Bush Signs Bill Enacting Leahy’s National Guard Empowerment Reforms, And Leahy’s Repeal Of The ‘Insurrection Act Rider’

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, Jan. 30) -- President Bush has signed into law an annual defense authorization bill that includes key victories for the National Guard that were engineered by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the Democratic co-chair of the Senate’s 95-member National Guard Caucus.

Leahy’s National Guard Empowerment reforms, drawn from a bill Leahy introduced with Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo.), will give the Guard more bureaucratic muscle at the Pentagon in decision making about the Guard’s missions, equipment and staffing.  Bond is the Republican co-chair of the National Guard Caucus.

The President signed the bill this week.  He had vetoed an earlier version of the defense policy bill over an unrelated issue, concerning the ability of the victims of Saddam Hussein to tap Iraqi assets to resolve damage claims.

In a difficult and highly unusual legislative achievement, Leahy also achieved repeal of the so-called “Insurrection Act Rider,” attached to the 2006 defense policy bill, which had made it easier for presidents to take control of the National Guard from governors and to use the U.S. military for domestic law enforcement.  Last year, in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing organized by Leahy, key national military and law enforcement officials testified against the 2006 policy change.  The repeal provisions in the newly enacted defense authorization act were drawn from another bill introduced by Leahy and Bond.  The nation’s governors also unanimously supported the Leahy-Bond bill to repeal the Insurrection Act changes.  

The defense policy bill includes a variety of organizational reforms from the Leahy-Bond National Guard Empowerment Bill, including elevating the Chief of the National Guard from the rank of Lt. General to the rank of General; making the Chief the prime military advisory to the Defense Secretary and to the Joint Chiefs; raising the status of the National Guard Bureau; forging a stronger relationship between the Guard and the Northern Command; and directing the Pentagon to work with the Guard in planning on homeland defense. 

“This gives the National Guard the voice it needs and deserves in policy decisions that affect the Guard from top to bottom,” said Leahy.  “The National Guard is a 21st Century military organization, coping with a 19th Century Pentagon organization chart.  These reforms will clear away organizational cobwebs to give the Guard a bigger say about the Guard’s future.  Right now the Guard has to beg and scrape and rely on the tender mercies of others for every piece of equipment they need to do the jobs they are asked to do.  These reforms will begin changing that.” 


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