WASHINGTON – Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson was confirmed Monday as the 29th chief of the National Guard Bureau by the U.S. Senate.
Hokanson, who also will be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be promoted to four-star general, the highest-ranking officer in the nation's oldest military force.
The Senate action follows Hokanson's June 18 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
"This is an important and pivotal time in the history of our National Guard," he told the committee. "We face complex, dynamic missions overseas and here at home. The next chief of the National Guard Bureau must continue to effectively navigate this unprecedented landscape and work closely with stakeholders at the international, federal, state and local levels.”
At a peak last month, more than 120,000 National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were mobilized worldwide, including for domestic responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and civil protests.
“Our Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen responded to these and other events in the homeland while simultaneously meeting all overseas deployment requirements in support of the combatant commanders and the National Defense Strategy,” Hokanson said.
“What makes this possible has not changed since the founding of our National Guard in 1636, and that is the incredible men and women in our formations,” he said. “They have been and will always be my highest priority.”
Hokanson's wife of more than 30 years, Kelly, sat behind him in the audience. “She is a tireless advocate for military families, and is always the first to make sacrifices for our family,” the general told senators. Like many Guard families, the Hokanson family continues a multi-generation tradition of military service, and all three children are currently serving.
Among priorities Hokanson mentioned during his testimony:
- Ensuring the National Guard is manned, trained, equipped and ready to respond whenever and wherever needed.
- Supporting the National Defense Strategy.
- Nurturing the National Guard's enduring local, state, national and international partnerships.
- Continuing to enhance the Guard's cyber capabilities.
- Ensuring National Guard equipment keeps the Army and Air Guard fully interoperable with the active-duty components and, where possible, America’s allies.
Answering senators’ questions, Hokanson repeatedly stressed the critical importance of the adjutants general. The adjutant general is the senior military officer of the National Guard in each of the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. Hokanson served as adjutant general of the Oregon National Guard before his current assignment as director of the Army National Guard.
The West Point graduate and former active duty officer also has served as vice chief of the National Guard Bureau, a position re-established and elevated to the three-star level by the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
The chief of the National Guard Bureau serves as a military adviser to the president, the secretary of defense and the National Security Council. The chief is the Defense Department's official channel of communication to the governors and the adjutants general on National Guard matters. He is responsible for ensuring the accessibility, capability and readiness of Guard members to secure the homeland and to provide combat resources to the Army and the Air Force.
The Senate Armed Services Committee hearing repeatedly highlighted the National Guard’s 27-year-old State Partnership Program, which pairs the National Guard in the states and territories with 89 foreign countries.
“When you look at the National Defense Strategy with respect to allies and growing partners, this provides us another avenue to do that by developing low-level relationships that usually start out with humanitarian assistance and disaster response but then grow,” Hokanson said.
Five countries joined the program this fiscal year, and Hokanson said he will work with the combatant commands, State Department and National Guards in the states and territories to look for further expansion opportunities.
He stressed the importance of the National Guard’s cyber mission and its unique ability to attract cyber professionals who bring skills from their civilian careers that enhance the performance of their military duties. “Cyber is one of those fields where the National Guard can provide great benefit to our nation,” he said.
He also mentioned the National Guard’s capabilities in the space realm, with 18 Guard units engaged in space missions for more than a quarter of a century.
“As the United States Space Force is stood up, we’ve been staunch advocates that the National Guard units … should also be part of that, as a Space National Guard,” Hokanson said.
And the general made a repeated commitment to enhancing the diversity both of the overall force and also within each rank. “My intent would be to make sure that all of our formations reflect the diversity of the communities which they come from,” he said, “that the diversity and ethnicity of our nation is reflected at every level of the organization.”
Hokanson will succeed Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the second chief of the National Guard Bureau to serve a full term as a four-star general and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The first to serve a full term was Army Gen. Frank Grass. The chief of the National Guard Bureau was elevated to a four-star position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2012, during the tenure of Grass' predecessor, Air Force Gen. Craig McKinley.
Hokanson thanked Lengyel and his wife, Sally, for their lasting impact on the National Guard. Lengyel retires this year after 39 years of service.
The National Guard is a joint activity of the Department of Defense composed of the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, which are reserve components of the Army and the Air Force. The Guard fights America's wars, secures the homeland and builds partnerships at home and around the world.