Legislation would add Guard officer to Joint Chiefs
WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Sixty-eight senators have now declared their support for legislation that would give the National Guard a permanent, unfiltered voice at the Pentagon.
The latest effort in the Senate to further empower the nation's citizen-soldiers began in May when Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced the National Guard Empowerment and State-National Defense Integration Act of 2011 (S. 1025). Sixty-four senators have since signed on as co-sponsors.
Among the bill's 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.
Two more senators ― Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb.― have said they will join their 66 colleagues in supporting a Guard "seat at the table" when provisions of S. 1025 are added as amendments to the fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill later this year.
The House approved similar language in May, meaning it now only needs Senate approval to be sent to President Barack Obama, who promised to add the Guard to the Joint Chiefs in his 2008 campaign booklet, The Blueprint for Change: Barack Obama's Plan for America.
"Our elected officials in Washington are sending a clear message," 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 won't always have unfiltered information on Guard capabilities and cost-effectiveness. Nor will they have direct access to the Guard's domestic-response expertise. Twenty years ago, this was nice-to-know information. Today, it's critical."
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.
S. 1025 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.
In addition to overall numbers, adding the Guard to the Joint Chiefs enjoys wide bi-partisan and geographic support in the Senate. Forty-four Democrats, 23 Republicans and one Independent support the effort. And 42 states have at least one senator formally backing it.
Plus, the nation's governors and several other associations, including the Veterans of Foreign War, have endorsed a Guard seat at the table.
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.