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Highly Divergent Views: A House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday into whether the head of the National Guard should be a four-star general with a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew sharply different responses from defense officials and Guard support organizations. Defense Deputy Secretary Gordon England did not deny that DOD’s record with the Guard does “leave room for improvement,” but he said reforms were taking place. He asked that Congress permit DOD to “take the time to make the best decisions.” He reminded lawmakers that the historic Goldwater-Nichols Act was a nearly five-year effort. England recommends that Congress allow the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves to deliberate and make a recommendation “likely in the spring of next year.” Ret. Brig. Gen. Stephen Koper, head of the National Guard Association of the United States, expressed doubt that the Pentagon was making an honest effort to overturn what he terms “an institutional bias” toward the Guard. He supports the legislation (H.R. 5200 and S. 2658) introduced this year, saying it would enable the Guard to “have a seat at the table and a relative voice in the decisions that affect [Guard] readiness.”