- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Army National Guard units are short of equipment on the home front partly because they are told to leave vital equipment such as armored Humvees in Iraq for replacement troops, according to a report released yesterday.

As of June, Army National Guard units had left overseas more than 64,000 pieces of equipment worth more than $1.2 billion, and more than half cannot be accounted for by the Army, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office.

On average, National Guard units at home have only 34 percent of their essential war-fighting equipment, said the report released at a hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform.

“National Guard officials believe that the National Guard’s response to Hurricane Katrina was more complicated because significant quantities of critical equipment such as satellite communications equipment, radios, trucks, helicopters, and night-vision goggles were deployed to Iraq,” the report said.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, whose state has 3,200 troops in Iraq — the highest per capita in the nation — said in prepared testimony that Pennsylvania troops have had to leave behind a variety of equipment, ranging from seven helicopters in Afghanistan to 59 tractors and 118 trailers in Iraq.

Replacement of the equipment has been slow, and that sent in its place is not the same quality or quantity, Mr. Rendell said.

“Once these units return, it’s important that they have the equipment to train and perform their vital military missions,” said Mr. Rendell, a Democrat. “The lack of equipment has not yet resulted in an inability to respond … but it does not take much imagination to foresee a contingency where there could be negative impacts.”

In addition to equipment left overseas, more than 101,000 pieces of equipment from units on the home front have been transferred to deploying units, the report said.

The GAO said the National Guard is working on an old business model in which it only deployed in the later stages of a major conflict if needed. As a result, Guard units on average are only provided 65 percent to 74 percent of the people and 65 percent to 79 percent of the equipment needed to conduct their wartime duties, the report said.


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