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Archive for Monday, February 23, 2004

Governors seek Guard changes

February 23, 2004

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— Governors worried about increasing demands on National Guard units want to hear from the Bush administration about its long-term strategy in the fight against terrorism.

State leaders raised their concerns in a private meeting with the top Guard general and Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge.

"It's not that we're not supportive of the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq," said Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. "We have to kind of step back and rethink the whole picture." Like other governors, he said the part-time soldiery has seen a transformation in recent years.

Guard and Reserve soldiers make up about 22 percent of the forces in Iraq. That level is expected to rise to nearly 40 percent as a result of force rotations in the coming months.

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, which oversees all reserve forces, made a private presentation to governors at the winter meeting of the National Governors Assn.

The governors attended a formal dinner at the White House Sunday night and were welcomed by President Bush, who said the nation needed to remain vigilant against terrorism.

"We're still at war," Bush said. "The war on terror is a new kind of war in which every American is threatened and every level of government must work together."

The military demands in Iraq and Afghanistan give governors, who technically are commanders in chief of their state units, a heightened interest in the development of U.S. foreign policy. The reliance on the part-time soldiers will have a ripple effect, governors said.

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