WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The U.S. Senate Monday night 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. Their bill, which has 71 Senate cosponsors, was added by voice vote 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; reestablish 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.
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."
SOURCE Office of U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy