Senate Questions DoD Secretary Gates on Maryland National Guard Readiness

Governor O'Malley has expressed concern about the state's resources, including equipment and gear, in the event of a hurricane or natural disaster

WASHINGTON - At today's Defense Appropriations hearing, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) questioned Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace on funding gaps for the National Guard and domestic readiness. The hearing comes days after the National Guard prepared a report, at the Senator's request, on National Guard readiness. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has expressed concern about the state's resources, including equipment and gear, in the event of a hurricane or natural disaster. Copies of the report are available through the Governor's office.

"The National Capitol Region and Maryland face unique challenges - protecting our nation from potential attacks, while also protecting our communities from hurricanes and other natural disasters. What I am hearing about our state of readiness concerns me - serious equipment shortfalls, budget gaps. This is an issue for Maryland, and an issue for states across the country," said Senator Mikulski. "We need to know what you need, and what you are going to do to make sure we are not only ready to answer the call for combat readiness but also ready for disaster response here at home."

Nearly 1,300 Maryland Soldiers will be deployed to Iraq this summer. According to National Guard estimates, the Maryland Army National Guard has 50 percent of the total equipment they need, and 66 percent of the equipment needed for domestic homeland security.

The National Guard is funded as a national program, with state allocations coming from the Guard Bureau. Senator Mikulski pledged to fight to increase national funding for the Guard, in both the upcoming emergency supplemental and the fiscal year 2008 Defense spending bill. She asked Secretary Gates to amend the Department of Defense's 2008 request to add the $5.1 billion the Guard says it needs to fill their equipment shortfall for this year.

"Our military has, and needs to have, a culture of 'yes.' But when they're asked what they need - what they get from the Guard is: 'Oh, we can do it sir. We will make it work sir,'" said Senator Mikulski. "We need to hear truth to power. We need to know what they need to defend the homeland against hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters."

Mikulski urged Secretary Gates to meet with the National Governor's Association to hear firsthand what states need to prepare for emergencies at home while their troops and equipment are supporting the War in Iraq. She also recommended that Secretary Gates ask all of the nation's Adjutants General to prepare risk-based operational assessments of the needs and preparedness of their Guard units to respond to emergencies at home.

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