New York Foreign Press Center Briefing: U.S. National Guard’s Domestic and Global Engagement

New York Foreign Press Center Briefing on the “U.S. National Guard’s Domestic and Global Engagement,” September 12, 2022


Okay, good morning everyone. Welcome to the New York foreign press centers briefing on the US National Guards, domestic and global engagement. I’m very honored to welcome General General Daniel R. Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. My name is Melissa. Hi B and I’m the moderator for today’s event. This briefing is on the record. We’ll post a transcript and video of this event later today on our website, which is F p C dot state dot gov if you haven’t already done. So we invite you to turn your camera on this morning just so the general has faces to look at. Um we recognize if you can’t and if you haven’t done so please change your outlet name. Uh, I should say your zoom name to your outlet and your full name. General Hokanson will give opening remarks and then we’ll have a period of Q and A which I will moderate sir at this point. The floor is yours. Okay. Great. First of all, ladies and General and I thank you for the opportunity to visit with you today to really tell you a little bit about the National Guard in the United States. And in many cases it’s to to share a little about about what the National Guard actually does because in many cases folks may have not had exposure to the National Guard or even be aware of the multiple roles that we, we perform on a daily basis. So as a quick background, the National Guard has an authorized strength of about 444,000. We’re the second largest military organization in the United States. Behind the United States Army were also the oldest military organization in the United States, dating back to our first formation in 1636. And when you look at the roles and the missions of the National Guard, our National Guard exists primarily to fight when our nation’s wars. But the manning training and equipping that we get to fight our wars allows us to do virtually anything in the homeland, which is why you see the National Guard at really at the lead um, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hurricanes, wildfires, floods, any type of disaster that occurs in the United States. But if you look at a picture today of the 440,000 that we have, we have about 40,000 on duty every single day. 22,000 of those are currently deployed overseas in support of our combatant commanders and the rest are really conducting operations here in the United States. And so some things you may not be aware of that. The National Guard does day to day for the United States of America. Um First and foremost, we provide the ground based mid-course defense or basically our anti-ballistic missile defense for the United States. We also run 15 of our 16 air control alert sites that have aircraft on alert, 24 73 65 to protect the skies of America. We also run all four of our air defense sectors, East coast, west Coast Alaska and Hawaii. We also have a large number of our cyber units that are on duty every single day and to include part of our our national mission force. And that’s just a little bit to say about where we are on a day to day basis right now in the state of Mississippi, we’ve got 500 on duty that are responding to the floods there. And we’ve got about a similar amount on the West Coast currently fighting wildfires. And so every single day we’re involved in really every aspect from Defense overseas um to working with our allies, partners um to really responding to any significant events which exceed the capability of our local first responders in our communities. And one of the things that’s really critical to the National Guard our relationships. And so because we are in 2800 communities across the United States if anything occurs, we’re usually the closest to that event. And so we have very good relationships with our local law enforcement first responders, fire departments and emergency managers. And we also have that same level at the state. Each of our states has a two star Adjutant General That’s responsible for both the army and the Air National Guard and in 18 of those states that a giant general is also the emergency manager for that state. And so that’s the local to state but we also have significant international relationships to our state partnership program that was founded in 1993. We’re actually coming up on our 30th anniversary next year and we have long and enduring partnerships with 85 nations around the globe. It’s actually 85 partners with 93 different nations. And it is a great program where we work very closely with them, um, to learn from each other to share things that we have learned and help do all those things we can to protect not only our citizens but our countries as well. And so with that I could talk about a lot more but I’d I’d love to hear any questions that you guys have for me this morning. Thank you sir for those opening remarks. This is the time for the Q and a portion of this event. Uh, there’s two options to do that. You can raise your virtual hand or you can type that in the chat function and I’ll ask that of the general on your behalf when it is time for you to ask your question. We do ask that you state your name and organization. I know some of you have indicated a question already. Um Dmitry will go to you if possible. Is your camera on potentially. Yes. Great, thank you so much. Go ahead. Ask your question. Yeah. Foreign press center. Thank you very much for doing this. And general, thank you for supporting my country. I’ve heard about you from a lot of people who know you personally, my question is I know that the National Guard is helping Ukraine providing trainings, but Right now it’s impossible to do it on the Ukrainian territory. So how do you see the task for today?

