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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I rise today in support of the Leahy-Graham amendment which hopefully we will vote on here soon.

The amendment is pretty simple. It says the Congress has decided, in its wisdom, to make the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In 1947, we reorganized our Defense Department and created the modern Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs, with a chairman, which would provide military advice to the Commander in Chief, the President of the United States. The Chairman is the person responsible for advising the President, but the Joint Chiefs are made up of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. With this legislation, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau will become a member--nothing more, nothing less. It doesn't provide any power to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau in terms of commanding troops. It doesn't interfere in the relationship between the active forces, the Guard, or the Reserves. It simply states that now is the time for the National Guard, the citizen soldier, to have a voice on the Joint Chiefs.

The reason I believe it is important is after 9/11, everything about the National Guard and our country's needs has changed. The National Guard is the front-line soldier/airman when it comes to natural disasters. When our homeland is hit by natural disaster, they can be called up federally or at the State level they provide assistance to our citizens. We have seen the effects of natural disasters. There can be a lot of loss of life and property. That is a unique duty. In the last hurricane that came

through in the Northeast, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau said that no one from the White House called him, other than a mid-level operative, and he never interacted with the Joint Chiefs at all about the needs and capability of the Guard.

General Dempsey, the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has invited General McKinley, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, to be an ad hoc member. That is great. But I asked him, if he somehow fell out of favor, could you kick him out of the room, and the answer is, Yes.

I think Congress needs to make a decision about the role of the citizen soldier. If you believe, as I do, that they are indispensable on fighting the war on terror, they have some leading missions when it comes to homeland security post-9/11, their voice needs to be heard. The active-duty forces need to have the Chief of the National Guard Bureau in that room advising the about the capability and readiness of the National Guard, their dual-status capabilities, what they can do at the State level and the Federal level.
I guess I can boil it down to this. To me, it was a national shame and disgrace to deploy National Guard troops after 9/11 without adequate body armor or equipment, and this will make it very hard for that to happen again because the Chief of the National Guard Bureau will be in the room with his counterparts talking about the needs of this force. Hopefully, the coordination and collaboration through this new change will allow the force to be ready, deployable, and we will never go back to that time period in our history where the Guard and Reserve were called up without adequate equipment, body armor, ready to go to war. This is a change that I think makes sense post-9/11. It doesn't interfere with the day-to-day operations of the military. It doesn't confer any power on the National Guard they don't already have. It is just one more voice at the table at a time when I think that voice needs to be heard. The world has changed. Our Nation's defense needs have changed post-9/11.

We have 67 cosponsors, and I am very proud of the fact that this is one of the most bipartisan pieces of legislation I have ever been involved with. Senator Leahy has been a great partner, my cochairman of the Guard caucus, and I look forward to having the vote.

Senators McCain and Levin have done a great job managing this bill. If you have amendments, please work with these two gentlemen. We don't want this Congress to go down in history as being the first Congress in 51 years that could not pass a Defense authorization bill. We have enough things going against us already as a Congress. We don't want to add that to the list. So Senator Leahy and myself are willing to do this by voice vote, whatever the body wishes.

Senator Reed, my good friend from Rhode Island, has a second-degree amendment that basically takes our legislation and defeats the purpose of it. Senator Webb has a second-degree amendment that would substitute a membership and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs with a reporting requirement that, quite frankly, misses the mark. Both are fine men.

Senator Webb argued years ago that the Marine Corps needs to be a member of the Joint Chiefs, and everybody thought the Navy would have two votes and they fought passionately against it, and it has worked out pretty well. So all the problems with making the Marine Corps a member of the Joint Chiefs haven't panned out. Goldwater-Nichols was fought by everybody except the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs when it was first introduced. So change comes hard to the Pentagon.

This is a change that I think makes common sense. I would say, after 9/11, our citizen soldiers deserve this recognition. This would be a great step forward in making sure they are integrated and they never go to war again unless they are prepared to go. Having that voice day in and day out in the tank I think will do everybody a lot of good. So I hope we can vote on this soon. I appreciate Senators McCain and Levin's leadership on this bill. I think we have a good bill for our men and women in uniform, and I look forward to bringing this to the floor for a vote.

To my colleagues who want to amend the bill, I appreciate the differences that we have but I think the time has come for the National Guard to be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with a full voice and ability to be heard as they have never been heard before. The reason they need to be heard unlike any other time is that we depend on them unlike any other time, except maybe the first engagement. When you look at who has been around the longest, the first shot fired in creating this Nation was fired by the citizen soldier. Two hundred-something years later, let's make sure that they are integrated into our defense infrastructure at the highest levels, because their voice needs to be heard.

I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

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