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A Disaster Waiting to Happen

051007-KS_engineers-1.jpgWhether our National Guard is currently equipped to live up to its motto of "Always Ready, Always There" is being drawn into serious question following the recent Greensburg, Kansas tornado. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius made headlines last week when she complained about the Guard's response to the Greensburg disaster, stating that the Guard was under-equipped and understaffed -- a move that angered the Administration -- but this wasn't the first time the readiness of the Guard has been called into question.

The Bush administration has known for some time now that by moving Guard resources out of the country in support of the effort in Iraq the Guard's ability to respond has been compromised.

The bitter exchange [between Gov. Sebelius and the Administration last week] represented a familiar debate to governors across the U.S., many of whom have long feared and predicted that a catastrophic event could find their National Guard units woefully hard-pressed to react to mass casualties or chaos after four years of war in Iraq.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire watched the events unfold in Kansas, remembering her own worries from 2006.

At the beginning of last summer's wildfire season, she was attending a meeting with other governors from the Northwest. She had a big problem, Gregoire told them. Parts of her state were a tinderbox because of drought. Key segments of Washington's National Guard had deployed to Iraq. And the units that were left--the ones that would be called up to respond in the event of fast-spreading fires--were facing such severe equipment shortages that they sometimes struggled even to adequately train for disasters, let alone respond to them.

"I soon discovered that virtually all of the other governors were in the same position," Gregoire recalled.

Not long after that meeting, all 50 U.S. governors--the commanders in chief of their states' National Guards--signed a letter to President Bush imploring him to immediately begin reoutfitting their depleted National Guards. But little changed, and the Guard now has only 56 percent of its required equipment, the lowest level in nearly six years, according to the Government Accountability Office.

The problem has been growing worse... despite complaints to the Administration.

"The problem with the National Guard is not being exaggerated or overstated," said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based national security think tank. "It is very real, and it is a very big deal."

[...]

In late 2005, a GAO report found that almost every state's National Guard had just a fraction of the equipment it was supposed to have. Another GAO report issued just months ago took the criticism further. "The high use of the National Guard for federal overseas missions has reduced equipment available for its state-led domestic missions," it concluded. The top commander of the National Guard, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, testified to Congress last month that the continuous use of its forces for overseas missions has "resulted in a decline of readiness for units here at home."

Missing equipment--much of which has been shipped to Iraq or destroyed there--is a large part of the problem. Certain states are worse off: Arizona has just 34 percent of its allotted equipment; New Jersey and Idaho 42 percent; and Louisiana, ground zero for the worst natural disaster in modern memory, remains at less than 50 percent.

The quoted article, written by Chicago Tribune national correspondent Kirsten Scharnberg, is an excellent roundup of the problems that have been previously documented, and then roundly ignored, by the Bush administration.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates responded to the Kansas shortfall last week by asking Congress for $22 billion, an amount he estimates is needed to raise the Army National Guard equipment levels up to the 76 percent level. The extent to which the administration has been raiding and depleting Guard resources, despite warnings from all 50 Governors that the shortfalls are severe and serious, is painfully apparent when it'll take that amount of money to bring the equipment level up to just 76 percent readiness.

Congress is reportedly considering efforts to limit President Bush's power over the Guard, and to require the Defense Department to step and assess just how prepared the country is for domestic emergencies. It's a move that deserves a few phone calls and letters in support.


Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!

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Comments (9)

cirby:

stating that the Guard was under-equipped and understaffed

...which turned out to be a damned lie, and one of the worst political moves in recent years.

It's also pretty funny how they count all of the "equipment" that's in Iraq - because everyone knows just how well tanks and fighter jets and artillery pieces work in disaster recovery operations.

Then there's the actual issue - which is that the National Guard is a supplemental force for disaster recovery, and seldom commits more than a few percent of any state's forces to any disaster recovery. For example, the Kansas tornado recovery used a massive one hundred and ten NG troops...

If you want a better disaster recovery force, increase funding for the first responders - police and firemen - then some more money for the second-tier responders (Red Cross and others), and stop planning on using parts of the armed forces as cleanup crews.

So you're saying all 50 governors -- 22 of which are Republicans -- just don't "get it," but you and your buddy jhow66 know what's really going on, and have it all figured out, eh Cirby?

Thanks for stopping by.

Xennady:

Lee & moonbat buds:"the lowest level in nearly six years" ? Hmmmm...So therefore equipment levels were improving just after GWB took over as president.Nothing to do with him though, right? Implied by your quote is that equipment levels were even worse when Clinton was president.You're outraged by that aren't you? Of course.Then, during a war, items relating to the military were used up in fighting that war.Shocking.By all means let's spend the money to buy that equipment-and now.But why are you worrying-I'm sure Nancy P. will make sure this gets done pronto.Right?

Next time read the post on which you're commenting, Xennady. If you had you'd know that:

(1) Sec. of Def. Gates is asking Congress for $22 billion in funding to bring the equipment levels up to the 76 percent level. I suspect Pelosi will approve of this effort -- and

(2) Congress is considering a move to reduce Presidential control over the National Guard (which was breifly mentioned in the post - but here's more):

Congress passed a law with little fanfare last year that expanded the president's powers to take control of National Guard troops for domestic emergencies, such as a natural disaster, and bypass the authority of state governors.

Yesterday, North Carolina's governor, Michael Easley, came to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to repeal the law.