And secondly, if I may, the Ramstein group meeting is happening today, how do you see this task?

And you know this challenge of coordinating the support, the logistic, the arms from 50 or even more countries. Thank you. Yeah, thank you Dimitri. And um as you’ve highlighted, uh, the California National Guard has had a relationship with the Ukrainian military and actually the country of Ukraine for almost 30 years. And in that time we’ve done over 1000 engagements, as I’m sure you’re well aware. And when you look at where we were just prior to Russia’s unprovoked invasion in February, we actually had soldiers from the Florida National Guard and they were the ninth rotation that we did at the joint multinational training group Ukraine just outside of LVIV, which was really help and developed after 2014, um, to help train and work together with the Ukrainian military to identify a lot of the issues that that they, that they came to learn and understand during the Russia’s earlier invasion in 2014. Now, just prior to the invasion, we had to pull those folks out of out of Ukraine. But what we did is we reestablish that training in Germany and I actually had the chance to visit our soldiers and the Ukrainian soldiers that were that they were training in Germany. And so we’ll wait to see when conditions are right for us to continue doing that. And that’ll be a decision by our senior political leadership. We continue um to provide that training in Ukraine. But right now we, along with many of our other allies and your partners as well, are providing training outside of the country of Ukraine and also material assistance. And I know you brought up the meeting in uh in Ramstein about the 50 countries in in terms of the logistic support and we really see this as an opportunity. Many nations realized that since World War II, we’ve really had an orders based ruling um where we respected the territorial borders and sovereignty of other nations. And so what we’re seeing now with Russia’s unprovoked invasion is an attempt to change that. And many countries are showing support for the country of Ukraine. And logistically it’s critical to provide those resources and supplies so that the Ukrainians can defend their territory and their sovereignty. And we look at this as a long-term commitment with Ukraine and I think that’s the uh the acknowledgement here in that meeting is to look at what resources and capabilities and capacities that Ukraine needs in order to defend its territory. And I think we’ve got 50 nations now willing to do that. And so I think it’s really important that we coordinate our efforts and make sure that we are you know transparent with each other on what we can provide, what Ukraine needs um to to help them defend their territory. Thank you sir. Next question will go to Pearl Pearl if you could um open up your mic and ask your question. Good morning, General Hoke Hokanson. Sorry, my internet is a little bit unstable and so um I’m not gonna put my video on but I really appreciate your your availability today and hopefully I will get in touch with your with your office after this. Um I am somewhat familiar with all of the National Guard and and everything that you have shared my specific question to you today?

General is um so in terms of when a state is partnered with a country um how how do you decide which ones?

And for example, on the continent of Africa, are you working with us Africa command?

Um and are there any particular ones that you could speak to right now?

