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TRANSCRIPT | April 30, 2024

Opening Statement (As Prepared) by General Daniel R. Hokanson Chief, National Guard Bureau before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, 118th Congress Budget Hearing – Fiscal Year 2025 Request for the National Guard and Reserves Forces


Chairman Calvert, Ranking Member McCollum, and esteemed members of the Subcommittee—

This is my final testimony before you as the 29th Chief of the National Guard Bureau. It has been the honor of my life for Kelly and me, and all of “Team 29”, to represent the Soldiers, Airmen, and families of the National Guard. I am tremendously proud of their service and sacrifices, and I am grateful for this Subcommittee’s efforts and support. Thanks to you, we continue to increase the combat readiness of our formations, and improve the quality of life for our Soldiers, Airmen, and National Guard families.

Our Nation’s investment in the National Guard comes at a pivotal moment. Our strategic competitors are seeking advantages in every domain: land, sea, air, space, and cyber. Meanwhile, long-standing adversaries are adopting destructive new methods. The Tower 22 drone strike, which killed three service members and injured 41 National Guard Soldiers, is just one example of the emerging character of war.

If we are to compete and deter successfully—and if necessary, prevail in combat—we must invest in our people.

Our people—our Soldiers, Airmen, and the families who support them—are the ones who carry out these missions: they stand watch in the turbulent corners of the world, they monitor our airspace, they train with our allies and partners, they respond to communities in crisis. It is our people who make the difference—they make us lethal, resilient, and responsive.

Our people—our pilots, maintainers, and support personnel working in our Air National Guard fighter squadrons—have experience, capability and capacity we must retain at a time when the global demand for fighters grows ever louder. In an Air Force with significant fighter pilot and maintainer shortages, we believe through temporary cross component aircraft transfers, we can retain the critical fighter capability our Joint Force needs until aircraft procurement efforts can replenish these units with more modernized aircraft. In so doing, these squadrons maintain a vital capability for the Total Force—namely pilots and maintainers—that cannot be rapidly replaced or regenerated. Maintaining all twenty-five existing Air Guard fighter squadrons is essential to keep pace with global demands, deter our adversaries, and—if necessary—prevail in conflict.

Our people who provide full-time support to our formations, ensuring our units meet their readiness objectives, are increasingly challenged to meet growing requirements. The cap on Active Guard Reserve positions, and a Federal Technician Program that is no longer competitive in todays’ economic environment must be addressed to ensure our formations remain deployable, sustainable, interoperable and ready when the Joint Force, or our communities need them.

Meanwhile, our people—every member of our force—grapple with complex duty statuses and benefits disparity--despite performing the same duties as their active duty and reserve counterparts. That’s why we need Duty Status Reform and Military Technician Modernization. These issues affect our people—the heart of our force. They are integral to recruiting and retention, and ultimately, to our ability to fight and win.

Lastly, our people include our National Guard space units that have nearly three decades of expertise and experience. We must find a way forward for these highly-trained professionals as space emerges as a competitive warfighting domain.

We are not just funding line items in a budget—behind each line we are funding people, readiness, modernization, and partnerships. We are investing in our Nation’s future.

My final objective in my term as Chief is to ensure a seamless transition to the next leadership team of our National Guard, and continue to position the Joint Force for success. The National Guard is a dynamic operational force that is integral to the success of the National Defense Strategy, and I will continue working with the Subcommittee to build the combat-capable and effective National Guard our country needs. your help, we will continue to keep our promise to America—a promise to be “Always Ready, Always There.”

Thank you for your time, your friendship, and your support.

I look forward to your questions.