By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON (4/14/10) - The National Guard has many federal employees who play a crucial role in domestic and overseas operations, and Guard leaders hope to expand their numbers in the states, territories and District of Columbia.
“These technicians are the ones who do not deploy because they are not Soldiers; they are part of the civilian workforce. They provide the critical support … while the Soldiers are deployed,” Army Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter, the acting director of the Army National Guard, told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense here on Wednesday.
Suppose a state’s finance battalion handling Guardmembers’ pay deploys.
“If you have a finance battalion going out, you may have 10,000 drilling Guardmembers that still need to be paid in the state, but you don’t have anybody to do that,” said Air Force Col. William Kolbinger, the National Guard Bureau’s head of technician personnel.
About 52,000 technicians are spread across the 52 states and territories and the District of Columbia. About 95 percent of them are deployable servicemembers.
Less than 5 percent form a small, but vital core of non-deployable or non-dual status technicians. Guard officials said they are a small, but critical part of the full-time support staffing for the Guard.
“What they provide for us are continuity services that are primarily governmental in nature and not military-inherent,” Kolbinger said.
NGB officials say the non-dual status technicians play a vital role in supporting domestic operations and the overseas warfight.
They make sure Guardmembers are paid, provide human resources support, ensure the smooth functioning of state joint force headquarters, maintain information technology systems and perform numerous other essential functions.
“Since non-dual status employees don’t deploy, they are valuable in filling the gap when servicemembers deploy,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, the adjutant general of the Colorado National Guard. “Many are prior service and possess a great deal of organizational knowledge.”
Currently, the Guard is authorized 1,950 such technicians. The bulk – about 1,600 – are in the Army National Guard; the remaining 350 work for the Air National Guard.
The president’s budget for the 2011 fiscal year includes an additional 920 positions for the Army Guard, which is about 17 more for each state, territory and the District of Columbia.
“As the Army National Guard has shifted from strategic reserve to an operational force, with frequent mobilizations, we find that we need these non-deploying civilian technicians to fill certain critical positions in our generating force, because filling these positions with dual-status military members who deploy creates a disruption in workflow,” Carpenter said in comments separate from his congressional testimony.
Army Col. John Dolan deals with that problem in his position as the Colorado National Guard’s human resources officer.
In one instance, almost all of Colorado’s pay branch – who also serve as military police – were mobilized for a domestic response, leaving less than a handful to process pay for the state’s Soldiers.
“I had three people,” Dolan said. “I had people in there 18, 19 hours trying to make payroll.”
Ryder Curry serves as a non-dual status technician, managing Colorado’s human resources information systems database.
Curry stumbled into the job by filling in for a deployed Soldier, who then went active duty. After a lot of turnaround in this essential position, Colorado advertised it for civilians, and Curry landed the full-time gig.
“I have a skill set for computers overall,” Curry said. “The people I work with really make it the best. I’ve got the best of the civilian and military worlds.”
Dolan would like more civilian technicians like Curry. “I could use a dozen tomorrow,” he said. “I see the biggest requirement for them – and I’m not able to support – is auditing, pay competencies, information and my family programs.”
Family programs need to be seamless, flawless and staffed by experienced people with institutional knowledge, Dolan said. “Our families deserve that,” he said.
More non-dual status technicians would help, Dolan said.
“The Constitution reserves to the states the authority of training the militia,” Carpenter said. “Consequently, it is necessary to provide the states with the type of staffing needed to achieve the goal of continuing to produce a ready operational force over the long term.”
Dolan said Colorado values the stability, longevity and competency non-dual status technicians offer. “The only time they’re gone is for vacation,” he said.
The state also gets a better long-term return on training investment from the civilians who tend to remain in their assignments for longer periods. Information technology training for a single employee can cost more than $20,000.
“There is a high level of satisfaction in the type of jobs they have,” Dolan said. “There are opportunities for progression. The security in government service – you don’t get rich, but you have security. I don’t see people leaving the NDS system once they’re in there.”
Edwards said he values the employees’ stability and that the NDS program is sometimes a way for retired servicemembers to continue serving their state and country.
“As opposed to servicemembers who often change units for career development, NDS employees are able to stay and become subject matter experts,” he said. “After leaving the military, many want to continue serving and continue putting their knowledge and experience to work for our nation.”
Said Carpenter, “As the Army National Guard has transitioned from a strictly strategic reserve to more of a frequently and rotationally mobilized and deployed operational force, both at home and abroad, it has become clear that more of the supporting positions at the state level need to transition from being held by deployable military members of the National Guard to being held by non-deployable civilian technicians.”
Editor's Note: Army Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey Hilton of the Colorado National Guard contributed to this report.