Is there any, which state, for example, has partnered with South Africa and if you don’t have this information, I’m quite happy to get in touch with your office later on because I’m real keen to find out what is the motivation here and and are there any you you talked about National Guard also being involved in um Emergency management. Are you helping any of those countries on the African country with that emergency management training at all in conjunction with Africa Command. Thanks so much. General. So Pearl, thank you so much for the question. And actually um a few years ago prior to Covid um South Africa was one of the first countries that I invited over to my quarters to to meet with their defense attaché, their ambassador and also their state partner which is New York. And the motivation behind the State Partnership program is within the National Guard. Um many times the State National Guard is is similar to size and military with some of the countries that we work with. And so it’s a great opportunity for our soldiers and airmen in the National Guard to train with those countries and learn from them. Um learn about their country, learn about the disasters that they face. Um learn about their experiences and vice versa and we we share that as well. And you brought up specifically disaster management and when we first start, our partnerships, a lot of the focus we have is on, you know what we call humanitarian assistance and disaster relief at the end of the day when our militaries or National Guards are called in to help our countries, it’s usually because the disaster has exceeded the capability of the local officials or what we would call our first responders and at the end of the day we all want to take care of our citizens and mitigate disasters as quickly as possible. And so by sharing what we have learned and learning from in this case what South Africa has learned, it makes both of us better and it allows us to respond better and mitigate those disasters at a much faster rate than we would, you know, had we not learned those things together. And so that’s critically important. And usually the main thing that we focus on at the start of our partnership and once we get that down where we feel very comfortable with each other and that we’ve shared and learned from each other, then we look at other areas, um sometimes medical care, sometimes military training. Um A lot of times we, we do a lot of training with our medical evacuation helicopters for those countries that have those um kind of sharing lessons learned and how we operate. And so at the end of the day it’s it’s a two way conversation, but it’s also an enduring relationship because our folks in the National Guard tend to stay in that state National Guard for their entire career. The young officers and young soldiers and airmen that trained together 15 years ago are now usually more senior officers or more senior enlisted soldiers. And so they grow up together and they learn how each of our nations are evolving and then we continue to share what we have learned along the way and when we look at the African continent, like what we consider all of our combatant commands. Um One of those is we work very closely with the State Department and the combatant commander to identify those countries which they feel would be really the next future um engagement or the next potential partnership. And historically what we’ve done is we’ve gained about two or three countries that the state department will work with the combatant commanders and they would prioritize those and that’s really how we select usually 2-4 every year. What we’ve done recently has really looked out. We tried to look out the next 10 to 15 years for what those next 30 partnerships would be because we figure about 30 is the the most capacity that we could do and still make them very meaningful and beneficial to both countries. And so we’re looking at those and working with the State Department and the combatant commanders to prioritize those. In addition with the ambassadors, not only here in the United States from those countries, but the U. S. Ambassadors in those countries to determine which priority when the timing is most appropriate. And then once we identify that, then we look at the States that probably have the best connection there. And so we look at demographics, maybe there’s a large population from that country that is in that state or because it’s a military to military relationship. Initially we look at what capabilities and capacities they have and try and match that to a state that’s very similar. And once we we do this, we start the military to military engagement. Then in many cases, we really try and go beyond that to where the actual governors from those states will come to those countries and vice versa. The president or leadership from that country will come back to the state. And in many of these, we have mutual agreements between our universities where students are allowed to come to university in the United States, in that state, at the same rate that they would be able to in their own country. And likewise, we do the same with with students potentially from those states to go to the universities in those countries and what it does is it helps us develop a common understanding of each other. What’s important, what issues we face and how we might be able to resolve those Because at the end of the day, we want stability order and we want to be able to take care of our citizens and we learn a lot from each other by partnering over the duration of multiple years. And as Dimitri just mentioned, you know, you go back to our relationship with Ukraine, it goes almost 30 years and there’s strong, you know, relationships from every level that we have developed over time and really an understanding and appreciation for the environment that Ukraine and many other countries live in and how we can work together um to make sure that we’re taking care of our our citizens and also developing our militaries and our civilian relationships so we can address any issues that may come up. Thank you sir. Next question john I’ll time for your question please state your full name and organization. Okay so I’m actually john Ford general. Good morning. Um and I represent the uh the Nassau tribune not from Long Island but from the Bahamas. Um I’ve got a question for you about the Caribbean region more generally. Um as we know, they are beset with a variety of national natural disasters from volcanoes to hurricanes. Uh and from time to time, the political order crumbles as we see from occasionally in Haiti and and also in other places there is a whole panoply of U. S. Military and civilian agencies and units that can be deployed in the region. I wonder if you could comment on specific relationships between us states and the major countries of the Caribbean on the one hand and give some examples of recent National Guard involvement and engagement in the area, john thank you. And uh so being from the Bahamas, that’s the one state partnership in the north calm area of responsibility when we talk about our combatant commands and the Bahamas has a an existing state partnership with the state of Rhode island and when we look at that, we look very closely obviously at at the Caribbean nations obviously subject to not only hurricanes but earthquakes as well. And because we have a partnership with the Bahamas, we work very closely with that. Um, and also Haiti has a partnership with I believe Louisiana. And so when it’s appropriate and when asked by that country to provide support, we work within the Department of Defense and also the Federal Emergency Management Agency, other emergency organizations as well as non-governmental organizations to really identify what we could provide and then coordinate to do that. But then also understand what other capabilities are out there. What other organizations that can provide support as well. What we try to do is make sure that we don’t duplicate effort, but we unify our efforts and make sure that we get the folks with the right capability to provide that support um that we can of course it it’s really all dependent on the nation themselves and them asking for help but then also understanding what capabilities we have available at the time and what they can do and then working to find a way to make sure that we can do that and meet those needs. Unfortunately, we can’t meet every need but we do look very closely at what we can provide to help mitigate the uh, you know, the results of many of those disasters. Could I ask a brief follow up sir, I’ve got, I guess two quick questions Florida seems like a natural partner for much of the Caribbean for a variety of reasons. I wonder if you could explain which which Caribbean nation Florida partners with. And the second question is has to do with interagency coordination in Washington. When you have an emergency, say you have an earthquake, say you have a hurricane. Is this inter agency coordination performed in D. O. D. Perhaps by I. S. A. Or is it at the National Security Council level?

