The NYTimes reports this morning that governors in this country are concerned about Bush Administration policies which they say are weakening the National Guard.
The National Guard, which traces its roots to the colonial militia, has a dual federal-state role. Governors normally command the Guard in their states, but Guard members deployed overseas in support of a federal mission are under the control of the president.The National Guard carries out important missions here in the States: flood rescues and clean-up, diaster relief, hurricane rescues...the list is endless, and the flood and hurricane seasons are coming up again soon. This is an enormous concern for state governments and disaster planning -- and the fact that the enormous red flags raised by Katrina led folks at the Pentagon to think cutting National Guard numbers was the right move is simply mind boggling.
The governors said they would present their concerns to President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Monday. In a preview of their message, all 50 governors signed a letter to the president opposing any cuts in the size of the National Guard.
"Unfortunately," the letter said, "when our National Guard men and women return from being deployed in foreign theaters, much of their equipment remains behind." The governors said the White House must immediately re-equip Guard units "to carry out their homeland security and domestic disaster duties."
Is this all politics? Not according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, which has the responsibility for providing oversight on this.
David M. Walker, the comptroller general of the United States, who heads the Government Accountability Office, said the governors had some basis for their concerns.Yep, the Bush Administration -- coming up with new ways to fail to do its job. Sure hope a flood or a hurricane or a tornado or some other natural disaster, or even heaven forbid some terrorist attack, doesn't happen any time soon anywhere near you. There may be too little equipment for these brave folks in uniform to do their jobs.
"The Army cannot account for over half the equipment that Army National Guard units have left overseas," Mr. Walker said. "And it has not developed replacement plans for the equipment, as Defense Department policy requires."
Feeling safer? Me neither.
UPDATE: I've been asked to be a guest on the Al Franken Show on Air America this afternoon. Sam Seder is guest hosting for Al. You can listen live to Air America at this link. I'll be on the show a little after 2 pm ET.
UPDATE #2: And in case you were wondering, we aren't even close to being ready for the next hurricane season in the Gulf Coast region. Just what those folks need to hear on top of having less-than-sufficient National Guard assets, eh?