U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) Monday announced they now have 61 Senate cosponsors of their latest "Guard Empowerment" effort, the National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act of 2011 (S.1025), which Leahy and Graham introduced in May.
The legislation -- known as Guard Empowerment II -- builds on reforms made in 2008 by giving the Guard and Reserve a seat at the Pentagon's budget and policymaking tables and updating jurisdictional and operational lines of authority. Among other changes, the bill would make the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a permanent member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; reestablish the position of the Vice Chief of the Guard Bureau at the three-star level; enhance the Guard's representation at the senior levels of U.S. Northern Command; and help clarify the disaster response command relationship among the Guard and the U.S. military commands. The legislation is endorsed by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the National Governors Association, the National Guard Association of the United States, the Adjutants General Association of the United States, and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.
Leahy said, "Today, at home and abroad, we are asking the Guard to take on more responsibilities than ever. The Guard has grown to become a front-line, 21st Century force, but it is trapped in a 20th Century Pentagon bureaucracy. We need to clear away those cobwebs and give the Guard a voice in the Pentagon that is commensurate to the scale of its missions here and overseas."
Graham said, "Guardsmen and Reservists are citizen-soldiers. During the War on Terror, they have been called up to duty, taken away from their work and families, and sent to far-away lands for long tours in protection of our nation. We need to ensure the Guard and Reserves have a seat at the table when the important decisions affecting our national security are made."
Leahy and Graham co-chair the Senate National Guard Caucus, the Senate's largest caucus and one of its most active on matters of defense and national security. Having reached the critical 60-vote threshold, both senators expect that Empowerment II will receive consideration as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. In addition to Leahy and Graham, the senators who have cosponsored the bill so far are Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Thomas Carper (D-Del.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Daniel Coats (R-Ind.), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.V.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)*, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.)*, David Vitter (R-La.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
*These senators have been added as cosponsors of S.1025 as of October 3, 2011, but will not appear in the Congressional Record until October 4, 2011.