The nation’s governors are in Washington, D.C. and today (Monday) they told President Bush and the Secretary of Defense they’re worried about a plan that would restructure the National Guard. Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack says Republican and Democrat governors have “serious” concerns about troop reductions and equipment needs. “The bottom line is that our nation cannot be made more secure by making some states less secure,” Vilsack says.
Vilsack says the governors believe changes in the makeup of the guard cannot be made without the consent of the governors who are the commanders-in-chief of the state guard units. But the Bush Administration’s plan would not only “underfund” the guard, according to Vilsack, it will reduce the number of combat brigades in the guard and increase the number of engineering brigades. “Which would mean that in some states we’ll have fewer net guard members and in other states we’ll have more net guard members,” Vilsack says. “This is also a concern because we’re not sure how many states that involves, how many guard members may be affected and what that will do to the states’ ability to respond quickly and effectively to any natural disaster or problem that might require guard assistance within the state.”
Vilsack says as guard members are being deployed overseas they’re taking their equipment with them, but aren’t bringing it back. Replacing that damaged, destroyed or abandoned equipment isn’t being done quickly enough according to governors like Vilsack. Vilsack says there appears to be 60 million dollars worth of National Guard equipment needs that aren’t yet accounted for in the president’s formal budget request to congress. “There’s no specific assurance today that resources will be available to adequately equip the guard,” Vilsack says.
President Bush spoke with the governors this morning. Vilsack and the rest of the governors met privately with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over the lunch hour to discuss the National Guard. “The Bush Administration has adopted, more or less, a ‘Trust me’ attitude about their plan,” Vilsack says. But the governor says while he appreciates the “stress” President Bush and others have in balancing the federal budget, Vilsack isn’t convinced the resources will be found to fully-fund the guard and its equipment needs in the future.