“Florida is proud to call Gen. McKinley one of our own,” Titshaw added. “This is an historic moment for the National Guard.”

Both chambers of Congress approved the 2012 Defense Authorization Bill in early December, which included major provisions of “The National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act” – an act which called for the elevation of the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In addition, the final defense bill also includes other key provisions of the “Empowerment Act”  including: reestablishing the position of the Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau at the three-star level; increasing the number of National Guard general officers considered for senior positions at U.S. Northern Command; helping to clarify the disaster response command relationship among the Guard and the U.S. military commands; authorizing the National Guard State Partnership Program; and requiring reports by the Department of Defense and the Government Accountability Office on the cost of National Guard and Reserve units compared to similar active component units. 

“This truly is a significant and historic day for the Guard and for all the Guard does for our Nation,” Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who helped author the Act, said in a press release on Dec. 15. “Many people have asked why this change is so important to make, and why now. Our Guard has been bravely serving in near-constant rotation with active duty forces overseas for the last decade. At the same time, Guard troops have been the military first responders here at home.  Yet the Pentagon has not fully caught up with the institutional changes that must accompany those operational changes.”

Gen. McKinley is a native of Jacksonville, Fla., who joined the U.S. Air Force in 1974. In November 1980 he became a member of the Florida Air National Guard’s 125th Fighter Interceptor Group in Jacksonville, and progressed through the ranks. He served in key positions including: Commander of the 125th Fighter Wing in 1991; Commander of Southeast Air Defense Sector in 1996; Deputy Director of the Air National Guard in 1998; and Director of the Air National Guard in 2006.

In November 2008 Gen. McKinley was sworn in and promoted as the first four-star general to lead the National Guard.

As Chief, McKinley is the senior uniformed National Guard officer responsible for formulating, developing and coordinating all policies, programs and plans affecting more than half a million Army and Air National Guard personnel. Appointed by the President, he serves as principal adviser to the Secretary of Defense through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on National Guard matters. He is also the principal adviser to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Army, and the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force on all National Guard issues. As National Guard Bureau Chief, he serves as the department’s official channel of communication with the Governors and Adjutants General.