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Military domestic response debated

January 25, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq and the demands of the 4-year-old war are causing concern at the Pentagon that the conflict could hamper the military's response to domestic crises.

The head of the National Guard said Wednesday that his troops lacked necessary equipment, which could hurt their ability to respond to natural or man-made disasters.

"I am not as comfortable as some others seem to be in accepting the low readiness levels here at home," Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum said. "It creates a problem. It will cost us time, and time will translate into lives."

Adm. Timothy J. Keating, commander of the U.S. Northern Command, which organizes domestic and civil defense, said there might be "specific equipment shortfalls that, in the longer term, could have an impact on our ability to respond."

But Keating added that "the analysis we've done does not indicate any significant degradation in our ability to respond" to a crisis in the United States.

Their comments came as opposition grew in Congress to Bush's plan to send more than 21,000 additional troops to Iraq in the coming months.

The military leaders, in interviews, echoed warnings from other armed forces commanders about the buildup's potential effect on the readiness levels of forces at home.

Some at the Pentagon think the training and equipment shortfalls will affect domestic military preparedness.

Others believe the military is big and strong enough to respond to any crisis -- but the response would not be as neat or as quick as it should be.

Equipment and training are main concerns for the troops based in the U.S., particularly for National Guard units that have scrambled to get equipment.

Troops have resorted to swapping equipment among the states to ensure that trucks, helicopters and communications gear get where they are needed most.

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