National Guard Spread Thin-- Iraq and Hurricane Katrina
And now, along comes Hurrican Katrina.
In response to Hurricane Katrina, the National Guard has been mobilized with troops coming from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to assist in the emergency response. But with National Guard troops already spread thin across Iraq and Afghanistan, how much more can the National Guard take?
MSNBC reported that despite Iraq deployment, "troop strength for hurricane deployment is strong." But MSNBC fails to mention that Alabama is sending troops to Mississippi because 3,000 of Mississippi's own National Guard troops are in Iraq serving alongside the Marines 155th Armored Brigade.
Luckily, the states in Katrina's path have relatively large Guard forces overall. But states with less overall Guardsmen and a higher percentage of Guardmen in Iraq have expressed concern that they may already be stretched too thin. For example, about 1,800 of Idaho's 4,400 Guard troops are serving abroad, a somewhat dangerous figure when considering the high risk of forest fires in the middle of a drought - fires that Guardsmen would otherwsie help fight by providing logistical support to front-line firefighters.
In October of 2004, former Governor Jesse Ventura predicted that the Bush administration's utter mismanagement of the National Guard would pose great risks for Americans at home. Perhaps he was right.
During Hurricane Ivan, Ventura argued that the Bush administration was “jeopardizing homeland security” by leaving state governors “woefully short-handed.” After all, the men and women who join the National Guard have a higher tendency toward professions like law enforcement, fire fighting and emergency response. Due to the war in Iraq, communities across the nation are short of the first responders needed to cope with everything from terrorist attacks to more mundane crimes and emergencies-- leading Ventura to ask, “Whose security are we defending the most, Iraq’s, or ours?”
Katrina is far worse than Ivan. If we were spread thin during Ivan, how thin are we now during Katrina?