DURBIN: ILLINOIS NATIONAL GUARD UNITS FACE SERIOUS EQUIPMENT SHORTAGES; COULD HAMPER ABILITY TO RESPOND IN EMERGENCIES
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) along with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and 38 of their colleagues today sent a letter to President Bush expressing alarm at serious equipment shortages now faced by National Guard units in Illinois and across the nation. The letter calls on President Bush to immediately implement a plan to replace the missing items and to fully fund the needs of the National Guard.
A report released on Thursday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is the investigative arm of Congress, showed that Army National Guard units face severe equipment shortages at home partly because they have been told to leave critical items such as armored Humvees, light trucks and other gear in Iraq for replacement troops.
"This is a serious problem - it impacts the ability of these units to respond as they should in a crisis; it affects their ability to conduct training exercises; it affects the morale of the units," said Durbin. "Replacing this equipment has been slow, and the replacement items are often not adequate in terms of quality or quantity. We must not allow this to continue."
The GAO report showed that, on average, National Guard units have only 34 percent of the equipment they need to be at full readiness, which could leave them vulnerable in a domestic emergency.
Durbin said National Guard units in Illinois often fare even worse than the national average and equipment inventories of Illinois National Guard units have been seriously depleted. For example, the inventory tallies show that Illinois Guard units are assigned only:
# 4 percent of the medium trucks needed to maintain full readiness (6 of 166 medium trucks)
# 8 percent of the heavy trucks needed to maintain full readiness (6 of 79 heavy trucks)
# 47 percent of night vision devices (1503 of 3220 night vision devices)
# 63 percent of radios (766 of 1218 radios)
While these numbers alone are cause for serious concern, the situation may actually be much worse. Some of this assigned equipment is unavailable for use by the state because it is currently in Iraq or elsewhere.
Officials interviewed by the GAO believe 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."
In their letter to President Bush, Durbin and Graham asked that his Administration "fully equip" the Army National Guard with the equipment necessary to respond to state emergencies and to include sufficient funding in his budget request. Durbin said that bringing Guard unit inventories up to full levels will cost as much as $10 billion over what the administration intends to spend.
"Right now, the budget analysts at the Department of Defense are preparing next year's budget for the President. The Department of Defense needs to take into account the cost of replacing this equipment before the problem gets worse," said Durbin.
Signatories include the following Senators: Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Kit Bond (R-MO), Rick Santorum (R-PA), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Larry Craig (R-ID), Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Joe Biden (D-DE), James Jeffords (I-VT), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Mike DeWine (R-OH), George Allen (R-VA), Ken Salazar (D-CO), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Barack Obama (D-IL), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), John Kerry (D-MA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Mark Dayton (D-MN), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Jim Talent (R-MO), Craig Thomas (R-WY), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Ben Nelson (D-NE).
As of June of this year, Army National Guard units had left more than 64,000 pieces of equipment worth more than $1.2 billion overseas, and according to the GAO report, the Army cannot account for more than half of that equipment. The report said that in addition to what was left overseas, more than 100,000 pieces of equipment from units on the home front have been transferred to deploying units.
The full text of Durbin and Graham's letter to the President appears below:
November 3, 2005
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N. W.
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President,
As you prepare your budget request for Fiscal Year 2007, we ask that you include funding which will fully equip the Army National Guard with combat equipment which has dual use by the States for domestic emergencies.
We also ask the administration to address the recommendations of the Government Accountability Office with respect to the need to improve National Guard equipment readiness and its integration into Army transformation initiatives.
The Army National Guard plays a crucial role in State response to domestic emergencies. The greatly diminished percentage of equipment on-hand in our Guard units carries with it the risk of not only denying these units the equipment needed to conduct good training for their combat mission but also leaves them with fewer tools to support State responses to natural disasters, terrorist incidents or other emergencies. While it is possible to shift equipment from State to State, it is clear that National Guard response will be faster if the needed equipment is available for training and closer to the point of need.
Specific items of National Guard equipment are of particular value for homeland security purposes. These include trucks of various sizes, communications equipment, night vision devices, engineer equipment and helicopters. Unfortunately, the National Guard has troubling shortages in all of these areas. Nationwide the Guard has only 2/3 of the Humvees, 3/4 of the radios, half of the night vision devices and 1/4 of the moderm medium trucks it needs to be mission responsive. Moreover, due to combat wear and the operational need for returning units to leave some equipment behind in the combat zone, these shortages are getting worse.
Please give full consideration to the homeland security value of National Guard equipment and include in your budget request a plan to bring our Guard up to 100% of key assets.