The Corner

Calling Jim Robbins

What should we make of this? From USA Today:

If it’s going to protect the USA while also fighting overseas, the Guard needs better equipment, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, head of the National Guard Bureau, said in an interview with USA TODAY.

“We were underequipped,” Blum said. “We don’t need tanks and attack helicopters and artillery, but we must have state-of-the-art radios and communications.”

Much of the Guard’s best communications equipment was being used by troops fighting in Iraq and wasn’t available for units helping Gulf Coast states recover from the hurricane, Blum said.

Many Guard military police in New Orleans were patrolling with obsolete radios as they sought to restore order, he said. That, combined with a crippled civilian communications network, made it harder for them to communicate. Many also lacked night-vision goggles….

Last week, Sens. Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wrote President Bush asking for $1.3 billion to buy new equipment for the Guard.

Long-standing shortages and the stress of fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left the Guard with “a perilously low level of equipment available for natural disasters,” the senators wrote.

Only 34% of the Guard’s equipment is available for use in the USA, the letter said, with the worst shortages in trucks, night-vision goggles, engineering equipment and communications gear. The Guard has historically used hand-me-down equipment from the active-duty military. For example, the Army Guard is using Vietnam-era radios while it needs 37,000 newer radios, according to a recent Guard budget briefing paper posted on its website…

Rich Lowry — Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via email: 

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