The AP reports today:
The National Guard is stretched so thin by simultaneous assignments in Iraq and the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast that leaders in statehouses and Congress say it is time to reconsider how the force is used. “¦ The head of the National Guard Bureau said Friday the assignment of thousands of Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana to Iraq delayed those states’ initial hurricane response by about a day. “Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq, their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear,” said Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, the bureau’s chief.
And the Washington Post reports that civilian and military leaders say the response could have been quicker had National Guard troops from Louisiana and Mississippi been in their home states rather than Iraq:
In Louisiana and Mississippi, civilian and military leaders said the response to the hurricane was delayed by the absence of the Mississippi National Guard’s 155th Infantry Brigade and Louisiana’s 256th Infantry Brigade, each with thousands of troops in Iraq.
But the administration recognizes this obvious problem and is thinking of policy solutions to address it, right? Wrong. Bush administration officials have gone on a public relations offensive over the last week to incredulously claim that our troops aren’t stretched thin. Here’s what Rice and Rumsfeld have said:
TAVIS SMILEY: There are a lot of folk, and I know you’ve heard this, who believe and it’s been everywhere expressed that this sentiment that the money and other resources that we have been spending on Iraq put us in a situation where we didn’t have the resources available quickly enough to move into the Gulf Coast. Do you accept that?
SECRETARY RICE: No, it’s just not true. Frankly, it’s hogwash. And I’ll use that term very, very clearly. There are plenty of resources to deal with this. There are military resources to deal with it. There were National Guard resources to deal with it.
KMOX RADIO: Does that mean we’re stretched a little bit thin?
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: No. In fact the implication that we’re stretched thin is an inaccurate one and it ought to be knocked down hard.
So once again, faced with an accountability moment, the Bush administration shucks responsibility and suggests that those who question them just don’t know what they’re talking about.