States Won't Be Left Short of Guard Assets, General Vows
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 19, 2005 While some people may worry that overseas deployments are detracting from the National Guard's missions at home, the chief of the National Guard Bureau vowed he won't leave state governors short of assets to carry out their state missions.
State governors "hold me accountable to make sure they have the right kind of units and the right kinds of capabilities that are able to respond if the governors call them out to forest fires or hurricanes or critical infrastructure protection or enhanced security measures," Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum said during a joint interview here with The Pentagon Channel and the American Forces Press Service.
"And so in the Defense Department we've come up with an arrangement where (governors) have at all times at least 50 percent of their joint capabilities available (to them)," Blum said. Most states actually have 75 percent of their Guard forces at home, and no state has less than half its Guard assets, he said.
"There is not a state or territory that its governor does not have the Army or Air National Guard forces and equipment it needs to do its homeland defense or its support to homeland security mission," he said.
Blum's comments came as the National Governors Association was wrapping up its summer gathering in Des Moines, Iowa. Some governors there expressed concern that extended deployments could deplete them of a ready force capable of responding to state natural disasters or other domestic emergencies.
Honoring DoD's 50 percent commitment to governors requires a bit of a juggling act, particularly with the National Guard assuming a larger role in the global war on terror, the general acknowledged. By the month's end, the Army Guard will make up more than 50 percent of the Army's combat force in Iraq, with eight combat brigades on the ground, Blum said. In addition, defense officials said the Air National Guard represents about 12 percent of the Air Force in the Central Command area of operations.
At the same time, Blum said the National Guard continues to support the overseas mission. "I am able to provide combatant commanders around the world an average of about 100,000 soldiers and airmen on any given day," Blum said.
The Guard's dual missions - federal and state - actually "complement one another very well," the general said.
Traditional state missions the National Guard carries out -- supporting state governors during emergencies such as hurricanes, wildfires and flood, among them -- prepare Guard members for the missions they carry out overseas, he said.
"They gain a lot of experience and expertise with interagency and intergovernmental organizations," during state missions, he said. This prepares them to operate with both U.S. government and nongovernmental organizations, as well as coalition partners in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
"The skill sets they use in both places, while not identical, are very complementary," the general said.