Casey troubled by Guard report

By Steve Goldstein, Philadelphia Inquirer

WASHINGTON - Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) yesterday said a report detailing a lack of equipment and funding for the National Guard raised questions of "national security" and doubts about states' ability to respond to natural disasters and emergencies.

On Thursday, the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves found that the units were left out of important planning for national emergencies and that there was a significant lack of communication between Reserve officials and other military leaders and the Department of Homeland Security.

"Every couple of months is a major - or so it seems - natural disaster that our state has to respond to," Casey said at a news conference. "We can't do that if our Guard is stretched too thin... because the federal government dropped the ball."

The freshman senator noted that the state called on the Guard to help with "thousands of people stranded on our interstate highways" during recent snow and ice storms.

Casey appeared at the news conference with Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D., Vt.), chairman of the National Guard Caucus, who criticized the panel's report for not going far enough, and for opposing giving the Guard a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"If we're going to use the National Guard in the war in Iraq or Afghanistan," they should have a seat at the table and be able to speak to the Joint Chiefs, Leahy said.