Easley: Guard Poorly Equipped For Major Disaster

Easley: Guard Poorly Equipped For Major Disaster
May 15th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Easley: Guard Poorly Equipped For Major Disaster

Easley: Guard Poorly Equipped For Major Disaster
Raleigh News & Observer
May 15, 2007
Pg. B6

By Jay Price, Staff Writer
Years of war in Iraq have cut into the National Guard's stock of trucks, communications equipment and other gear across the nation, and states such as North Carolina could come up short in a major hurricane, disease pandemic or terrorist attack, Gov. Mike Easley said Monday.
Easley is co-chairman of a committee of the National Governors' Association that deals with National Guard issues.
Speaking in a telephone news conference Monday, Easley said that the Guard in North Carolina has enough equipment to handle hurricanes only up to category 3, such as Hurricane Fran in 1996. The state's Guard has about 55 percent of its "dual use" equipment, such as trucks, that can be used both in wars and in disasters at home. The Guard is actively replacing equipment and expects that number to rise to 59 percent in September, Easley said, but the Guard would like to get more, faster because of the impending hurricane season.
Also speaking at the news conference was Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is trying to get Congress to budget $1 billion this year to help replace the Guard's missing equipment nationwide. Total needs are $24 billion, Leahy said.
Even if the Guard is given the needed funding, it would take a long time to replace the equipment, he said.
Guard officials in individual states work through a central office to share equipment needed for disasters. Hurricanes move slowly, so they offer time to plan and move equipment into place, Easley said. But one that strikes several states could mean the equipment would have to come from farther away, and the delays could cost lives, he said.
More troubling is the possibility of "no-notice" disasters such as a terrorism attack or a pandemic, he said. And hurricane states such as North Carolina may be reluctant to send equipment elsewhere to fight, say, wildfires in Florida during the storm season, he said.
Also, Easley said, the shortage of equipment cuts into training. That, in turn, makes life harder for North Carolina guardsmen who are deployed. Some have to leave their homes and jobs and go train where there is equipment for an extra three to five months before they ship out for a one-year tour of duty. That has pushed what should be one-year activations to 15 or even 18 months, adding to the already heavy burden on citizen soldiers.
Continued use of Guard troops in Iraq is wearing down the force, Easley said said.
Easley said an attorney he knows, who works in a two-person office, is on his second deployment with the Guard and had to file for bankruptcy. Stories of people having to quit their jobs because their spouse is on a second or third combat tour aren't unusual, he added.
Unless something changes, by 2009 Guard units will struggle to handle deployments, Easley said.
Morale is still good, but if the Pentagon keeps sending the citizen soldiers off to war at the current rate, that won't last, Easley said.
"They still come back and say we're ready to go, and they're still upbeat. ... But common sense tells you that there is a limit to what they can do," he said.

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