Guard Chief Asks Appropriators To Help Ensure Guard Receives Equipment Funding

Team Infidel

Forum Spin Doctor
Defense Daily
April 12, 2007
Pg. 1

By Jen DiMascio
Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, yesterday pressed senators for help in ensuring that money allocated for Guard equipment arrives where it is needed.
The Guard needs $36 billion between fiscal years 2008 and 2013 to be 77 percent ready, said Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, who leads the Army National Guard.
In terms of equipment, the Army Guard needs $13.1 billion over that time frame; the Air National Guard needs $8.8 billion.
That money would help the guard buy "meat and potatoes, basic equipment," Blum said during the hearing, like trucks, radios, helicopters, night vision equipment, soldier weapons, bulldozers, loaders, medical sets maintenance and repair parts.
But it's important that Congress helps direct that funding, Blum said, articulating a perennial frustration for the Guard.
Because the institutional Army buys major weapons systems for both active and reserve forces, money intended by Congress for the National Guard can be diverted to the active force before Guard needs are satisfied.
Blum suggested drawing on a model used after Hurricane Katrina that specified items the Guard should buy to improve its ability to respond to future disasters.
"We won't get out of that situation in any of your senators home states unless additional resources come to the National Guard and they come in such a manner that they get to the National Guard," Blum said, adding that Congress has consistently provided money that the Guard has requested.
That didn't satisfy Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), whose home state is the least equipped in the nation, according to a Government Accountability Office report released early this year.
"Whatever we could have done we couldn't have done worse, is that correct statement?"
"That's an accurate statement," Blum said. New Mexico's inventories are only 33.8 percent filled, but that state is not alone in hurting for equipment, he said. Ohio leads the nation, but its stocks are only 65 percent of capacity.
The Guard has long struggled to receive enough equipment, Blum said. But that problem has been exacerbated by the need to leave equipment behind in theater by deployed units that has not been repaired or replaced, he said in response to a question posed by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).
"Our shelf stock is so low it's at an unacceptable level in my judgment here at home and it needs to be addressed. If I were to come in here and present this in any other way I wouldn't be doing my job," Blum said.
Mikulski worried that the inventory in her home state, positioned in the national Capitol region and in a hurricane zone will further erode because more than 1,000 Guardsmen in Maryland were recently called to serve in Iraq. The Maryland Army National Guard's equipment readiness is at 35 percent, she said.
According to Blum, Guard units headed for Iraq will be fully trained and equipped before they deploy. The shortage of equipment means that it will take longer than it should to prepare soldiers there for deployment and for the Guard to respond in a case of disaster, Blum said.
For the short term, the Maryland Army National Guard's stocks are likely to dip below their current level of 35 percent, he said.
"That is exactly why I'm telling you what the requirements are in funding and then the protections that I think need to be put in place so that what you intend to get to us actually gets to us," Blum said.
Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said the National Guard Caucus, which he leads with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), worked to add an additional $1 billion to the supplemental for equipment to mitigate shortfalls.
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), the chairman of the subcommittee expressed support for the Guard and asked for additional information about the Guard's near-term needs.
Florida has about 53 percent of the equipment it needs, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told Defense Daily yesterday. That means the state is short about 500 humvees, 600 trucks, 4,400 night vision goggles and 20 or 30 wreckers. While the state Guard could respond properly to low-level hurricanes, it would struggle to respond to a category four or five storm, he said.