Conference Call: State Action to Strengthen National Guard Readiness
Progressive States Network recently highlighted the devastating effects the Bush administration's prolonged war in Iraq is having on the National Guard's ability to respond quickly and fully to crises at home. Recent tragedies such as the leveling of Greensburg, Kansas by a tornado -- and past tragedies such as Hurrican Katrina -- have brought to the forefront how critical it is to have a fully staffed, equipped and trained National Guard available in our states -- and how woefully far from that reality we currently are.
This Thursday, May 17 at 2pm EDT, Progressive States Network will be hosting a conference call to discuss the readiness of our National Guard which is dangerously low due to its activitation in Iraq, its effect on our security at home, and, importantly, what states can do now to prevent further over-extension of our Guard.
Please RSVP at: http://tinyurl.com/2ebyfh
Toll Free Number: 1-800-391-1709
Conference PIN: 709424
Joining the call will be a number of experts on the current crisis of our National Guard readiness, including:
Major General Melvyn Montano, US Air Force (retired), who served as the adjutant general of the New Mexico National Guar
Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Kansas State Senator Donald Betts
Former Montana State Senate leader Steve Doherty
Joel Barkin, Executive Director of Progressive States Network
Please join us for this important call on Thursday at 2pm EDT!
Background on the Issue
With 368,560 Army National Guard soldiers mobilized to Iraq between 9/11 and March 2007, readiness for response to domestic needs was bound to erode.
Before the latest Kansas disaster, two reports earlier this year-- one by the Government Accountability Office and another by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves-- both detailed the ways Iraq was undermining the National Guard's capability to meet domestic needs.
Evaluating these reports, former Nixon Defense Secretary Melvin Laird wrote this last week that the National Guard "lacks the necessary equipment and other resources necessary to fulfill the assigned tasks" and there has been little concern by White House officials for the "diminution of readiness as they return to their states and local communities from Iraq and Afghanistan."
Lack of equipment is the first key problem:
Nearly 90% of the Army National Guard has less than half the equipment they need to respond to a national crisis.
Almost 9 out of 10 Army National Guard units that are not serving in Iraq or Afghanistan have less than half the equipment they need to respond to a domestic crisis.
The Air Reserve is experiencing a similar shortfall. The Air Guard and the Air Reserve have flown over 80% of the supply missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The equipment is badly in need of overhaul or replacement.
Returning troops have repeatedly had to leave vital equipment back in Iraq when they returned to the United States.
Reacting to this problem, the National Governors Association signed a letter last year to President Bush asking for the immediate re-equipping of Guard units sent overseas.
Recruitment & Attrition of Returning National Guard: Beyond the loss of physical capital, state National Guard units are suffering from losses of human capital, as it both becomes harder to recruit new members of the Guard and returning Guard members suffer the after-effects of deployment in Iraq.
As the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves detailed, the National Guard is finding it increasingly hard to recruit experienced people with prior military service. Back in 1997, two-thirds of Army National Guard recruits had previous service experience, but that has dropped to just one out of three recruits:
"The Department's stop-loss policies, the desire of service members leaving active duty not to participate and be subject to future deployments, and the smaller size of the overall force to draw from have resulted in fewer prior service enlistments in all reserve components."
Grimly, the Commission found that even additional pay and benefits doesn't seem to be making a difference: "current indicators cast considerable doubt on the future sustainability of recruiting and retention, even if financial incentives continue to increase."
And returning National Guard members are unlikely to close the gap. The Defense Department's Task Force on Mental Health chaired by Navy Surgeon General Donald Arthur, recently issued an urgent warning that "nearly 50 percent of National Guard members are returning with signs of post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and other disorders after returning from deployment."
Progressive States Network
101 Avenue of the Americas, 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10013