Senate Democrats

National Guard Readiness Suffers from President Bush’s Iraq Policies

The President’s flawed stay-the-course policy in Iraq has decreased the capacity of our National Guard to respond to crises at home.  The tornadoes that ripped through Kansas this weekend tragically demonstrate that our National Guard is stretched too thin and lacks the equipment necessary to handle disasters in the U.S. The President’s strategy in Iraq is making America less safe and communities in Kansas are paying the price.

The Kansas National Guard is short on equipment to deal with disasters at home 

  • The Kansas National Guard is left without the equipment it needs to respond to this weekend’s tornadoes.  

    Al Roker, The Today Show: And in trying to get things cleaned up, you said that because the National Guard equipment-wise is strapped because their equipment is in Iraq?

    Governor Kathleen Sebelius (KS): Well, we have a fabulous National Guard.  Fifty percent of our trucks are gone.  Our front loaders are gone.  We are missing humvees that move people.  We can’t borrow them from other states because their equipment is gone.  It’s a huge issue for states across the country to respond to disasters like this. (NBC The Today Show, 5/7/07)

  • Governor Sebelius had warned the Kansas National Guard was missing too much equipment before this disaster. “Currently, about 16 percent of the Kansas National Guard’s equipment, valued at over $117 million, will not return to Kansas. With the potential for the amount of equipment left overseas to double, [Governor Kathleen] Sebelius is concerned about the impact this will have on the Guard’s primary mission back home.” (Kansas City InfoZine, 2/13/07)
  • The Kansas National Guard Commander is worried about equipment shortages in Iraq.  "Equipment for the Kansas National Guard is getting worn out according to the Guard Commander. Major General Tod Bunting says the equipment is not the only thing getting worn out – so are the troops. Bunting says the Guard’s equipment is not being replaced quickly enough and that about 800 soldiers will stay in Iraq for now…some of them in their fourth tour." (AP, 4/10/07)

National Guard units throughout the country are facing equipment shortages

  • The Iraq war has crippled Florida’s ability to respond to hurricanes. "With hurricane season approaching, Floridians want the National Guard to have everything it needs to respond quickly and effectively to natural disasters. But the Iraq war’s drain on personnel and equipment is forcing the Guard to work overtime to stay prepared. The Florida National Guard began the year with only about 25 percent of the authorized equipment it should have on hand, down by half from before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003." (Palm Beach (FL) Post, 3/25/07)
  • Massive equipment shortfalls hinder the Oklahoma National Guard. "’We’re behind the power curve, and we can’t piddle around,’ Maj. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, said in an interview. He added that one-third of his soldiers lacked the M-4 rifles preferred by active-duty soldiers and that there were also shortfalls in night vision goggles and other equipment. If his unit is going to be sent to Iraq next year, he said, ‘We expect the Army to resource the Guard at the same level as active-duty units.’" (New York Times, 2/22/07)
  • Oklahoma National Guard troops are facing the longest deployment since the Korean War. "About 3,500 members of the Oklahoma National Guard could be sent to Iraq as early as January 2008, military officials said Wednesday. The deployment – which would be the largest for the Oklahoma National Guard since the Korean War – more likely will be in the summer of 2008, officials said.  Initial plans for the 45th called for a rotation in the year 2010,’ Wyatt said. ‘We have been accelerated two years.’" (Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK), 2/1/07)
  • The Michigan National Guard is under-equipped. "Michigan’s Army National Guard units have only about 40 percent of their assigned equipment, reflecting nationwide equipment shortages the country’s top National Guard officer has called ‘unacceptable.’ The shortages of trucks, helicopters and other equipment – a result of the strains of the Iraq war – mean Guard units are less prepared to respond to state disasters. ‘We are now in a degraded state back here at home,’ said Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, the National Guard’s top officer. ‘The ability for the National Guard to respond to natural disasters and to perhaps terrorist weapons-of-mass-destruction events that may come to our homeland is at risk because we are significantly under equipped.’" (Detroit News, 3/31/07)
  • Oregon Guard short $103 million worth of equipment, 66% short on weapons and vehicles. "Oregon’s National Guard units are short more than $100 million worth of equipment, largely because five years of deployments have depleted weapons and vehicle stocks… Much of that equipment was damaged or destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Caldwell said, and some was left behind for other troops to use. Back home, the lack of equipment makes Guard training and response to emergencies more difficult, he said. Caldwell estimates that Oregon’s Guard units have about 44 percent of the weapons, vehicles and other equipment they are supposed to have. It would cost $103 million to replace the ‘most important’ of what’s been lost or left behind, he said." (Portland Oregonian, 3/2/07)
  • New Mexico National Guard troops are drastically unequipped. "Among other things, that letter says helicopter evacuation crews from the New Mexico Guard were forced to remove medical equipment from their older-model helicopters to make them light enough to fly during one recent deployment. New Mexico’s non-deployed Guard units rank last in the country in equipment readiness, the letter states. [Brigadier General Kenny] Montoya said equipment issues have long been a problem for the Guard, which is funded by the federal government. ‘We’re looking at 30 years of mismanagement of the National Guard, and that’s not going to get fixed overnight.’" (Albuquerque Tribune, 3/14/07)
  • Many Arkansas National Guard soldiers lack the equipment they need. "Capt. Christopher Heathscott, a spokesman for the Arkansas National Guard, said the state’s 39th Brigade Combat Team was 600 rifles short for its 3,500 soldiers and also lacked its full arsenal of mortars and howitzers. Of particular concern, he said, is the possibility that the prospects of going to Iraq next year could cause some Arkansas reservists not to re-enlist this year. Over the next year roughly one-third of the soldiers in the 39th will have their enlistment contracts expire or be eligible for retirement, Captain Heathscott said." (New York Times, 2/22/07)