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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I want to thank both Senators McCain and Levin for organizing this debate on this amendment in a way that maybe we can get closure on this amendment tonight. Both our ranking member and the chairman have been very helpful in pushing an amendment forward where we have 71 cosponsors.
To Senator Leahy, I want to say it has been a real privilege and joy working with you on this. We had 71 Members of the Senate sign onto the legislation, and it is simple. It says the Chief of the National Guard Bureau will now be a member of the Joint Chiefs. What does that mean in the real world? It means the citizen soldier's voice will be heard at the highest levels of our government.
After 1947, we reorganized the Defense Department. It became the modern Defense Department with the Joint Chiefs, where we have representatives from the Marine Corps, the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy, and now the citizen soldier. Why is that important? After 9/11, the Guard's role in defending this Nation changed substantially. The Guard and Reserves--but particularly the Guard, on the front lines of homeland security defense--have dual missions. They are the first to answer a natural disaster that hits America in uniform. They are the front-line troops. They have been integrated into the Army and Air Force in a fashion where they were deployed constantly to war zones.
The citizen soldier fired the first shot to create this Republic, and now is the time to recognize the role they play post 9/11. The real reason we want this is because we want a line of communication that is uninterrupted. We want to make sure the Guard and Reserve component, but through the Guard particularly, are recognized as an integral part of our national security, State and Federal.
The idea is that in the next war a Guard unit from Vermont, South Carolina, Connecticut--you name the State--would go to war without body armor to keep people safe, without the equipment they need to fight in the war is less likely to happen if we have the Chief of the National Guard Bureau in the tank with his colleagues talking about the needs of the National Guard. This doesn't change the legal structure. It doesn't provide command authority to the National Guard Chief. It simply puts him or her in the room, giving voice to the citizen soldier at a time we need it.
I cannot thank Senator Leahy enough, and all those at the National Guard associations throughout the country, who called their Congressmen and their Senators. This bill passed the House, and now it will be adopted, hopefully by voice vote.
I can tell you in the world in which we live, in the 21st century, having the guardsman's voice inside the Joint Chiefs is going to make us a safer Nation. It is a recognition and honor well deserved, long overdue, and I want to thank all my colleagues who have made this possible.
And to the managers of this bill--the chairman and the ranking member--I want to thank you for accommodating us.
To all my colleagues, come down here and work with Senators McCain and Levin on your amendments. Because we don't want to be the Congress for the first time in 51 years that failed to pass the Defense authorization bill.
With that, I yield.
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