06.25.09

Leahy, Bond Reintroduce National Guard Empowerment Effort

Bill Would Sharpen Pentagon’s Focus On Helping The Guard Respond To Domestic Emergencies

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) Thursday reintroduced legislation that would obligate the Department of Defense to pay greater attention to the mission of  domestic operations in support of civilian authorities and to further empower the National Guard in defense policymaking.  Leahy and Bond are co-chairs of the 96-member Senate National Guard Caucus.

In addition to serving as the primary reserve to the active military when assigned abroad, the National Guard is the nation’s first military responder for domestic emergencies, such as natural disasters.  No organization in the U.S. defense structure has more experience, expertise, and capability than the Guard does when it comes to domestic response and providing support to civilian authorities.  The Leahy-Bond bill – a follow-on to their successful earlier Guard empowerment legislative efforts – would enhance the Guard’s ability to deal with these situations and ensure that states remain in control of the Guard and other military forces that might be operating domestically during these situations, and thereby improving the nation’s domestic defense capabilities.

This bill would increase the quality of advice at the highest levels on homeland defense matters by posting the Chief of the National Guard -- now a four-star general officer position -- on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The legislation would also ensure that governors maintain so-called tactical control over federal military forces during emergencies, and it would give the National Guard Bureau budgetary authority to develop and procure essential equipment for the Guard.  The legislation also would create the new position of Vice Chief of the National Guard Bureau who would serve as the principal deputy to the Bureau Chief.

In his “Blueprint for Change,” the new Administration’s national security blueprint, President Obama endorsed the idea of making the Guard Bureau Chief a full member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a move that Vice President Biden also has endorsed.  In developing the legislation, Leahy and Bond consulted with The National Guard Association of the United States, the Adjutants General Association of the United States and the Enlisted National Guard Association of the United States – organizations the Senators expect to endorse the bill after its introduction.

Leahy said, “The National Guard continues to skillfully perform its domestic security roles, which continue to grow in importance.  Time and again the Guard has shown that it has the know-how, the experience and the skills to perform missions at home and abroad.  Empowering the Guard will help mission performance and the entire military’s ability to support elected leaders and local officials during emergencies.”

“Our citizen-soldiers stand ready to defend our nation, secure our homeland from natural disasters or terrorist attacks, and are now fighting overseas in the war on terror,” said Bond.  “We have a responsibility to give the Guard the equipment, resources, and bureaucratic muscle they need to meet their critical dual mission.”

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