U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today questioned several Commanders of regional military commands on a series of issues related to equipment use. Her questions included whether Missouri National Guard equipment was multi-purpose enough to justify the cost, whether Boeing's C-17 was being overused as an abusive budgetary maneuver, and who would be responsible for ensuring the U.S. Armed Services would recover equipment purchased for use by contractors in Iraq.
With a local interest in mind, McCaskill expressed concern that the equipment acquired by the Missouri National Guard for their service in military conflicts could also be used in Missouri when faced with floods and ice storms. Understanding that there has been an increased demand on the National Guard as the emphasis over the past several years has evolved from a strategic role to an operational one, McCaskill suggested that while some equipment could fulfill dual purposes at home and aboard, strictly military related equipment would be costly and impractical in Missouri. She implied that there should be a balance of military equipment and cheaper equipment that can be used for disaster missions in the state.
"As we talk about the National Guard and equipment it seems to me that there is this rub between civilian needs of equipment and military needs," McCaskill said. "I'm worried that we're spending big, big money on humvees when a real good utility SUV for a fraction of the cost is what we should be buying."
General Victor Renuart, who in his role as Commander of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) oversees manning, equipping and training issues related to large numbers of National Guard and Reserve members, assured McCaskill that there is diligence paid at the highest levels to ensure the Guard and Reserve receive the types of equipment and vehicles needed for response to domestic emergencies.
McCaskill, who is known for watching out for typical budget maneuvers used to hide large spending allocations from the public eye, questioned the Commander of the US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) about what appeared to be an odd trend related to overuse of the C-17 military aircraft. Noting the absence of a request for additional C-17, she questioned General Duncan McNabb if the true motive was to neglect to include the cost of additional C-17's knowing that the need would be so severe, the additional aircraft would be supplied by Congress anyway as an "add-on".
"We're utilizing the C-17 at 159 percent; we're flying the wings off those things," McCaskill said. "Why are you all not asking for more, and could it be that you all are encouraging our bad habits? In terms of being parochial, if you don't ask for it, you all know we'll pile it on and put it in the budget anyway."
Additionally, McCaskill highlighted and questioned McNabb on the issue of so called "white property", which is government-owned heavy equipment and vehicles that have been purchased for contractors for their use in Iraq. McCaskill has repeatedly called for the Department of Defense to account for this equipment in its drawdown plans over the next 18 months, concerned that the government and taxpayers might lose millions of dollars of this gear to loss, fraud and waste