The leaders of the National Guard Caucus, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), have managed to add “key components” of the National Guard Empowerment Act to the Senate’s 2008 defense authorization bill, now on the Senate floor. According to a statement from Leahy’s office, the defense policy bill now includes legislation that would make the head of the National Guard Bureau a four-star general, would place a Guard officer in the US Northern Command deputy position, and would give the Guard budget power. The sole element of the empowerment act that didn’t survive is the one that would give the NGB head a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The caucus did manage to include a provision that would restore the Insurrection Act to its original form, removing language added last year that reduced state governor control over the Guard. Leahy called the provisions a “historic breakthrough” that would free the 21st century Guard from begin “trapped in a 19th century bureaucracy.”
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.