Guard Equipment Levels Lowest Since 9/11




 
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Guard Equipment Levels Lowest Since 9/11
 
May 10th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Guard Equipment Levels Lowest Since 9/11


Guard Equipment Levels Lowest Since 9/11
Los Angeles Times
May 10, 2007
Criticized for shortfalls after a Kansas tornado, the Pentagon chief says units have only 56% of their needed supplies.
By Peter Spiegel, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON The Pentagon, bearing the brunt of criticism for shortfalls in National Guard supplies after last week's devastating tornado in Kansas, acknowledged Wednesday that Army National Guard units had only 56% of their required equipment.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told a Senate hearing that equipment levels were the lowest since the Sept. 11 attacks. He said that the Bush administration's defense budget request, which asks for $22 billion for the Army National Guard over the next five years, would take Guard units up to 76% of their authorized equipment levels.
"There's no question that there's been a drawdown of equipment in the National Guard," Gates said, adding that even before Sept. 11, Guard units normally were equipped at about 75%. "Clearly we need to follow through with this program to rebuild the stocks of equipment that are available to the National Guard."
At the hearing, a bipartisan group of senators confronted Gates with pointed questions on Guard readiness. The lawmakers argued that repeated deployments to Iraq were causing shortages in equipment needed for domestic security and national disaster response.
The issue moved back into the spotlight after Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, noted the shortfalls after a tornado flattened nearly all of Greensburg, Kan. Guard shortfalls delayed the state's emergency response, she said.
President Bush visited the town Wednesday as administration officials continued to insist that Sebelius had all the resources needed to respond to the crisis. R. David Paulison, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he had been in repeated contact with the Army general in charge of Kansas' Guard units, who assured him the Army had what it needed.
"He said he has plenty of equipment for this disaster," Paulison told reporters traveling with Bush to Kansas. "I've asked probably at least 20 times, 'Is there anything that you need that you don't have?' The answer is no. And that's from the governor, the general, the mayor and the city manager."
Sebelius reiterated the criticisms during Bush's visit. She said the state had mustered the resources to deal with the Greensburg disaster but would be hard pressed to meet any other contingencies.
"If we have another incident that needs Guard support, I will be in a situation where we have to choose what we do and that's a terrible choice to make," she said. "After four years [of war] there's no question that, year after year, Guard supplies are depleted not just in Kansas but all over the country."
White House and Pentagon officials have insisted that sharing agreements among the states would ensure that any shortfalls faced by one state during a disaster could be filled by neighboring states. But some experts have challenged that assertion, saying that nearly every state is running short of equipment because of overseas deployments.
"These compacts are practically nullified now because all states have people in" Iraq, said Melvyn Montano, former head of the New Mexico National Guard. "If you have four or five states around you, where are they going go get their equipment from? Because they all have been deployed."
The chorus was joined Wednesday by several senators, including Republican Sen. Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, who told Gates that his state was facing severe shortages in the military infrastructure that supported its Guard units.
The Army National Guard has told members of Congress that it had $23.6 billion in unfunded requirements that it would need to get back to 100% readiness. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said failure to fill those requirements meant that some states had only 35% of their Guard equipment.
Army National Guard requirements not funded by Bush's budget include 18,600 Humvees, which would cost $2.4 billion over the next five years, and 30,100 trucks, which would require an additional $5.6 billion, according to an analysis cited by Leahy. It indicated the Guard would need $6 billion for 159 Chinook helicopters, the most costly deficiency.
"Right now, there's nothing in the budget to do this, there's no plan to resupply them, and this is creating a real concern among governors around the states," Leahy said.
Gates expressed a willingness to discuss the issue with Congress, saying he was open to adding funding if it filled essential needs.
"We're prepared to sit down and take a look at this and look at it on a state-by-state basis and see if there's more we should be doing and if there is a way to make sure that the capacity of the National Guard to respond to disasters at home is what it should be," he said.
Times staff writers Maura Reynolds and Julian E. Barnes contributed to this report.
 


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