Sequestration Threatens National Guard
“The only thing worse than the flawed legislative strategy of sequestration would be its actual implementation,” said Paul McHale, former assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense. “It is in my view, a breach of trust to put the Department of Defense on automatic pilot. Across the board cuts in DoD funding would severely jeopardize the capabilities of our active force, send a message of defense vulnerabilities to our adversaries and irresponsibly weaken the National Guard in its mission to protect the U.S. homeland.”
Speaking at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, McHale, along with retired Army Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, former deputy commander of U.S. Northern Command, agreed that the cuts would devastate the already bare-boned National Guard.
Sequestration, which aims to cut $500 billion in the federal budget over the next 10 years, could result in the loss of of tens of thousands of jobs within the National Guard, they said.
Blum likened the potential cuts to a man looking to lose a few pounds — instead of doing it in a healthy way, he just lobs off his own head to get the number down. In the same way, he said, the Pentagon and Defense Department will be forced to slash funds irresponsibly should sequestration come in January.
“This is not a boogeyman that does not exist,” said Blum. “This is a reality we are facing.”
McHale said making hard choices is the “antithesis” of sequestration, and that the Pentagon would be forced to make knee-jerk decisions that could adversely impact the future of the National Guard.
The National Guard can function in three different ways: in a state function where its is under state law, controlled by a governor and funded by the state; under federal status, where it reports to the president and is funded by the Defense Department; and under Title 32, where the funding comes from the Defense Department, but it is under the control of governors.
For states, Title 32 is by far the preferred method, giving them control of the Guard yet sending the tab to Washington. But if sequestration comes to pass, Title 32 funding could be severely cut.
McHale and Blum both agreed that this would hurt the National Guard in its ability to help during crises. National Guard members are not only called away to help internationally, but also are pivotal in maintaining infrastructure and helping during domestic disasters. Some units even help man fire stations.
During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as much as 70 percent of the military response came from the National Guard, said McHale.
Even if sequestration does spare personnel, it will severely cut into training, the operations and maintenance of equipment and result in an under-equipped National Guard, the two agreed.
McHale called sequestration an “abdication of leadership and ultimately democracy.”
“The National Guard now plays a vitality important role in terms of our domestic security,” said McHale, and cuts to their already tight budget will only hurt Americans.
“When you call out the Guard, you do in fact call out America,” said Blum.
Photo Credit: National Guard