Posted on Apr 4, 2015
SPC Assistant Manager
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I have been wondering this ever since my guard unit was told halfway through a 2 year train up on new Bradley's that we might lose them and go light infantry and give our Brads to Active Duty because it would be cheaper. I was thinking at the time wouldn't be better to have a HCBT maintained in the Guard for less that what it would take in Active and keep a viable armored unit?
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COL Jason Smallfield, PMP, CFM, CM
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The question of whether a Guard/Reserve unit or an Active Duty unit is cheaper to maintain is an overly simplistic question that requires explanation and clarification.
- Assumptions. If one assumes that a Compo 2 or 3 unit will never activate or mobilize then of course they are cheaper than a Compo 1 unit. It is the difference between paying for 39 days a year vs 365 days a year in personnel costs alone. This is a bad assumption, however, so the issue becomes is it cheaper to have a compo 1 unit essentially mobilized all the time or a compo 2/3 unit which is cheaper generally but more expensive to mobilize and takes a longer time?
- Time. Alluded to above but boils down to "you get what you pay for". A compo 1 unit can be deployed within 18 hours to about 90 days while a compo 2 or 3 unit would require 30-180 days to mobilize.
- Fixed Costs. Costs for facilities and equipment are generally fixed regardless of component. The main difference is having equipment vs maintaining the equipment vs using the equipment.
- Flexiable Costs. There are several flexible costs that obviously vary among the components such as personnel (wages), medical insurance, medical care, operations, readiness, maintenance, etc. Compo 2/3 are cheaper when not mobilized but generally more expensive to mobilize.
- Capability and Capacity. Simple way of asking "what can a formation or organization do" and "how much of that thing can a formation or organization do". The capability and capacity of Compo 1, 2, and 3 varies by branch but it can be said that compo 1 has a mix, compo 2 (NG) is combat heavy, and compo 3 (Reserve) is CS/CSS heavy.
- Natural Strengths. Not sure if true for all branches but the natural strength of the Engineer Regiment in compo 1 is tactical while the natural strength of the Engineer Regiment in compo 2/3 is technical. Both are required within the Engineer Regiment.
- At the end of the day, the American military system is built upon not having all of our eggs in one basket. Having a mix of capability/capacity spread among the three components is a way to achieve this with a variety of costs to achieve a good balance. In other words; Good, fast, and cheap. Pick two.
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SPC Assistant Manager
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Thanks Sir, I was starting to think along those lines with all the comments. But you spelled in out for me.
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SSG Infantryman
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7 y
talk about hitting the nail right on the head.
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1SG Information Assurance Manager
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Everything I've read says that, overall, RC formations cost about 1/3 of AC formations.
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PVT Andrew Jordan
PVT Andrew Jordan
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i would have to go with an active duty unit as being more expensive due to the fact that the equipment issued gets used more so it more wear and tear which costs money to replace when it breaks, the vehicles used cost money to operate and maintain however if the weapons and equipment were swapped out regularly and im talking every few years then active would be way cheaper
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SSG(P) Instructor
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I'm in a RTI unit, we teach. We are finding that Big Army (AD) is tasking small Army (Guard) with much more, because it saves them oodles of money.

I know this is a bit off your topic...but wanted to add my .02. Even the active guys are impressed with the quality of NCO and ease of getting onto a Guard school. For example ALC is over a month for active duty...but for the Reserve component, it is only 3 weeks.
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SPC Generator Mechanic
SPC (Join to see)
7 y
Don't come to Illinois then we're a year out on everything no matter what it is. State funding issues.
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SSG(P) Instructor
SSG(P) (Join to see)
7 y
Oregon has the same issues every Fiscal year, Illinois isn't the only state with that problem, I bet if you polled all of RP Guard SM's, you get the same reply as yours.
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SGT Section Sergeant
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Having served in the guard, reserve, and the active component... I have to say it is much easier to get a career course through the guard, a MOS course is typically easier with the Reserve, and through the active component it seems commissioning programs are easier to get into.
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