National Guard officers from across the country have joined with the National Governor’s Association (NGA) to push for quick Senate approval of a bill that would give the nation’s 470,000 citizen soldiers a seat at the table with the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Legislation has already passed the House that would make the head of the National Guard Bureau a member of the joint chiefs. The Senate is considering a similar bill introduced by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C..
On Sunday, the NGA sent a letter to Leahy and Graham calling their bill an important step “in ensuring that the Guard is properly represented within the Department of Defense.”
The letter was signed by Wyoming Republican Gov. Matthew Mead and Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, co-chairs of the NGA’s committee on homeland security and public safety.
The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) said in a statement that the letter, along with the endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, would help build momentum to move the measure out of committee and onto the floor for a vote.
Nearly 50 senators have agreed to either co-sponsor or support the bill, according to NGAUS officials, but 60 votes are needed for passage.
“The House, half the Senate and counting, the VFW, and now the nation’s governors,” observed retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of NGAUS. “This bill has real momentum because so many people realize that it’s not just that the Guard needs a seat at the table, America needs the Guard at the table.”
Guard Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, who chairs the NGAUS board of retired and active duty guard officers, said it’s important to have the state guard units represented on the joint chiefs for one reason: Because they have limited experience dealing with domestic disaster response or homeland security issues.
“As a member of the Joint Chiefs, the NGB chief would fill this void,” he said.
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