COOPER URGES RUMSFELD TO KEEP NATIONAL GUARD AT CURRENT LEVEL
WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper has urged Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld not to reduce the size of the National Guard, following recent reports that the Department of Defense is considering cuts in the coming years.
Cooper cautioned Rumsfeld regarding the possible cuts in a letter sent to the Secretary this week. In addition to Cooper, the letter was signed by all members of the Tennessee delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.
"At a time when Guardsmen and women are stretched to the breaking point, reducing the size of the force could be a grave mistake," Cooper's letter stated. "In addition to the commitments overseas, we expect the National Guard to respond quickly to domestic disasters, a vital tool State Governors have in the aftermath of localized crises. Any reduction in the size of our National Guard, while they remain engaged in combat, reconstruction, and domestic crisis response, risks lower morale, and increased hardship for our brave men and women in uniform."
Cooper's letter pointed out that cuts to the Guard are of particular concern to the people of Tennessee. "The 278th Regimental Combat Team recently rotated back from Iraq having performed combat and stability operations side by side with active duty forces only to discover they may be eliminated."
In addition, Tennessee has already seen significant cuts to the Guard ranks.
"Coming on the heels of the latest BRAC decision to remove C-130 transport planes from the 118th Tennessee Air National Guard, Tennessee has already gone from 17,000 Guardsmen and women to 13,500 in the last ten years," the letter stated. "Not only are these soldiers needed to fight in wars abroad, they are soldiers and airmen who were some of the first to land in Louisiana after Katrina, and who could be called upon to defend such critical facilities as Oak Ridge National Laboratories for the purposes of homeland security."
According to Cooper, the presence of the Guard in towns and cities across the country is a vital part of our national defense strategy. "To erode this base is to risk losing not only the critical skills necessary to fight a global war on terror, but the support of the American people."