Most States Report 'Heavily Depleted' Guard

Most States Report 'Heavily Depleted' Guard
December 28th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Most States Report 'Heavily Depleted' Guard

Most States Report 'Heavily Depleted' Guard
Washington Times
December 28, 2007
Pg. 3
Agree to share scarce resources
By Audrey Hudson, The Washington Times
A majority of states are reporting a significant depletion of their National Guard forces to respond to local man-made and natural disasters, according to a survey by the National Governors Association.
One-third of the states said they have at least 75 percent of their National Guard forces available and less than 40 percent said they have at least half their Guard forces on hand.
The gap has prompted nearly every state to initiate mutual aid agreements to share National Guard resources, including equipment and personnel, to deal with emergencies.
"Almost 90 percent of states are relying on the Guard for homeland security response, and what they are relying on is heavily depleted in the states, so this is a concern," said John Thomasian, director of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices.
"There is also a trickle-down effect, the National Guard forces who are deployed are often from fire and police reserves and get drawn out. This has been a chronic issue for the last number of years," Mr. Thomasian said.
The report said that states are working more closely and more effectively with federal agencies to share information that could prevent a terrorist attack, but that their relationship with the Department of Homeland Security "remains a work in progress."
"For a long time, states have been trying to develop a stronger relationship with DHS, yet in the third year of the survey we still continue to report unsatisfactory progress," Mr. Thomasian said.
"It's not just about money," he said.
"Homeland security directors constantly stress they are left out of the loop on guidance and regulations being developed on the frontline. They become an afterthought," he said.
William Knocke, Homeland Security spokesman, disagreed saying the department has "gone to great lengths to strengthen communication and coordination with our state partners."
"States are vital partners when it comes to preparing and securing the homeland, and their focus on issues like interoperability and infrastructure protection are to be commended. When it comes to regulations, the same holds true," he said.
"While there are naturally going to be areas for discussion or even disagreement, there is no misunderstanding within our department about the priority we place on relationships with the states," he said.
Mr. Knocke cited as examples the drafting of new identification regulations called Real ID and chemical security rules.
"We invited input from motor vehicle department representatives on the front end of preparation for drafting Real ID regulations," he said.
Final regulations have not been published for the Real ID Act, but states must set new rules to collect, store and verify personal information stored on driver's licenses and share with other states.
Some states oppose the legislation citing risks of identity theft, privacy invasion and the $14 billion price tag to implement the program.
"Real ID is a huge problem," said Mr. Thomasian, who contends that states were not initially consulted on the rule. "We need a set of guidelines where states have a major role in vetting."
Congress recently voted to spend $50 million to help states comply with the new nationwide standards.
"The truly national elements of Real ID should be funded from Washington," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "Federalism is a partnership, not a competition."

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