National Guard hits 1-year pause on staffing change that leaders warn could upend Alaska Air Guard

A country-wide change to personnel levels within the National Guard will not go into effect this fall in Alaska, as previously planned. Instead, the directive from the National Guard Bureau known as “cross-leveling” will be delayed until Sept. 30, 2025.

That, according to a Thursday press release from Alaska’s Congressional delegation, will allow “for the Air National Guard to complete a more comprehensive assessment of the impact the proposed changes will have on critical Alaska missions, and decide whether the proposed changes should occur at all.”

At issue are about 80 positions within the Alaska Air National Guard that are categorized as “Active Guard and Reserve,” or AGR, essentially full-time positions engaged in everything from pararescue to flying to radar monitoring. Currently, 835 of the 1,361 full-time employees in the Alaska National Guard are AGR’s.

Under a system-wide initiative, the National Guard Bureau is trying to standardize staffing levels in all 54 guard units around the U.S. In Alaska, which has a disproportionately high number of AGR’s, many of those staff members would have been converted to “dual-status technicians,” more similar to contractors who local officials say are incapable of fulfilling the 24-hour monitoring and readiness missions that make up much of the Air Guard’s portfolio.

Other Guard units across the country are still poised to see their numbers of tech and AGR positions shuffle around in the coming months. The pause announced Thursday is exclusive to Alaska, according to Alan Brown, spokesman for the Alaska National Guard.

Brown said advocacy by the governor’s administration and other elected leaders had been instrumental in slowing down the policy change, “which will allow everyone involved the time to conduct more thorough research and analysis,” he said in a brief statement.

For several months, all three of Alaska’s representatives in Congress have raised concerns about the measure. Service members have told them that converting positions will mean significant pay and benefits cuts, forcing them to leave the Guard. Those vacancies, according to Alaska’s elected and military officials, could hinder mission readiness to the point of failure in a mere matter of months.


“These cuts would have undermined not only our state’s security, but our national security as well,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, who called the approach to cross-leveling in Alaska “ill-advised” and said he plans to continue pushing for Alaska to retain all 80 of the AGR positions slated to convert.

Though the prospective personnel changes were not set to take effect until the fall, local guard leaders warned that it had already prompted alarm as service members scrambled to figure out whether they would stay on or separate. Some said they’d felt blindsided when information about the cross-leveling directive was sent down from headquarters in January.

“This entire exercise was unacceptable,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “The strain this uncertainty put on Alaska Air National Guard members — who Alaskans depend on in the most dire of emergencies — for them to worry about their jobs, their benefits, their ability to provide for their families, is unacceptable. Delaying the implementation of the misguided directives is a win — but it should never have come to this.”

Rep. Mary Peltola also expressed relief the decision has been temporarily stayed and said the policy threatens the Guard’s role in protecting the “health and safety” of Alaskans. Many of the personnel involved in the most complex search and rescue operations are members of the Alaska Air Guard, who deploy pararescue jumpers, helicopters, refueling tankers and other assets to locate and recover medical patients, crash victims or stranded hunters from all around the state.

A spokesperson for the National Guard Bureau did not return a request for comment Friday.

Zachariah Hughes

Zachariah Hughes covers Anchorage government, the military, dog mushing, subsistence issues and general assignments for the Anchorage Daily News. He also helps produce the ADN's weekly politics podcast. Prior to joining the ADN, he worked in Alaska’s public radio network, and got his start in journalism at KNOM in Nome.