Obama Asks President to Ensure National Guard Has Resources Necessary to Respond to Domestic Emergencies
U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today sent the following letter to President Bush requesting that he ensure that the National Guard has the resources necessary to respond to domestic emergencies and disasters:
The text of the letter is below:
Dear President Bush:
I'm troubled by reports that our emergency response capabilities continue to be hampered because National Guard resources have been diverted overseas. The Guard provides our first defense against disasters that strike on our soil. In light of the tragic events in Greensburg, Kansas, I'm writing to ask you that the federal government ensure that the National Guard has the resources necessary to respond to disasters here at home.
In my home state of Illinois, the Air National Guard reports shortages of trucks, earth movers, and other equipment critical to emergency response. According to the Government Accountability Office, the Illinois National Guard only has 45.6% of its dual-use equipment on hand. That's under half of what we need to dam the Mississippi if it overflows. That's under half of what we need to respond to deadly tornadoes. That's under half of what we need to evacuate wounded civilians from an attack.
Our National Guard should never be overstretched to the point where we allow our homeland security and emergency response capabilities to erode. We must provide our troops with all of the resources they need to perform their missions overseas, but we must also ensure that civilians at home are protected from natural disasters and security threats.
Governor Sebelius was right to question the diversion of the Guard's resources and personnel overseas. There's no question that this has undercut our emergency preparedness and our homeland security. While the Emergency Management Assistance Compact allows states to cooperate in times of emergency, you know that during a disaster, time equals lives, and the extra time needed to mobilize outside assistance cannot compare with the effectiveness of having people and equipment positioned and ready to respond to a disaster. Your administration should make available all aid necessary to help the residents of Greensburg recover from the tragedy that leveled their homes. The National Governors Association has requested budget authority to reequip Army and Air National Guard units returning from overseas missions - and that authority should be granted.
We cannot afford to learn a lesson about unmet needs each time a disaster strikes. The National Guard is the essential mechanism through which states prepare for and respond to emergencies. If your administration chooses to divert state resources to assist the military overseas, this gap should be filled in order to protect Americans at home.