Topeka Five days after Christmas, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius sent a wish list to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asking the Pentagon to step up efforts to replenish equipment left by the National Guard in Iraq.
Her list contained several thousand items - tents, computers, trucks, semitrailers, machine gun mounts and even a complete latrine.
She urged the Pentagon to take notice before the state faces a crisis, adding her voice to a chorus of concerns about the Guard's ability to handle stateside duties.
"We must be able to maintain a high level of readiness, because no one knows when disaster will strike," Sebelius wrote. "Anything that weakens the Guard, whether it is failure to re-equip a unit after redeployment or a force structure change eliminating key response capabilities, is of concern to me as a governor."
A Defense Department spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny that Rumsfeld received Sebelius' letter, citing policy against disclosing communications with the agency's officials.
Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard, said the Guard couldn't rely on the Kansas farm tradition of "duct tape and baling wire" to get by.
"It's time to get us something out here where we can move forward. We're down to the bare minimums," Bunting said. "We need to see real results and real equipment start to arrive and not promises of equipment coming sometime."
While equipment has been a 25-year issue, National Guard Bureau spokesman Jack Harrison said reliance on states in the war in Iraq, when they still have homeland missions, was getting Washington's attention.
"It's certainly come under a bright light. There's some movement in the right direction," he said.
Harrison said logistics required that Guard units leave their equipment in Iraq when their tours are finished, and the next units can use it.
"It's not a bad policy," he said. "What needs to be addressed is the resetting of the states so they can be as fully equipped as possible."
Lt. Col. Lee Tafanelli, commander of the 891st Engineers of the Kansas National Guard, said the battalion left behind equipment that would be used for a year by engineers from Missouri units.
"All the vehicles had been up-armored over there. It makes no sense to move those back home," said Tafanelli, who also serves in the Kansas House. "Most of it is something that we don't use very frequently."
While the wish list sent by Sebelius is important, Tafanelli said the battalion was going through a transformation and would be fielding new equipment. Some of that will be made available from the Missouri unit, also is undergoing transformation.
Col. Eric Peck, chief of staff for the Kansas Army National Guard, said equipment issues hampered the ability to train and recruit soldiers.
"It's kind of like a diamond. Every time you turn it, there's another facet you haven't seen," Peck said.
Bunting said regional equipment pools for the Guard, or reducing troop levels to offset costs, were unacceptable.
"That isn't anything better than a short-term solution. The solution is to reset each state," he said.
Before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Guard had about 75 percent of the equipment it needed, Harrison said. That figure has dropped to 34 percent, though some pieces of equipment are in greater supply than others.
But Harrison noted that more than 50,000 Guard soldiers and airmen went to the Gulf Coast within a week after Hurricane Katrina.
"This is why we need a strong, robust, equipped National Guard," Harrison said.