WASHINGTON — Army National Guard units are short of equipment at home partly because they have been told to leave such vital items as armored Humvees in Iraq for replacement troops, congressional investigators say.
As of June, Guard units had left overseas more than 64,000 pieces of equipment worth more than $1.2 billion, and the Army cannot account for more than half, said the report Thursday by the Government Accountability Office.
On average, Guard units at home have about 34% of their essential war-fighting equipment, which could leave them vulnerable in a domestic emergency, according to the report released at a hearing of the House Committee on Government Reform.
Officials contend 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. Ed Rendell, whose state has 3,200 National Guard troops in Iraq, said troops from Pennsylvania have had to leave behind a variety of equipment, including seven helicopters in Afghanistan, and 59 tractors and 118 trailers in Iraq.
Replacement of the equipment has been slow, and items sent in their place are not the same quality or quantity, Rendell said.
Lt. Gen. David Melcher, deputy chief of staff of the Army, agreed with the report's findings. He said $21 billion would be spent from 2006 to 2011 to equip and modernize the Army National Guard, which would help resolve much of the equipment problem.