- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback yesterday disputed claims by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, that a deadly tornado in her state exposed holes in National Guard readiness caused by the Iraq war.

Mrs. Sebelius said Monday that Kansas is missing about half its National Guard trucks and many well-trained personnel that could have helped respond to last weekend’s tornado in Greensburg, Kan. The twister killed at least 10 persons and razed the farming town.

“The issue for the National Guard is the same wherever you go in the country. Stuff that we would have borrowed is gone. It’s gone across the country,” she said Monday.

Mr. Brownback said local officials and his state’s National Guard commander all told him they have the resources needed to respond.

“That’s what really got me, is her saying that,” Mr. Brownback said. “So I asked, privately and publicly, the adjutant general, ‘Do you have the equipment you need?’ ” he said. ” ‘Because if you don’t, we’re going to hit Fort Riley and McConnell [Air Force Base] and other places to make sure we have all the equipment we need to respond to disasters.’ Everybody there said, ‘No, we have the equipment we needed.’ ”

Mr. Brownback added: “I think what we need to do is to focus on what we need here now, and not draw a broader political question in. We’ve got a disaster, and we need to all pull together to get everything we need from the state and the federal for the local need.”

After visiting the town Monday, Mr. Brownback said he asked about resources because, “I think FEMA has a lot of proving to do after [Hurricane] Katrina.”

President Bush intends to visit Greensburg today.

As governor, Mrs. Sebelius has control over her state’s National Guard and has repeatedly raised concerns about shortages caused by the Iraq war.

She asked Mr. Bush about the shortages in person last year when he visited Topeka, Kan.

“He assured me that he had additional equipment in his budget a year ago. What the Defense Department said then, and continues to say, is that states will get about 90 percent of what they had,” Mrs. Sebelius said. “Meanwhile, it doesn’t get any better. I’m at a loss.”

Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state’s adjutant general, said the Kansas National Guard was equipped to about 40 percent of its necessary levels, down from the 60 percent it had at the start of the war. About 850 soldiers have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It just leaves you pretty tight,” he said. “We’re fine for now.”

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