ISS3 2017

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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Page 33 of 55

Just before Christmas of '69, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Willard J. Smith, received notification that DOT would not be including $25 million in funding for the SELRES in its budget proposal. Despite the lack of surveys or studies to justify the action, the SELRES was identified by DOT as an "unnecessary expense" due to the peaceful existence of the U.S in the years following WWII. (Part of the justification was that the Reserve hadn't been recalled in 20 years, but, just like the Korean War, the Vietnam War also prompted another 600 Reserve officers to voluntarily supplement the active duty officer corps by 30 percent.) Smith immediately sent back a memo to DOT presenting the impacts of the elimination, but he was told he would be expected to support the president's budget. By the time Handy got the call from the Reserve office, he'd already hit the ground running. He'd been keeping tabs on the situation. "The young fellow… who was the budget officer would send me copies of what was coming to him," he said with a smile. (Given the amount of memos in the files the captain gave me to research, many offices were sending Handy copies of documents.) By mid-February 1970, his correspondence was crisscrossing the country again, as it had done so effectively twenty years earlier. He called old friends at ROA chapters nationwide and suggested additions to their monthly newsletters. He began spending late nights working on fact sheets, countering every argument made by DOT and OMB for the justification of the elimination. He leveraged the strength of the ROA at the national level and its paid lobbyists. His letters to ROA chapters identified congressional representatives, encouraged the writing of editorials and opinion pieces in the media, and raised funds. Even his secretary at the Treasury, a lady named Shirley, worked long hours alongside Handy, typing out fact sheets, making copies, sending correspondence and fielding phone calls. And getting paid for none of it – Handy's drive was infectious, and he was able to get almost anyone to help him make headway. (This is saying a lot, because the captain's handwriting on every document I can find from 45 years ago is just awful. Thanks, Shirley.) So, for perspective: can you imagine the current commandant being surprised by his department with the idea that they would cut the entire Reserve to save money? And that he needs to publicly support it? Also, heads up, Navy: port security is now your mission. The Bottom Five Percent By the beginning of summer 1970, the administration had taken another budget-reducing approach. In late May, all federal departments and agencies were forced to identify low-producing programs that could be cut to save five percent of their budgets. The newly-appointed Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Chester Bender, sent a letter to Volpe, saying unapologetically that none of the programs operated by the Coast Guard met that standard. "They are all valid today," he wrote. "The priorities enumerated above [national defense, safety of life at sea, maritime safety, polar/scientific support, and environmental protection] preclude abandonment, so the answer lies in greater support, not less. Thus, the Coast Guard does not have any priorities which can logically be reported as obsolete, ineffective, or otherwise susceptible to identification as targets for elimination or reduction." "The subject of the Coast Guard's Selected Reserve," Bender wrote, was "not appropriate for consideration here." Volpe sent back an angry memo saying, "the President means business, and I want to repeat that he does, and I do also." Bender sent a list of $28 million in reductions, including cutting small arms training, decommissioning light ships, and reducing port manning. But at $7 million, the largest money- saving measure was a decrease in SELRES by 5,000 men. He refused to eliminate the Reserve, but would agree to decrease it temporarily. Volpe ignored this – the Reserve would not be part of his requested budget. Yet, Congress voted in May 1970 to keep the Coast Guard Reserve, citing the fact that "…the Navy has not planned for the material and manpower resources or the unique expertise to assume this mission in peace, war, partial or full mobilization," and "no one in the Coast Guard furnished to the Administration any figures justifying the statement that the wartime functions of the Selected Reserve can be handled by the growing numbers of [retirees and standby reserves]." The report noted Handy's testimonial reference that Volpe had received the manpower study requiring 16,590 SELRES. Congress also set a 15,000-man cap for the Reserve, and Volpe would also not allow Bender to appeal it. Despite the outrage, hearings and recommendations by the HASC for a Reserve strength of 16,590, the president's 1972 budget was sent to Congress, again recommending the Reserve phase-out by mid-1972. The Secretary of Defense was told to adjust his own budget to be able to support national defense without the support of the Coast Guard Reserve. "But here's the thing: no one can just reorganize the Armed Forces. That's the constitutional prerogative of Congress. Handy made sure that the reservists knew this, and that they were fired up enough to take action." 32 RESERVIST � Issue 3 • 2017

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