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The National Guard and the Total Force Policy1

by Michael D. Doubler and Vance Renfroe

Citizen-soldiers have always played a vital role in defending America, but

perhaps their service has never been more important than in the last thirty years. Since

the implementation of the Total Force Policy in the early 1970s, the National Guard has

experienced closer integration and cooperation with the Army and the Air Force while

assuming an even larger part of the burden for national defense. At the same time, Guard

men and women have received better training, weapons, and equipment. The war on

terrorism to date has placed increasing demands on the National Guard, and in all

probability, the Guard will be asked to do more rather than less in coming years. In order

to meet these mounting challenges, the National Guard must transform itself into an even

stronger and more effective force. To facilitate such change, the Department of Defense

should reaffirm and strengthen its commitment to the Total Force Policy as the best

defense solution for America.

The Total Force Policy found its origins in the agony of the Vietnam War.

America’s withdrawal from Southeast Asia in the early 1970s and the anticipated end of

peacetime conscription forced a reappraisal of the nation’s military capabilities. Though

the war in Vietnam was winding down, the United States still faced significant defense

commitments in Asia and Europe. By the end of Vietnam, the armed forces suffered

from severe personnel problems caused by ill-discipline, drug abuse, and racial strife. In

addition, nearly a decade of war had all but eliminated modernization programs, and

1 Doubler, Michael and Renfroe, Vance. “The National Guard and the Total Force Policy”. The Modern National

Guard. Tampa, Fl.: Faircount LLC, 2003. 42-47. Used by permission.

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