National Guard 'Woefully Underequipped'

The always blunt-talking head of the National Guard told a Senate committee the Guard is "woefully underequipped" to meet homeland security needs.

"It bothers me that the Army, Marines are sending forces to fight, and at home the nation is watching 'American Idol,'" Lt. Gen. Steven Blum said yesterday in a frank testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Lt. Gen. Blum, the head of the Pentagon's National Guard Bureau, said 88 percent of the Army National Guard in the United States is not ready due to lack of equipment and training, and that $40 billion was urgently needed to provide guard troops at home with "meat and potatoes stuff," such as radios, trucks, humvees, night vision gears and medical supplies.

The lieutenant general told the senators the Guard is ready to fight overseas but has challenges at home because so much gear has been left behind in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

"You can't show up to put out a fire with only half the equipment because the house will burn down," Blum said.

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While the Guard is prepared for another Hurricane Katrina-like event, there could be serious problems if there are multiple domestic disasters. 

According to Blum, the best-equipped Guard is Ohio's National Guard, which has only 65 percent of its domestic equipment needs.  Many other Guards only have 30 to 40 percent of their equipment needs fulfilled. 

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