Local News

Is the National Guard Stretched Too Thin?

Posted May 8, 2007 8:31 p.m. EDT
Updated May 8, 2007 8:56 p.m. EDT

— The number of National Guard members and equipment deployed overseas has some governors, including North Carolina's, concerned there is not enough support at home to deal with disasters if they strike.

"You don't have the equipment that you need to respond, and people are not as safe now as they were prior to Sep. 11 if they had to respond to a natural or manmade disaster," Gov. Mike Easley said.

Actually, Easley said, North Carolina is fortunate compared with states such as Kansas, which is reeling from a massive tornado that killed more than 10 people.

"We're now supplied with about half of what we need," Easley said, adding that is enough to tackle a hurricane's aftermath.

A pandemic could be a different story. Easley argues the federal government needs to work quicker to replace Guard equipment shipped into battle.

"We're never going to get it just right," said state Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake, who sees the National Guard performing a balancing act between state and country missions.

As a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, however, he also sees a slippery slope in strategy.

"We can't view them as just another source for continuous manpower for an ongoing war," Martin said. "We need to recognize they're part-time soldiers, and they're needed back in their states."

"You can't send 5,000 troops from North Carolina overseas, bring them back home and send 5,000 more over and expect them to be ready to respond immediately to a disaster," Easley said.

The governor has lobbied Congress, hoping to put more control over the Guard into state hands.

North Carolina National Guard leaders tell WRAL that they are well prepared for local disasters and that there are more Guard members at home than at any time during the past five years.