Tonight, the Senate unanimously took a key step toward elevating the Chief of the National Guard to membership in the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, putting the Guard on equal status as the four branches of the military.
"Since 9/11, the National Guard has undergone a major transformation and works today shoulder to shoulder with America's active duty military," said Nebraska's Senator Ben Nelson, who cosponsored the legislation to elevate the guard. "The Guard should be given a seat at the table with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to ensure its 500,000 members receive the training, resources and equipment they need to fulfill their unique state and federal national security responsibilities.
"This comes down to making sure the Guard has a seat at the table and an equal voice in the room when decisions are made that affect protecting us in our home towns and abroad," said Nelson.
Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, joined nearly 70 Senate colleagues in cosponsoring the National Guard Empowerment Act, which was included by unanimous consent tonight in the Defense Authorization bill the Senate hopes to complete work on this week. The Guard measure would elevate the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to membership on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Currently, the Joint Chiefs includes the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
For years, the National Guard served as a "strategic reserve" force to the active duty force. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Guard has become an "operational reserve" that has deployed in regular rotation with the active duty and reserve forces.
"The Guard is unique in its dual role to serve the nation's governors for state emergencies, and the President for military missions," Nelson said. "That dual role is best advocated by the Guard Chief."
Elevating the Guard to membership on the Joint Chiefs of Staff is supported by Nebraska's Adjutant General Judd Lyons and adjutants general nationwide.
In the Fiscal Year 2008 defense authorization bill, Nelson supported elevating the Chief of the National Guard from a three-star general to a four-star general, equal to the rank of the chiefs of the active duty military forces.