WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon is not adequately equipping the National Guard and has not adapted to the increasingly important security role it plays in the post-September 11 environment, an independent commission said in a report to Congress on Thursday.
The report said the global war on terrorism had placed increased demands for the National Guard to provide forces for both overseas and domestic missions, but added that the Defense Department, or DOD, had been slow to adapt to the change.
“DOD’s failure to appropriately consider National Guard needs and funding requirements has produced a National Guard that is not fully ready to meet current and emerging missions,” the commission concluded.
Among its findings, the 13-member panel said the Defense Department was not adequately equipping the Guard for its domestic missions.
The National Guard’s 458,000 citizen-soldiers have a dual mandate to protect the United States both at home and abroad.
Nearly 90 percent of Guard units in the United States are rated “not ready,” partly because of equipment shortages, according to Guard data and the findings of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, The Washington Post reported.
National Guard units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been required to leave large quantities of gear behind when they return home, the newspaper said.
Ten percent of the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq are Guard members.
Since the September 11 attacks, the National Guard has assumed increased responsibilities for homeland security and the trend was expected to continue in the future, the commission said.
It said the long-term viability for both retention and recruiting were “highly problematic” despite an upturn in recruiting for fiscal year 2006.
The commission was established by Congress to make recommendations for ensuring that Guard units are trained and equipped to meet modern national security needs.
The commission recommended making the head of the National Guard a senior advisor to the chairman of the U.S. Military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, but not a member of panel.
The leader of the U.S. Senate’s National Guard Caucus said the commission’s report acknowledged structural problems but fell short on recommendations for improving the Guard’s standing within the Pentagon.
“The Guard is a 21st century organization, stuck in a 19th century bureaucracy. The Guard deserves a place at the table when decisions... are made that affect its readiness, its missions and its effectiveness,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said in a statement.
The commission’s final report is due to Congress and the Pentagon by January 31, 2008.