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Using National Guard to Debate U.S. Policies

July 19, 1986

I strongly support those governors, legislators and citizens who feel as I do that to restrict the use of this state's military forces in support of federally mandated military operations is a most unwise method of making a point in a foreign policy debate.

I commanded the National Guard of this state for nearly eight years, from 1975 through 1982 and authorized, albeit under quite different conditions, the use of National Guard support flights for U.S. Air Force operations in Panama.

I was regularly apprised of some other realities with respect to the National Guard during my period of command--realities that lead me to strongly support the use of Guard troops in authorized federal missions short of situations in which there has been the formal declaration of a national emergency.

Realty No. 1, the National Guard of this and of all other states is only nominally a state force. Nearly all of its equipment, 96% of its operations, maintenance and capital budget and 95% of its pay comes from federal government sources. Neither this nor any other state has thus far shown that they will bear the financial burden of maintaining any significant share of the burden of the Guard's budget.

Reality No. 2, the Defense Department has come to rely heavily on the reserves and National Guard for both its firepower and unit organization. In fact, the Defense Department of today cannot conduct sustained operations (defined as those over a month in duration) without calling for the support of the National Guard and reserve. If the states withhold their support of federal missions, the federal government will be forced to seek legislation that further hampers state discretion in the employment of Guard forces.

Reality No. 2 is a more subtle but potentially the most dangerous reality of all. If individual states play "dog in the manger" with their National Guard organizations with respect to their use in the support of federal military operations, those individual states will be effectively denied the equipment and monetary support they need to support their very much needed state mission of emergency services.

California, I can testify, is a disaster-prone state--one that historically has relied on its National Guard more than any other state by far in the provision of emergency assistance to its citizens in fires, floods, earthquakes and civil disturbances. It needs federal military support for these missions in the form of military equipment, training and combat organizations that can easily be converted to disciplined lifesaving organizations.

Finally, this point: while a citizen of this state and his or her legislative representative should be free to express their views as to the wisdom of U.S. military intervention in Central America or any other area of the world, the National Guard of this state should not be the means used for that expression.

California, for the size of its congressional delegation, has one of the weakest of all roles in the committees that make basic decisions on national defense policy in the Congress. If it withholds its forces from an active federal support role, it may make a political point but in the process lose the ability of its National Guard to support and protect its citizens in the event of an emergency.

I suggest that there must be a better and more practical way to make a political statement--one that hits the target and misses our foot.

FRANK J. SCHOBER JR.

San Francisco

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