Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Dodd Pushes To Replenish Stretched National Guard

Responding to recent reports showing that the vast majority of National Guard units are not ready for deployment due to heavy and extended duty in Iraq, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced legislation on Monday to provide stepped-up funding to restore National Guard readiness for both combat and preparedness to address large-scale domestic emergencies.

"We rely on our citizen soldiers to perform critical missions here at home and abroad,” said Dodd. “From providing needed support during national disasters such as Hurricane Katrina to battling our enemies on the battlefields of Iraq, the brave men and women of our armed forces work tirelessly to defend our nation. We owe it to them to provide them with the funding and equipment necessary to complete their missions as safely and effectively as possible.”

A report released last week by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves revealed that nearly 88 percent of Army National Guard units are not equipped for combat, lacking trucks, Humvees, generators, radios, night-vision goggles and other gear that would be critical for responding to a major disaster, terrorist attack or other domestic emergency.

According to the report, the units rated “not ready” were in large part due to significant equipment shortages as a result of the Guard’s heavy deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report also found that the equipment readiness of the Army National Guard was unacceptable and has reduced the capability of the United States to respond to current and additional major emergencies, foreign and domestic.

"This report highlights what our military leaders have testified before Congress about repeatedly,” said Dodd. “As the United States confronts growing threats to peace and security here at home and throughout the world, it is essential that we ensure that our nation’s military is fully prepared to perform its missions.”

Major General Thaddeus J. Martin, Adjutant General of the Connecticut National Guard, applauded Dodd's legislation, saying that “the Senator’s approach would significantly close the gap between where we are today and where we will be in five years.”

“Legislation such as this indicates to me that we may have turned the corner as a nation, as we embrace the fact we are at war and not just a military operating from within a normal funding stream,” said Martin.

The Dodd legislation, which will provide $38 billion over the next five years, will be used to replace National Guard resources that have been so depleted by the Iraq war including trucks, armored equipment and weapons.

"Under orders by the administration, National Guard troops have been forced to leave their State's equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan for other troops rotating into combat theaters," said the Connecticut Senator. "Many of their military vehicles and aircraft are being worn down and destroyed in battle. But any critical equipment that may have survived is simply being transferred to other units coming into Iraq or Afghanistan."

Dodd has fought for this in the past but is hopeful, with Democrats holding the Congressional majority, that it will now be far more possible to do the right thing for America's troops.

"For the last six years, our troops have unconditionally served in Afghanistan, battling Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. And for four years, they have bravely followed orders into Iraq, despite the administration's ill-defined objectives and faulty intelligence," said Dodd. "Our troops have served with characteristic honor, dedication, and skill. It is high time that we meet our commitments to them--and give them the mission-critical gear they need to get their jobs done."