Ford, Cooper, Davis, Gordon and Tanner urge House leaders to move legislation calling on Bush Administration to consult with Governors and Congress on National Guard changes
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representatives Harold Ford, Jr., Jim Cooper, Lincoln Davis, Bart Gordon and John Tanner today released a letter to House leaders urging them to bring to the floor H.Res. 665, Ford's legislation calling on the Bush Administration to consult the nation's Governors and Congress before making changes to the National Guard. A companion bill, S.Res. 355, passed the Senate on February 8, 2006.
The President's FY 2007 Budget would reduce the National Guard by 17,000 troops below its current authorized end strength. The Pentagon also proposes to create only 28 brigade combat teams, six fewer than previously planned. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen estimates the proposal will reduce the Tennessee National Guard by 10% and cut as many as 1,000 Tennessee guard slots.
"We are asking the National Guard to shoulder a large share of the responsibilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, our Governors are relying on the Guard to respond to catastrophic events here at home. Passing this resolution will send a clear message to the Bush administration that it needs to consider the needs of the states before cutting this vital force," Ford said.
"The men and women of the National Guard, along with local first responders, are our first line of defense for protecting our homeland. At this unprecedented time in our nation's history, we face threats from unidentified enemies around the world and cannot afford to weaken our own defenses at home. Gov. Bredesen knows best what National Guard resources our state needs to protect its citizens," said Congressman John Tanner, who served in the Tennessee National Guard for 28 years and retired in 2000 at the rank of Colonel.
"If passed, this resolution will clearly send a message to the Administration that a majority of the American public opposes any reduction to our National Guard forces. Having witnessed the commendable actions of our Guard troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and here at home only strengthens my resolve in fighting for them," said Congressman Lincoln Davis.
"Our Guardsmen and women are already stretched to the breaking point as they fulfill their overseas commitments and their duty here at home during times of domestic crisis," Congressman Cooper said. "It is essential that we continue to make it possible for them to carry out these duties by including Congress and the Governors before any cuts to the Guard take place."
"States deserve a say in this process, said Congressman Gordon. "Governors depend on National Guard personnel and equipment during state emergencies. It's important that states have the capability to respond not only to national needs but also to state emergencies."
The delegation's letter follows:
February 14, 2006
The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House Majority Leader
H-232 Capitol H-107 Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515 Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Speaker Hastert and Leader Boehner:
We are writing to urge you to bring to the floor as soon as possible H. Res. 665, a resolution honoring the service of the National Guard and requesting that the Department of Defense consult with Congress and state governors prior to offering proposals to change the National Guard force structure.
As you know, recent reports indicate that the Department of Defense is proposing to cut the National Guard by 17,000 troops below its current authorized end strength. In addition, the Pentagon would create only 28 brigade combat teams, six fewer than initially planned.
The Pentagon's proposal to cut the National Guard ignores the fact that more than 40 percent of the forces mobilized in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom are members of the National Guard. With almost 140,000 American troops serving in Iraq and 19,000 American troops serving in Afghanistan, these cuts could not come at a more inopportune time.
A recent report commissioned by the Pentagon concludes that the Army risks catastrophic decline in recruitment and reenlistment as it adjusts to the demands of war. Coming on the heels of a year that saw the Army miss its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999, the report also echoes the statements of General Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told Congress last year that the troop deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan are increasingly straining the ability of the U.S. military to respond effectively to other threats.
At the same time, we rely on the National Guard to protect us here at home and to respond to catastrophic events at home, as they did so admirably in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The men and women of Tennessee's 118th Air Lift Wing in Nashville alone flew 100 missions to assist the Gulf Coast relief efforts. All told, the 118th flew 190 hours, delivering 175 tons of supplies and materiel and transporting 142 patients to safety. The men and women of the 118th Air Lift Wing were part of the more than 1,200 members of the Tennessee Air and Army National Guard who deployed to assist in recovery efforts.
Reducing this effective fighting force would not only hurt our nation's military operations abroad, it would also hurt our ability to recover from natural disasters and leave us vulnerable to terrorist attacks. We need to keep all resources available to be able to respond quickly and effectively when duty calls. To do anything less would be a disservice to the people of this nation and a disgrace to the men and women sworn to protect them.
We urge you to act promptly and we thank you for your consideration.