National Guard cuts
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[FEB. 10, 2006]
CHICAGO -- In response to recent reports that the
Pentagon will order 1,000 positions cut from the Illinois National
Guard, Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Thursday urged President Bush to
oppose the force reductions in order to maintain homeland security
and disaster preparedness at home. Last week, the governor joined
every other governor in the U.S. in voicing the same concerns to
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
"You have spoken often about the need to be vigilant both at home
and abroad in keeping the citizens of the United States safe from
human and natural threats," Blagojevich wrote in his letter. "As the
governor of the fifth-largest state in the union, I take that
responsibility very seriously and have worked hard to make sure
Illinois is prepared to respond quickly to acts of terror or natural
disaster. But our task of keeping people safe in Illinois becomes
immensely more difficult in the face of federal efforts to weaken
our Illinois National Guard."
The Pentagon has ordered the
Illinois National Guard to prepare plans to eliminate 1,000
positions -- more than one-tenth of the state's 9,600 positions. The
proposed Defense Department budget would fund 333,000 National Guard
members nationally instead of the 350,000 authorized. In addition,
the plan calls for consolidating the combat brigades from 34 to 28.
"Illinois' soldiers play a critical role in ensuring the safety
and security of our country," the governor continued in his letter.
"Right now, nearly 80 percent of Illinois National Guard members
have served or are currently mobilized in Iraq or Afghanistan. They
play a key role in domestic security as well. Many Illinois
Guardsmen were on the ground in Louisiana and Mississippi after
Hurricane Katrina. If a large-scale tragedy were to strike in
Illinois, the deployment of well-trained and experienced Guardsmen
would be a critical component of our response. These brave men and
women are demonstrating each day the need for a full National Guard
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The proposed National Guard force reductions come on top of
severe equipment shortages facing Illinois troops at home, as well
as the upcoming transfer of F-16 aircraft from the National Guard
base in Springfield.
In November, in the wake of reports that the National Guard
units' supplies were well below full strength, Blagojevich called on
President Bush to replace essential equipment needed to fulfill
emergency missions. A General Accounting Office report showed that,
on average, National Guard units have only 34 percent of the
equipment they need to be at full readiness, and that the Illinois
Army National Guard had less than 10 percent of its necessary medium
and heavy trucks and only 65 percent of its required light trucks.
In addition, the operational demands of the war have caused the
Illinois Army National Guard to leave more than 400 vehicles and
generators behind in Iraq, compounding significant, pre-existing
shortages that already existed with a lack of trucks, radios, night
vision devices and tactical generators.
While the Illinois National Guard is still able to meet its
operational requirements, equipment deficiencies are significantly
affecting the ability of soldiers to train and maintain proficiency.
The Department of Defense has indicated that it will replace
equipment losses but has not yet provided the Illinois National
Guard with any new equipment.
[News release from the governor's office]