Time: Mon Dec 01 06:50:36 1997
From: Paul Andrew Mitchell [address in tool bar]
Subject: SLS: National Guard's New Role (fwd)
Bcc: sls

>From the Los Angeles Times:
>Monday, December 1, 1997 
>Experts Split Over New Role for National Guard 
>Military: Plan for force to counter chemical weapons 
>and other threats to U.S. is considered a bad fit by some.
>by PAUL RICHTER, Times Staff Writer
>WASHINGTON--A proposal to give the National Guard a broader
>role in defending an increasingly vulnerable U.S. homeland would
>provide a badly needed new mission for the organization, but it may fit
>poorly with the Guard's desires and capabilities, some defense analysts say. 
>In a report to be released today, a congressionally mandated panel has
>urged that the Guard take an expanded role in countering the threat of attack
>from chemical or biological weapons, along with other unconventional
>threats. The advisory group, called the National Defense Panel, contends
>that the military has not moved quickly enough to counter the new dangers
>from enemy nations and groups, and argues that the Guard is well-suited to
>help respond to such emergencies because of its routine contacts with local
>civilian agencies. 
>The proposal tracks with a Pentagon initiative, announced last week, to
>give the 400,000-member Guard new responsibilities to help lead the
>response to chemical or biological attacks. 
>Defense officials have sought a new role for an organization they believe
>to be underused but backed by too much grass-root political support to be
>eliminated. The Pentagon has been "looking desperately for missions for the
>National Guard," said one high-ranking defense official, adding that
>officials understand that "they won't go away." 
>Some analysts believe, however, that the Guard's training level and
>historic mission make it a poor choice for a job requiring quick reaction and
>highly specialized technical expertise. 
>"You're talking about handing them one of the most time-sensitive, least
>clear-cut threats out there," said Daniel Goure, a defense expert at the
>Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "They may be
>one of the worst choices for this," he said. 
>Moreover, Goure said, because their units might be called to active duty
>during a national emergency, many would be unavailable for such
>civil-defense responsibilities in time of war. 
>Guard members generally train one weekend a month and two weeks a
>year. Although they have a long tradition of helping local authorities with
>natural disasters, riots and similar emergencies, their first mission is to
>take part in war. 
>They lag behind active-duty Army units and the Marines in receiving
>training to defend against chemical and biological weapons. 
>One panel official, who asked to remain unidentified, acknowledged that
>the Guard does not have the technical expertise to train civilian agencies in
>countering such threats. 
>"We have to get them ready," he said, as other agencies also must learn
>how to deal with the various aspects of the new threat. 
>Any expansion of the National Guard's mission could have a significant
>impact in California. The Army National Guard has 17,000 members in
>California and a fiscal 1998 operations budget of $155 million. An additional
>4,900 Californians belong to the Air National Guard. 
>Cutbacks in overall defense spending have created myriad problems for
>the Guard in California and other states, making the new proposals
>potentially welcome. 
>But Lawrence Korb, who as a Pentagon official in the 1980s had
>authority over the Guard, speculated that the organization might not like an
>assignment if it conflicted with its war-waging mission. "They see their
>first role as helping fight wars," he said. 
>Richard N. Haas, a former Bush administration national security aide at
>Brookings Institution, agreed that there would probably be "a lot of
>resistance" from the Guard because the change would blur war and policing
>Korb and Haas, however, said they believe that the role could be a good
>fit for the organization. 
>Some Guard officials declined to comment, saying they would wait for the
>report to become public. 
>Although 95% of the National Guard's funding comes from the federal
>government, Guard units are subject to state authority and can be called into
>action to help in natural disasters and civil emergencies. 
>The National Defense Panel report recommends that the National Guard,
>"together with the Army Reserve, be prepared to train local authorities in
>chemical and biological weapons detection and decontamination, assist in
>casualty treatment and evacuation, quarantine if necessary affected areas and
>people, and assist in restoration of infrastructure and services." 
>But even as it calls for the Guard to develop what amounts to a new
>specialty, the report calls for a significant downsizing of the Guard. That
>recommendation will probably be well received at the Pentagon but resisted
>in Congress and among Guard officials. 
>The panel's proposal comes one week after Defense Secretary William
>S. Cohen, at an event to publicize a report on the spread of weapons of
>mass destruction, called for the Guard to broaden its role in responding to
>attacks by chemical and biological weapons. 
> Copyright Los Angeles Times 

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