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Press Release of Senator Cantwell
Cantwell, Biden Announce Bill to Help National Guard Stay Equipped, Meet Security Needs
Washington National Guard Chief Joins Senators in Vancouver to Promote National Guard Readiness
Saturday, April 01,2006
VANCOUVER, WA – Saturday at the Vancouver Armory, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Joe Biden (D-DE) announced new legislation to address National Guard equipment shortfalls. Adjutant General Timothy Lowenberg of the Washington State National Guard joined the senators to discuss the legislation, which would mandate a system to track and help replace equipment left in the theater of operations by National Guard units.
“Our state’s 81st Heavy Brigade was told to leave hundreds of its Humvees and light trucks in Iraq,” said Cantwell. “How can we expect our National Guard to be one hundred percent ready when they’re losing so much of their equipment and the federal government has no plan to replace it? Our National Guard plays an indispensable role in national defense and emergency response. We need to make sure these brave men and women have the equipment and support they need.”
At the Pentagon’s direction, the Washington Army National Guard’s 81st Heavy Brigade Combat Team left approximately 1,400 items—including weapons, radios, and vehicles—worth more than $30 million in Iraq for other units to use. The loss of this equipment has hindered training capabilities and limited the National Guard’s ability to respond to potential civil emergencies and natural disasters. Cantwell’s legislation would require a system to track transferred equipment and mandate the development of plans to replace the equipment in question. The “National Guard Equipment Accountability Act” would require a Department of Defense report detailing all National Guard equipment diverted to other units as well as an equipment replacement plan. The report would have to be completed within 90 days of the equipment’s diversion.
Cantwell has long worked to ensure that all National Guard troops are well equipped and have adequate funding. In a letter to the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves last month, Cantwell asked for an examination of how present and proposed troop structures and equipment levels will allow the Guard to respond to current and foreseeable national security needs. The Commission, created by Congress, is charged with recommending needed changes to ensure that the Guard and Reserves are organized, trained, equipped, compensated, and supported to meet national security requirements.
There are approximately 30,000 National Guardsmen currently deployed overseas, including more than 500 from Washington state. Since September 11, 2001, more than 6,000 members of the Washington Army and Air Guard have been deployed around the world—all but 800 of them to Iraq. During the past four years, the Washington National Guard has aided federal military missions overseas, responded to local civil emergencies, and supported recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.