SACRAMENTO, CA. The California National Guard’s resources have been drained by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The equipment otherwise utilized to protect the border with Mexico, may instead be used to detect the Taliban and Iraqi insurgents.
“I think it is not fair to the state for the federal government to go into a war situation and then to take from us the equipment,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger during his visit to the White House on Monday, Feb. 25. “Every time our National Guards leave, they take with them equipment but they don’t bring it back. So there’s only so long they can do that.”
Up to 60 percent of the California National Guard’s equipment is out of the state. Gov. Schwarzenegger has every right to feel angry as the vehicles and tools worth over one billion dollars and partially sponsored by his office are now used in other states and countries. Out of 20,000 California Guardsmen, around 2,500 serve overseas, mostly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The lack of a well-trained staff and adequate resources was most visible last fall when massive fires were scorching California. Seven counties – the total area of 470 square miles – were directly affected by the disaster; nine people perished together with some 1,500 buildings. Although the state agencies responded immediately, many felt the rescue mission was inadequate due to a manpower shortage.
“We are simply not as well prepared as we used to be to react to these kinds of disasters because the forces we used to have here are in Iraq, and some of their equipment is too,” political science professor Donald Kettl of the University of Pennsylvania told the BBC shortly after the fires were contained.
Very little has been done since then. Part of the problem is the sluggishness of the state authorities. The needs of the California National Guard simply pale in comparison with other state budget positions, such as health care, education, and other expenses. Illegal immigrants who flood California, for example, siphon around $10.5 billion a year from the state budget.
The responsibility is also shared by the federal government that commands the National Guard. In other words, Gov. Schwarzenegger may not like that his troops and equipment are sent to Iraq, but he must oblige orders from Washington.
“A governor cannot withhold consent with regard to active duty outside the United States because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such duty,” reads the Montgomery Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, upheld by the Supreme Court in 1990.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the California National Guard operates on a shoestring. From 39 diesel generators that are required, the state has none. Similar is the situation with important positioning devices; in 2007 the California National Guard didn’t have a single one from the advised number of 1,400.
Being the richest state, California is also one of the biggest contributors of military equipment to overseas missions. In 2007, over 200 military vehicles with Californian plates were used in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries. The federal government claims that since it funds almost the entire budget of the National Guard, it can deploy the Guard’s resources wherever it finds it necessary.
“They talked about the difficulty, that it would take a few years again to provide all this equipment,” Gov. Schwarzenegger complained about Washington’s policies.