A former NGAUS chief executive officer best known for his clashes with the Pentagon in the 1990s has passed away. Retired Maj. Gen. Edward J. Philbin, who was the NGAUS executive director (now president) from June 1, 1995, through the end of 1998, died Jan. 12 in Colorado. He was 81.
Philbin’s term at the association was marked by pitched battles over the way ahead for both NGAUS and the National Guard.
He inherited the fiscal challenges caused by the initial high debt service on the National Guard Memorial, the NGAUS headquarters in Washington, D.C. His immediate response was to slash association spending and push for a dues increase.
The twin actions, while not popular with many members, triggered the recovery that culminated last summer in NGAUS paying off the mortgage on the building.
Philbin was also instrumental in the association turning back several Army attempts to cut the Guard, including a 1997 scheme to slash Army Guard end strength by 45,000 troops.
His mantra was to never let any attack on the Guard go without a response.
The general’s tenure at NGAUS capped decades of public service. His military career began in 1949 when he enlisted in the Naval Air Reserve and ended with his retirement in 1992 after he spent four years as the commander of the New Jersey Air Guard.
He also served three presidents in positions requiring Senate confirmation, including four years (1981 to 1984) as deputy assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs.
“General Philbin never shied from a fight,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the NGAUS president. “As a result, the National Guard had the troop strength to support the war on terrorism and our association still has our beautiful headquarters building.
“Our force, our association and our nation will forever be in his debt.”
Philbin will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery March 24. A visitation is set for the day before from 4 to 10 p.m. at the Murphy Funeral Home, 4510 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests charitable donations to the National Guard Educational Foundation, One Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001.