Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
September 2, 2005  
Contact:
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Calls On President To Expedite The Return Of National Guard Forces Currently Serving In Iraq Who Are From Areas Affected by Hurricane Katrina  

San Francisco, CA – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today called on President Bush to expedite the return of National Guard forces currently serving in Iraq who are from regions affected by Hurricane Katrina. Boxer also asked the President to consider formalizing the Army’s plan to dramatically reduce the number of National Guard in Iraq.

Attached please find Senator Boxer’s letter to the President:


September 2, 2005

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Bush:

I write today to voice my profound concern over the state of our Nation’s National Guard. The disaster caused by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast of the United States has highlighted what many experts have been warning all along –that sending tens of thousands of our National Guard forces overseas to fulfill military manpower needs could jeopardize the safety and security of the people of the United States in the event of a major national disaster or terrorist attack. Tragically, we have seen those warnings materialize into painful reality this week.

According to available figures, approximately 7,000 National Guard troops from Louisiana and Mississippi—or 40 percent of their available forces—were serving in Iraq or preparing to deploy when Hurricane Katrina struck. The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina illustrates that our nation’s current policy of keeping 50 percent of each state’s National Guard forces on hand to respond in the event of an emergency is simply not good enough. The fact is, we didn’t have our National Guard forces on hand when we needed them and where we needed them—along the Gulf Coast.

Louisiana and Mississippi have called on additional National Guard forces from neighboring—and in some instances, distant—states to fill the gaps left largely by the war, but this has caused unnecessary delays that have only resulted in additional human suffering. For many, including those who could not be rescued in time, those who have succumbed to illness, and those who have fallen victim to violence, the help is too little, too late.

As Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, I request that you do two very important things. First and foremost, I ask that you consider the immediate return of National Guard forces from the affected regions to the United States. Although I understand that many of these forces are scheduled to return later this year, I believe—in the strongest possible terms—that their return should be accelerated. Not only do these forces know their neighborhoods and towns better than anyone else, but many have family members who are suffering at this time.

Second, we should use this tragedy as an occasion to reflect on our future use of the National Guard. On June 30, 2005, General Peter Schoomaker, the Army’s Chief of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Army is planning to dramatically reduce the National Guard forces in Iraq. I applaud this decision and hope that this will become standard policy, as the tragedy of Katrina has underscored the need to ensure that the National Guard is available to respond in the event of a domestic catastrophe. The American people expect their National Guard to be on call at home, not bogged down in multiple deployments around the globe.

As a Senator from the great State of California, I must constantly worry about the prospect of catastrophes: from potentially devastating earthquakes, mudslides, and forest fires, to the threat of terrorist attack on one of our several major metropolises. In the event of one or more of these occurrences, we would be dependent upon the rapid and overwhelming deployment of the National Guard as a vital resource in our emergency response. Thus, we need our National Guard at home in California, not overseas in Iraq or elsewhere.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator