"When floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes strike, Americans depend on their neighbors in the National Guard to keep them safe and help with disaster response. In virtually any type of national emergency, the Guard is a critical part of our disaster recovery team. But our National Guard members also play a very large role in our efforts overseas. Guard units from all over the country have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, taking a great deal of their equipment with them, and often leaving that equipment behind for follow-on units when it’s time to come home," said Skelton.
"Because I want to make sure our National Guard will always be able to help Americans in time of need, I’ve written a letter to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to ask for an up-to-date assessment on the Guard’s readiness and ability to respond to emergency events here in the U.S. As our mission changes in Iraq, and our forces and equipment leave that country, I think it’s very important for defense planners to consider domestic needs. If it makes sense, some of that equipment should return to the U.S. to fill the stocks of our National Guard units," said Skelton.
"The redeployment of forces and equipment is an enormous undertaking, the likes of which we have not seen since the end of the Vietnam War. We must properly manage our redeployment from Iraq, and I will work to ensure the National Guard’s needs at home aren’t neglected," said Skelton.
A copy of Skelton’s letter to General Craig R. McKinley is attached:
July 24, 2009
General Craig R. McKinley
National Guard Bureau
1636 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1636
Dear General McKinley:
I am writing to you regarding the capacity of the National Guard to respond to domestic emergencies and out of concern that the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq enhance, rather than detract from, these capabilities.
As you may be aware, the House Armed Services Committee, which I have the honor of serving as Chairman, has been concerned for several years that the capacity of our National Guard units to respond to domestic emergencies in the United States has been degraded by ongoing operations. This concern, while greater for the Army National Guard, extends to the capacity of the Air National Guard as well. I would appreciate it if you could supply me with a current operational assessment of the ability of the National Guard, both Army and Air, to respond to natural disasters of varying scale and location, including tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and other representative examples. I would further appreciate any information about any current shortage of equipment, caused by ongoing operations, which would slow the response to any significant natural disaster.
I am especially concerned that authorities to transfer essential equipment from stocks currently in Iraq to the Iraq Security Forces (ISF) could degrade the future capability of the National Guard to respond to such disasters. Earlier this year, the Secretary of Defense requested that Congress provide the authority to transfer equipment currently in Iraq, but no longer necessary for ongoing operations there. As I understand it, this transfer could occur even though the equipment might be needed by U.S. units. I am concerned that such transfers could negatively impact the Guard’s ability to respond to natural disasters. I would appreciate knowing your views on this proposed authority as well as any formal role that would be played by yourself or other National Guard officers in the execution of such an authority, should it become law, to ensure that the Guard’s domestic response mission needs be considered in the equipment transfer process.
Thank you for your kind attention to these matters. I look forward to your response.
Very truly yours,