Pressures on Guard Concern Governors

By ROBERT TANNER
The Associated Press
Sunday, February 25, 2007; 7:04 PM

WASHINGTON -- Governors concerned about the demands the war in Iraq is placing on their National Guard forces met with a top Guard official Sunday and said they were closely monitoring deployment of their troops, worn-out equipment and how ready they would be for domestic emergencies.

Governors also hoped to convince Congress to reverse a step taken last year in response to Hurricane Katrina that gave the president greater power to deploy troops for problems at home, a power previously reserved for the states' top leaders.

Several governors met privately on Sunday with Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

"There's a lot of concern about the resources already employed, manpower and equipment," said Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat. "How much equipment have we sent abroad, how much has returned, how much is usable?"

In Virginia, many of the 5,500 Guard members have already been deployed more than once since Sept. 11, 2001, said Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat. "Obviously, that's a problem."

But GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota said the administration has been listening to the governors' concerns, and has promised to better handle deployments and equipment usage so that states aren't left short-handed.

"We just want to make sure the words and the actions match up," Pawlenty said.

Blum, before closing doors for his meeting with governors, said that he came to assure them that he shared their concerns about equipment and would work with Pentagon leaders so governors' needs would be met.

"We have not delivered on equipment. We owe them better than that," he said.

Last year, governors unsuccessfully fought the change in federal law that gave President Bush the power to federalize the Guard without governors' consent. Historically, governors have maintained control in domestic emergencies, while the president's control over the Guard was reserved for overseas demands.

Now, state leaders hope to persuade congressional leaders to reverse the change.

"I have very strong concerns about how the federal government might abuse that authority," said Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat.

"Montana's constitution is very clear. We can't have folks come in who are armed," said Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D-Mont. "We're simply not going to accept it."

© 2007 The Associated Press