"There should not be a tug of war between the governors and the president," Easley told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Xennady:

Lee:Are you kidding? Why don't you read what YOU posted.I didn't question the 22 billion-it's irrelevant to my argument.In fact I said I wanted to spend the money.Didn't you read that? I suspect congress passed that law about the national guard after the idiotic performance of Democrat Kathleen Blanco in Louisiana just before and during Katrina.I disagree with Gov. Easley but, again, this is irrelevant to my argument.Since you apparently missed it- or had no actual response- I'll repeat myself.Implied by what you posted was that National Guard equipment levels were worse when Clinton was president.I quoted the relevant section of your posting.Now I missed all the outrage from Democrats about that back then, and all the outrage from them (for example) about the slow response to natural disasters such as when hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina.Hence I conclude this complaining about NG equipment levels now is nothing more than another in the endless examples of Blame-Bush-for-every-bad-thing that has replaced actual policy from Democrats.Sometimes I expect to see from you folks stories blaming Bush for the sun setting at night, or the admittedly unpleasant fact that cereal gets soggy in milk.

" I'll repeat myself.Implied by what you posted was that National Guard equipment levels were worse when Clinton was president"

You said those words, but you did nothing to back them up. "Implied"??? - you're grasping at straws. I checked up on it, determined you didn't know what you were talking about, and ignored it....

...but since you are determined to press on the matter, the "lowest level in six years" refers to the GAO study which tracked equipment levels from 9/11 -- September 11, 2001 -- forward until now, and the current levels are at the lowest they've been since 9/11.

The Pentagon acknowledged this week that Army National Guard units had only 56 percent of their required equipment, the lowest levels since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Bush administration is asking Congress for $22 billion for the Army National Guard over the next five years, which would take Guard equipment levels up to 76 percent.

In the quote i included in the post, the writer says "the lowest level in six years" instead of "the lowest levels since 9/11" - same-same.

And this GAO report didn't address where equipment levels were prior to that point - so what you felt was "implied" is all in your imagination -- unless you have evidence to the contrary (?)

In the period studied by the GAO -- since 9/11/01 -- since the attack on our shores -- Bush has systemically drained resources from the National Guard to the point where they are now at the lowest level. This is DESPITE the warning from all 50 governors --

and note that the Administration also ignored this GAO study in 2005 that called this situation in 2005 (page 2):

What GAO Found

Nondeployed Guard units now face significant equipment shortfalls because (1) they have been equipped at less than war-time levels with the assumption that they could obtain additional resources prior to deployment and (2) current operations have created an unanticipated high demand for certain items, such as armored vehicles. To fully equip its deploying units, as of July 2005, the Army National Guard had transferred more than 101,000 pieces of equipment from its nondeployed units. As of May 2005, such transfers had exhausted the Guard's inventory of more than 220 high demand equipment items, such as night vision equipment, trucks, and radios. Further, as equipment requirements for overseas operations continue to evolve, the Army has been unable to identify and communicate what items deploying units need until close to their scheduled deployments, which challenges the Guard to transfer needed equipment quickly.

Your boy Bush isn't making our country safer, he's systematically ignored warning that things are getting worse...

Xennady:

Lee:I used the word "implied" deliberately because I didn't (and still don't, really) care enough to check on this story.Sorry! This is because the only reason this story is in the news is so it can be used to attack George Bush.If Clinton was still president this study would have come out and been completely ignored by the media.And the National Guard certainly should have been better equipped back then since the country was not fighting a war.But we are now.You say Bush "drained" resources from the guard-I say the resources are better used in fighting that war.In other words, expensive equipment needed in Iraq is better used there and not standing by collecting dust-just in case! As I said, spend the money to buy more equipment-but don't tell me stateside NG troops need (for example) night vision equipment more than the troops in Iraq.Kudos for doing research but I find it amusing that you think it makes the country safer to pile up military equipment in NG armories waiting for tornados instead of fighting jihadis in Iraq.And Bush isn't my "boy".I've come to despise him just not for the reasons you do-which are irrelevant to the subject at hand.

"Lee:I used the word "implied" deliberately because I didn't (and still don't, really) care enough to check on this story.".

Let me get this straight -- you don't care enough about your attempt to spin this against Clinton to do 3 minutes of research on your own -- but you'll spend twice that amount of time making up lies -- and then whine when you raise your BS accusation and I ignore it?

You said: "Since you apparently missed it- or had no actual response- I'll repeat myself.Implied by what you posted was that National Guard equipment levels were worse when Clinton was president. I quoted the relevant section of your posting.Now I missed all the outrage from Democrats about that back then, and all the outrage from them (for example) about the slow response to natural disasters such as when hurricane Floyd hit North Carolina.Hence I conclude this complaining about NG equipment levels now is nothing more than another in the endless examples of Blame-Bush-for-every-bad-thing that has replaced actual policy from Democrats.Sometimes I expect to see from you folks stories blaming Bush for the sun setting at night, or the admittedly unpleasant fact that cereal gets soggy in milk."

And it's my conclusion that you hate liberals so much you're willing to come onto our blog, make up lies, and then whine when your lies are ignored. Quit wasting our time.

Go play across the street at Wizbang, you'll find lots of folks just like you over there. Here, take your tin-foil hat with you, they won't let you in without it.

Xennady:

Lee:I made nothing up and used no lies,pal.If you weren't as dumb as a bag of lobotomized hammers you'd be able to notice that I said nothing against Clinton, just the media.Your blog? Yeah-if was actually your blog I'd have been banned after one post because if there's anything leftists hate more than George W. Bush, it's dissent.Which is why your buddies in other lands have murdered tens of millions of people whose only crime was not kissing your ass.So Lee I suggest YOU stop whining that everyone who happens to see what you type isn't a member of the liberal church and doesn't buy the Bush-is-Satan nonsense that you peddle.If you can't handle the heat,get out of the kitchen.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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