Guard Caucus Leaders Leahy And Bond Request $870 M. To Address Guard And Reserve Equipment Shortfalls

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, June 11) -- U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.), the co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, are requesting an additional $870 million to help the National Guard and Reserves address critical equipment shortfalls.  The National Guard Caucus request was sent to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Vice Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).  Bond and Leahy also are senior members of the Appropriations Committee and of its Defense Subcommittee, which handles the Senate’s work in writing the annual Defense Department budget bill.

Leahy said, “We are asking the Guard and Reserves to take on more challenges than ever.  Vermont has deployed more than 1300 soldiers of the Vermont National Guard to Afghanistan, where they are performing with skill and courage.  Congress now has the responsibility to make sure they are supplied with what they need to continue these missions.  The Guard and Reserves have never let us down, and we must not let our Guard and Reserves down.  These carefully targeted funds will go a long way toward making sure that the men and women of the National Guard have the equipment they need.” 

Bond said, “Since the 9/11 attacks, our Guard and Reserve troops have been called to serve in unprecedented ways – from providing emergency flood and hurricane response, to securing our borders, to fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Bond.  “Unfortunately, right now our citizen-warriors don’t have the equipment they need to continue their expanded mission to keep Americans safe here at home and abroad.  I urge my colleagues to support these funds to help address this equipment shortfall and send a message to the Pentagon that we won’t allow our Guard and Reserve troops to continue to be short changed.”

Bond and Leahy have asked for added funds for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account, to be included in the Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2011. The increased funding would go toward equipment needed for both domestic and overseas missions.

Leahy and Bond have a successful track record in leading the fight to secure added funding for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account over the last several years.  They worked to obtain more than $1 billion for the Guard and Reserve in Fiscal Year 2009 and $950 million in fiscal year 2010.  With the National Guard and Reserve heavily tasked in responding to natural disasters, domestic emergencies and overseas operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other foreign locations, both forces have greater equipment needs in order to achieve full readiness.  Despite the variety of roles filled by the Guard and Reserves, and the increases that Leahy and Bond have achieved in each of the last several years, both forces still face equipment shortfalls.

The Army National Guard, for example, faces a $5.2 billion shortfall in its truck inventory and needs at least $200 million for new Blackhawk helicopters for medical evacuation missions.  The Air National Guard faces a steep future shortfall in modern fighter jets and transportation and cargo aircraft.  An element of the Leahy-Bond request would help modernize aging Air Guard fighter and transportation aircraft fleets for use in the years to come.  The funds they request can also help defray operational costs the Guard and Reserves may incur while providing support to civilian agencies during disaster relief missions here at home.

Ninety-seven senators now participate in the National Guard Caucus, making it the Senate’s largest and most active caucus.

[The letter is attached and available online]

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