September 25, 2006
Critical Funds Included In 2007 Defense Spending Bill
U.S. Sens. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus, announced Monday that almost $3 billion in the now-completed 2007 defense spending bill will be set aside for the National Guard to help replenish the Guard's equipment stocks. The National Guard leadership has recently reported that the Guard's equipment inventory is dangerously low, threatening the force's continued military readiness and its ability to respond to domestic emergencies. The allocation will take a significant step toward maintaining and rebuilding a force that has been severely diminished since the war on global terror was initiated.
The funds were secured during conference committee negotiations on the Fiscal Year 2007 Defense Appropriations Bill. At least $2.4 billion flows directly from an amendment that Bond and Leahy included during Senate consideration of the spending bill in July. The funds will be set aside for the Army Guard and Army Reserve to rebuild or replace its aging and depleted equipment stocks. An additional $500 million was secured during the negotiations to allow the Guard to purchase new vehicles, miscellaneous gear and communications systems that are essential for homeland security purposes. The defense appropriations bill also includes $75 million for the Army Guard and $75 million for the Air Guard to purchase high priority items. The latest action improves upon previous support Leahy and Bond provided the National Guard by successfully securing $1 billion in last year's FY06 defense spending bill.
The bill includes a provision requiring the Pentagon to provide Congress with a detailed accounting of the funding spent to procure Guard equipment across the Defense Department's entire budget. In previous years, funding allocated by the Congress for the Guard has been impeded from reaching the intended accounts by the Pentagon bureaucracy and in some cases siphoned to the other accounts not specifically directed by the Congress. Both Bond and Leahy have indicated that this practice must stop.
In addition to heading the Senate's National Guard Caucus, Bond and Leahy also are senior members of the Senate's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which handles the Senate's work in drafting the annual defense budget bill. They also were conferees on the bill.
"It is vital that Congress not allow the Guard's equipment inventories to become depleted to the point where the military readiness and homeland security responsibilities of the National Guard are compromised," said Senator Bond. "It is evident that the National Guard will continue to be called upon to support the nation's domestic and overseas military obligations and it is our responsibility to ensure the Guard is properly equipped before it responds to the next emergency."
"This much needed infusion of resources to resupply the National Guard hopefully represents what will be a lasting change in how we address the Guard's equipment needs," said Leahy. "For too long, the Pentagon has short-changed the National Guard, while depending on its units to serve vital missions both abroad and here at home. This defense bill will bring real dollars and a real accounting to the National Guard, helping to ensure that the Guard has what it needs to carry out its diverse missions."
Congress is expected to pass the Fiscal Year 2007 Appropriations Bill this week and the President is expected to sign it. In separate legislation, Bond and Leahy are continuing to fight for their "Guard Empowerment" provisions to give the Guard more muscle within the Pentagon, and they also continue to oppose revisions to the Insurrection Act that would make it easier for Presidents to declare martial law. Those initiatives are under consideration under a separate measure, the annual Defense Authorization Bill, which may be considered this week.