Thursday, October 20, 2005

Wars leave National Guard short

Knight Ridder reports:

The Army National Guard has lost so much critical equipment in Iraq and Afghanistan that its ability to respond to a national emergency could be severely hampered, says a government report released Thursday.

Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told the House Government Reform Committee that the Guard needs $1.3 billion to replace or upgrade radios, helicopters, tactical vehicles, heavy engineering equipment, chemical detection gear and night-vision goggles, which are essential to responding to national emergencies such as the recent Gulf Coast hurricanes and terrorist attacks.

Blum's testimony, along with that of other top National Guard and military officials and the governors of Idaho and Pennsylvania, coincided with the release of a new Government Accountability Office report, which says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left many Army National Guard units dangerously short of critical equipment. The shortages threaten the National Guard's ability to prepare its forces for future missions at home and overseas, the auditors found.

"The bottom line is that our inventory is now at 34 percent" of what it should be, Blum said.

"National Guard officials believe that the National Guard's response to Hurricane Katrina was more complicated because significant quantities of critical equipment, such as satellite communications equipment, radios, trucks, helicopters and night-vision goggles were deployed to Iraq," said U.S. Comptroller General David M. Walker in a statement accompanying the report's release.
No surprise here. But it's always nice to have confirmation; especially when it comes straight from the horse's mouth.