Senate Passes National Guard Empowerment
Legislation would add Guard officer to Joint Chiefs
WASHINGTON, Nov. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Guard community ― nearly 500,000 men and women in uniform strong plus hundreds of thousands of family members and retirees ― today is hailing Senate approval of legislation that would add a Guard voice to the nation's senior panel of military advisors.
The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., was added by voice vote Monday night to the Senate's version of the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill (S. 1867). The names of 70 senators were on the amendment as sponsors.
Among its provisions is language to give the Guard's senior officer, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The House approved similar language in May. This means the measure now only needs Senate approval of the defense authorization bill and final congressional consent of the comprehensive defense bill to be sent to President Barack Obama, who promised to add the Guard to the Joint Chiefs in his 2008 campaign.
"Last night brings us one step closer to the biggest legislative victory for the National Guard since the Dick Act of 1903 created the modern, dual-mission National Guard," said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of the National Guard Association of the United States. "But this is so much more than about giving the Guard a voice in final resource decisions, it's about the nation's defense and security.
"The primary role of the Joint Chiefs is to advise the president, the secretary of defense and the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security," he said. "Without the Guard as a statutory participant at the table, our civilian leaders don't have direct access to the Guard's domestic-response capabilities and expertise. In the post-9-11 world, it's a void that must be filled. And today, we are closer than ever to filling it.
"We have many in the Senate to thank, starting with Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Lindsey Graham, the co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, for spearheading the effort. We also thank Senator Carl Levin and Senator John McCain, the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for allowing the process to move forward so smoothly."
The NGB chief currently participates as an invited guest in some discussions with the Joint Chiefs. However, he is not a mandatory participant and is often excluded from meetings. Nor does he have the ability to nominate Guard officers for positions that require Senate confirmation.
The amendment passed last night would enable the NGB chief to sit with the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines ― none of whom have ever served in the Guard ― and provide the Guard, for the first time, permanent representation among the nation's senior military officers.
Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., and Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., co-sponsored the similar legislation in the House.
The proposal also has been endorsed by the nation's governors and several other associations, including the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by petitioning Congress for more resources. Today, 133 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.
SOURCE National Guard Association of the U.S.