Where where is that coordination and direction coming from?

Okay, so john I’ll address that first in terms of interagency coordination. Um when we talk about the Department of Defense and particularly the National Guard, we are always in support of the lead federal agency. And so any time an event occurs, if it’s a local event and doesn’t require national level support, it’s usually the governor through their state Emergency Manager identifies what we call mission assignments or needs and if they don’t have the capability organically within their emergency response system. Oftentimes, I’ll reach out to the National Guard and say we need this capability or this mission set and that state’s National Guard will identify the capability and if they don’t have that within their state, we have what are called Emergency Management assistance compact or an agreement with a nearby state that does have that capability. And so if the state doesn’t have it, they’ll reach out to a nearby state to get that capability. But all of these are really in support of those lead federal agencies and D. O. D. Does not take the lead on on those events. And we work very closely with fema, our federal Emergency Management Agency. And we do conduct exercises every year. Really large scale exercises um where we work out how we would respond to different type of events. Who is the lead agency, what requests they might have. And then particularly within the National Guard every year we get together um in Louisiana and all of our states come together and we look at um say in the case of Florida, if one of their large military formations in the National Guard is going to be deployed overseas, we identify all the surrounding states that could provide that capability because it’s absent uh the same in California. Um They have a combat aviation brigade, which is most of their helicopters when they are deployed. The nearby states will be aware of the dates that they’re going to be gone and they will identify and train air crews that could then provide that fighting firefighting capability for the state of California if that’s necessary. Um Specifically with Florida. Um I don’t believe that they’re, they are directly partnered with any of the Caribbean nations there. I’d have to look at the exact states that there are the countries that Florida’s partnered with, but in many cases it is based on their very large military with in Florida. And so in many cases they’re partnered with a country with a similar sized military?

Thank you sir. Great, thank you john thank you very much. We’re gonna move to some of the questions that were submitted in the chat function. So so I’ll ask those. The first one um is Coast Guard related. If we need to connect them with the Coast Guard, we will, but I’ll offer it to you in case you have any comments. So it is from uh Donahue you of china review. Last year the U. S. And Taiwan signed an mou of establishing a Coast Guard working group. What substantial steps have you taken to implement this mou particularly in the context?

Uh in the Taiwan strait. And secondly, does the U. S. Coast Guard have any cooperation with your Chinese counterpart?

I’m sorry. Either in humanity rescue or disaster relief. So unfortunately I don’t know that I could answer that question. Um The Coast Guard is actually not part of the National Guard. Um I am, I do work with Linda Fagan, the uh the comment out of the U. S. Coast Guard. Um but traditionally because we’re focused primarily in the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, we don’t really have any naval or Coast Guard relationships. Um So I wouldn’t be the best person to answer that question. Thank you sir. Um Moving on, this is from Czech Radio. This is about domestic engagement. The National Guard was very much in the international news in 2020 and 2021 because of its role in the George Floyd protests and the aftermath of January 6th capitol attack. How would you describe the duties and limits of the National Guard during these types of domestic events to the international audience?

For them to understand, that’s the first question. The second question is how would you describe the demands on the active personnel in the National Guard compared to the US Army and Navy?

And also is there any difference in the prestige of serving in the National Guard or the U. S. Army?

Navy in your opinion?

And according to your experience, uh thank you. And so when we look at the George Floyd event and we really call this like civil disturbance operations. And in this case when the National Guard within each state on a day to day basis, their commander is the governor of that state. When they’re mobilized for deployment. You know, they follow the chain of command from the President, the Secretary of Defense to the combatant commander and that’s who they work for. But in this case George Floyd specifically, when it exceeded the capability of local law enforcement, the Governor asked the National Guard in this case the Minnesota National Guard to provide support. And so what they did is the National Guard partnered with Local law enforcement where we’d have probably two soldiers and a police officer and they were there basically to allow our citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights, the freedom to, you know, to meet to gather to have their voices heard. But on the other hand, we were also there to ensure their safety and the safety of the communities that they lived in. And so just having a presence there to say, hey, we’re here, you have the right to protest, but you know, do not damage the property, do not burn buildings. Um, those type of things, they worked very closely with the law enforcement to be that presence there, um, to really make sure that things did not get out of hand. And you saw that once the National Guard was there, the large presence, they helped calm everything down and and things eventually went away. But in those cases when it exceeds the capability of the law enforcement, they can ask for help from the National Guard. And now the National Guard in this case is in what we call a state status or state active duty, which means they’re being paid by the state and also that they’re working for and within the state. And there is a law in the United States called the posse comitatus act, which does not allow Active Military forces to perform law enforcement. But the National Guard, when they’re in a state active duty status, they may perform law enforcement functions. And that’s why you only saw National Guard doing this and it was very in support of local law enforcement and the whole intent was to deescalate the situation and get everything back to normal. Now when we talk about the, as you mentioned, the demand on on the National Guard, The model we usually like to stick to is one in five and that’s one deployment for every five years. And when you look at the size of the National Guard, just under 450,000, we can really almost do that indefinitely based on the demand for our forces. So if you go back to uh to June of 2020, we had 100 and 20,000 guardsmen on duty and these were performing civil disturbance operations. They were providing covid support across the entire country. We had a large contingent deployed overseas and we had other things occurring like hurricanes and wildfires. But on that day 100 and 20,000 was still just less than a quarter of our force. And so we had a significant capability that we could still provide. And one thing to highlight when we talk about our active and Guard and reserve and how they’re viewed. Everyone in the National Guard goes through the exact same training as their active duty counterparts. So a soldier in the active Army goes through the same training as a soldier in the National Guard and the requirements are met all the same throughout their entire career. It’s just that our National Guardsmen normally train one or two weekends a month and two weeks out of the year, but they do expect Once every 4-5 years to deploy for up to a year, either overseas or somewhere else around the globe or even sometimes within the United States. And we work very closely with our States so they can manage their civilian career, their time in the National Guard and also their families. And we have shown over time that that we can really sustain that for the long haul. Thank you. So the next question is from Nadi ballots from Hungary. This is about Ukraine, the US military and pentagon is working on long term plans, how to give military assistance to Ukraine. Is it taking into account Ukraine’s views but also take into account what makes sense for the United States?

Could you elaborate on that?

What form of assistance makes sense in terms of military aid for Ukraine and the long term for the US. Thank you very much. So. We work very closely with Ukraine to determine what capabilities and capacities that they need to defend their sovereignty and their territory. And a lot of this originated with the California National Guard. And really after 2014, after Russia’s first invasion of of primary in the Donbass region, we worked very closely with the Ukrainian Army and Air Force to look at what capabilities that they needed to improve on what capabilities they did not have. And then also just training requirements to address some of the issues that they had identified during that time frame. And we’ve been really focused on that at the end of the day. You know, Ukraine has to do what’s right for Ukraine and we will do everything we can to help support that. And I think you’ve seen that from our country already as well as many other allies and partners in the region and that’s why we continue our training today in Germany working with Ukrainians on weapons or training that they feel that they need is most important to their ability to defend their country and their territorial borders. Thank you sir, we have time for one more question, Alex will go to you, you can open up your mix state, your full name and organization. Thank you so very much. Minister this Alex from the independent Chinese agents of Azerbaijan. So the technical difficulties I’m joining from an airport. Thank you. General for making yourself available for us this morning. I will expand a little bit on what you have said earlier about increasing. And if you want the daunting Russian threat as it is conducting the largest invasion in Europe since the second world war. Can you please give us a perspective on how you are adapting to the challenges beyond Ukraine in the region. Are you in a position to support Georgia Moldova Azerbaijan and others defending their country against Russian invasion. I guess my question also has to do with budgetary capability, capacity, implications for maintaining your status as an operational reserve and also I don’t wanna put a vertical mouse but can you name Russia as a top threat right now facing the United United States and its allies. Thank you so much again, great thank you Alex. And so you know you bring up a great question and when we look at all of our state partnerships in the region, one thing that we have learned and I actually visited many of those countries in the region that we have state partnerships with um earlier this year in in June and July. And when I visit with them, my my point is is okay when we all look at what’s happening in Ukraine um as a result of of Russia’s invasion of their country. You know, how do we respond, how to work these nations, identify what capabilities and capacity, what are they learning?

And so I’ve asked all of our state partners to go back and visit with their state partners and say in light of what’s happening in Ukraine, what are you learning?

What capabilities and capacities do you see that our nation needs to help develop and in those cases we’re working very closely through our state partnership program to address those and provide that training or anything that we can do in coordination with that country to help them take a look at this and how they might potentially defend their country. So so that’s one of the main things that we’re doing. And also we have obviously a lot of allies and partners NATO nations as well as well as our state partners. And we continue to show that the value of that and that we will continue to keep our allies and partners throughout this process when you talk about the the prioritization of the threat and I think I really have to defer to our national defense strategy, which really puts china at the top and Russia very closely there as well. Our concern is is anytime, you know, there’s a threat um as we see manifested with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, um there is concern, we want to reassure our allies and partners in the region that were there um that NATO will remain solid and in defense of all of the, as you’ve heard before, every square inch of NATO land and we’re doing everything we can in a coordination with all the other allies and partners that Ukraine has um to provide them the capability and capacity for them to defend their nation. And as you said, this is the largest, you know, military operation that we have seen since World war two. And really the first time that a nation is really trying to change the borders and boundaries of one country by imposing their will on them and violating the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of that nation. Thank you Alex for that question and thank you, General for those remarks. This concludes our briefing. I want to give a special thanks to General Wilkinson for his time today and for all of your participation again, the transcript will be on our website later, including a video on David’s, which you can go to at David’s dot gov or dot com. I’ll verify that. Thank you So that thank you for being here and that concludes everything. Thank you so very much. Okay. Thank everybody have a great day.

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