Panel slams treatment of Guard, Reserves

By LOLITA C. BALDOR

The National Guard and Reserves don’t get enough money or equipment and are left out of important planning for national emergencies, an independent panel concluded Thursday, long after the Iraq war and Hurricane Katrina exposed serious stresses on the services.

The report from the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves compounds earlier criticism of the Bush administration’s response to the devastating hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005. The administration also is still struggling to better manage the reserves nearly four years into the Iraq war.

The 151-page report found a significant lack of communication between reserve officials and other military leaders, the Homeland Security Department and U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for the military’s defense of the U.S. homeland.

Calling those failures unacceptable, panel Chairman Arnold Punaro said in an interview that federal agencies must get past their turf battles to better protect the public.

“This is unacceptable. The American people would find it unacceptable,” said Punaro, a retired Marine Corps general. “These are not problems that have just cropped up in the last two years or five years. These are issues that have been pretty much ignored and glossed over for decades.”

The panel, which was created by Congress, also criticized the Pentagon for not budgeting or planning specifically for civil support missions, such as domestic disaster response, because they are viewed as extensions of wartime preparation.

“This is not a sustainable course, and their capability to do their mission will deteriorate over time if it’s not changed,” Punaro said. “The thought that if we are capable of doing the away game, we can do the home game, we believe is a flawed assumption.”

He told reporters Thursday that if there is a chemical, biological or radiological incident, “we’re going to need mass decontamination, we’re going to need mass medical. … That capability is not there in sufficient quantities to deal with those scenarios.”

Members of Congress, meanwhile, criticized the commission for not going far enough in its recommendations., Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Kit Bond, R-Mo., said they will continue to push for their legislation, which gives the Guard chief budget authority and the power to buy equipment, and also makes that person a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The senators said the panel endorsed only halfway measures to solve the Guard’s problems. “Their recommendations are thin soup,” said Leahy.

And Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, who is the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said that while the commission recognized the challenges that face the guard, “admiring the problem isn’t enough. The Commission’s recommendations for the most part won’t address the issues they acknowledge.”

Guard and Reserve troops have been under increasing strain since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, serving in Afghanistan and Iraq while also patrolling the border with Mexico and responding to hurricanes and other natural disasters. During parts of 2005, the citizen soldiers made up nearly half of the U.S. forces in Iraq, with some facing repeated deployments.

At the same time, Guard units have struggled to get the equipment and training needed to go to war, often swapping armored trucks, radios and other equipment between the states to meet battle and disaster requirements.

In what likely will be one of its more controversial recommendations, the report said governors should be given more command authority over active duty military troops responding to local disasters. In previous situations such as Hurricane Katrina, military leaders have worked side-by-side with governors, but have maintained command of their active duty troops.

“We believe that without giving governors a greater voice, and without giving them a greater ability to bring all the assets of our government to bear, particularly in the immediate aftermath of any kind of incident, that we’re putting our citizens and property and our economy at greater risk,” Punaro said.

The panel outlined recommendations that would elevate the status of the Guard to become more of a partner with other military and homeland defense agencies. It would make the National Guard chief a four-star general and a direct adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his top commanders.

___

On the Net:

Report of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

Comments

  1. SEAL

    A couple of years ago I began telling everyone I know to begin arming themselves. The possibility of armed insurection is becoming more likely every day. But we will not be the ones revolting. The fact is that we will be defending ourselves and our nation from their insurection. Their attempt to overthrow our government and establish a dictatorship.

    Most people in this country know next to nothing about guns. Therefore, I tell them to go to the pawn shops and get a 12 or 16 ga. pump, a 9mm automatic hand gun or any revolver greater than .38 cal. Then begin searching for a AK47. That is the simplest, most reliable, the easiest to maintain, use, and understand assault rifle in the world. That’s why there are so many of them in all those bloody areas we see on the news. Stock up on ammo. Not a few boxes – cases of it. Without ammo, a rifle is just a club. Don’t worry about explosives and the heavy stuff. Leave that to us ex-military guys.

    Don’t pay any attention to all these NRA gun experts that preach the sophisticated crap. KISS. If and when the shit hits the fan there will be pleanty of guys like myself around that can convert the semi-automatics to full auto. However, most people would be better off without it. The main thing they need to do is learn how to take the weapons apart, clean them, and put them back together quickly. The second main thing is to create a place to hide them. I mean really hide them from a search.

    Now, I suppose I will be labeled a nutcase but freedom isn’t free. If you want it, you better be prepared to fight for it. Being prepared doesn’t make you a lunitic. Let’s hope we don’t have to. But we have to be ready to or, when the time comes, we will lose it. How will you feel if the time comes and you aren’t ready? I am.

    The United States Military will not wage war on it’s own citizens. They would respond to an order to establish Marshal order In the event of a terrorist attack in some area. But they will not obey an order to establish Marshal Law across the entire country just because the president orders it due to extreme conditions overseas. In the first place, Marshal Law is not a defense to any type of attack from outside the country. It can only be justified by an insurection or attack from inside the country. Don’t believe that the US Army and the Joint Chiefs would blindly obey an order to commit an act of aggression against their own people. And if the president were to use private contractors to do that, he would be facing the might of the United States armed forces who are committed to DEFEND the nation from all enemies, foreign or domestic. So, the fear we keep hearing expressed that Bush is going to declare Marshall Law and take over the country is remote at best. There would have to be an extraodinary set of occurances and conditions to make that possible. Besides, it isn’t necessary. They are well on their way to creating a dictatorship without the use of force.

  2. Doubtom

    The National Guard, which use to be called State Guard (for those who have enough years) should revert back to the States from which they came. The federal Government has no business federalizing them when no war has been declared. And the war on terror is NOT a declared war! We are NOT at war with Iraq anymore than we were at war with Vietnam or Korea. We are being screwed into sending the Guard and Reserve Units to fight and die for the ambitions of a cowardly few, who are pulling every trick in the book to avoid calling for a draft, because it would be “politically unpopular”.

    Those Guard Units are there for the governors of each state in case they need them, not to be used as front line troops in an undeclared war.

  3. SEAL

    Doubletom – I absolutely agree with that. Bush has declared from the very beginning there would be no draft. The neocons learned from Vietnam that the draft is what ended that war. When they began drafting middle and upper middle class sons for that fiasco is when the moms and dads turned against the “war.” Especially after a few of their kids were shot on a university campus. As long as it is only volunteers and “poor” people going to fight, no one gives a damn.

    The American people are so self absorbed with their entertainment and creature comforts that the don’t pay attention to what these coniving bastards in Washington do to prepare for something like this. The didn’t take notice back in Reagans days when they removed the restrictions on media ownership. So, now all the information is controlled by 7 of the neocon corporations. One little unnoticed bill took the National Guard away from the states. The list goes on and it is long. Now, they look up and wonder what the hell happened. Of course, they are getting what they deserve and the real disaster is that none of it will be reversed regardless of which of these two parties is in power. You don’t hear any democrats complaining about the two examples above do you? Any time legislation is instituted that takes something away, it is never given back unless it is challenged in court and decided unconstitutional by the supreme court. But that court is now stacked with those who believe in elitist rule. (I can’t think of the word) So, we are screwed for the next 20 years.