When Hurricane Katrina hammered New Orleans, President George W. Bush drew sharp criticism for the federal government's response. Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco took heat for the delayed activation of the National Guard. To avert similar problems with future disasters, the president wants authority to move guardsmen when he chooses.
"What this provision would do is basically encroach upon the governor's authority, which causes real concerns about, certainly, control and command of the National Guard in our state," said Bryan Beatty, North Carolina secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety.
Beatty said he believes wresting away Guard authority could have constitutional implications. The National Governors Association agrees with Beatty's assessment. In a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the organization strongly opposes the changes, which it sees as a threat to state's rights.
If a faster response is the goal, state leaders said, better planning, not a power grab, is the likely answer.
"This is something that needs to be done in consultation with the governors, not in a vacuum trying to make a quick fix to a problem that requires serious discussion," Beatty said.
The White House argues the proposed change of authority is not a power grab, but a way to cut red tape in moving guardsmen. Congress is now working on a compromise.
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