WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Senate has approved legislation by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to give the National Guard its first seat on the nation's highest military council, the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The bill, which has 71 Senate cosponsors, was added by voice vote Monday night as an amendment to the annual Defense Authorization Bill.
Leahy and Graham are the co-chairs of the Senate's 84-member National Guard Caucus. Their National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act (S.1025) – also known as "Guard Empowerment II" -- is the latest in a series of successful efforts led by the Guard Caucus over the last six years to give the Guard a more meaningful voice in Pentagon circles where key policy and budget decisions are made that affect the Guard. Among other changes, the Leahy-Graham bill would make the Chief of the National Guard Bureau a permanent member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; re-establish the position of the Vice Chief of the Guard Bureau at the three-star level; enhance the Guard's representation at the senior levels of U.S. Northern Command; and help clarify the disaster response command relationship among the Guard and the U.S. military commands. The legislation is endorsed by the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the National Governors Association, the National Guard Association of the United States, the Adjutants General Association of the United States, and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States.
Similar legislation has been approved by the House of Representatives, giving the reforms an "excellent" chance of becoming law by the end of the year, according to Leahy and Graham.
Leahy said, "These reforms will bolster our national security and facilitate the Guard's enhanced role in our national defense. At home and abroad, we are asking the Guard to take on more responsibilities than ever. The Guard has grown to become a front-line, 21st Century force, but it is trapped in a 20th Century Pentagon bureaucracy. This will help clear away those cobwebs and give the Guard a voice in the Pentagon that befits the scale of its missions here and overseas."
Graham said, "I'm very pleased the Senate has voted to allow the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to become a statutory member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Since 9/11, the National Guard and Reserves have done tremendous work at home and abroad in defense our nation. They have earned a seat at the table where our most important military decisions are made. This is a long-overdue recognition and fitting tribute for our citizen-soldiers."
Major General Michael D. Dubie, head of the Adjutant Generals Association of the United States and Vermont's adjutant general, said, "This is a strong and powerful statement that leaves no question about the Guard's future role in the defense of America. In this era of persistent and uncertain conflict, the National Guard's role has expanded from one of a strategic reserve to an operational force and changed every aspect of what it means to be a member of the Guard. Representation on the Joint Chiefs of Staff ensures that both the nation's civilian and military leadership will receive the very best advice on matters relating to the National Guard serving overseas and here at home."
General Craig McKinley, USAF, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, "We greatly admire and appreciate the outstanding leadership and support that Senators Leahy and Graham continue to provide on behalf of the more than 460,000 Soldiers and Airmen of the National Guard. We also greatly appreciate the tremendous work of the entire Senate, and particularly the Armed Services Committee under the leadership of Senators Levin and McCain, in providing for all service members and their families."
Major General Gus L. Hargett Jr. (ret.), president of the National Guard Association of the United States, said, "The entire Guard community is indebted to Senator Leahy and Senator Graham for bringing us one major step closer to the biggest legislative victory for the National Guard since the Militia Act of 1903 created the modern, dual-mission National Guard. But this is so much more than about giving the Guard a voice at the Pentagon, it's about adding the Guard's unique domestic-response expertise to the nation's highest military council."
SOURCE Office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy