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Sebelius: Iraq War Is Slowing National Guard’s Tornado Response

By Amanda Terkel on May 7, 2007 at 12:21 pm

"Sebelius: Iraq War Is Slowing National Guard’s Tornado Response"

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Over the weekend, tornadoes touched down in six southwest Kansas counties, devastating the small town of Greensburg. At least eight people died and a Greensburg administrator “estimated that 95 percent of the town of 1500 was destroyed by Friday’s tornado.”

This morning on CNN, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) said that the state is missing vital National Guard equipment because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Usually the state has approximately 70-80 percent of its equipment at any given time, but it currently has just 40-50 percent. She added that these shortages “will just make it [recovery] that much slower.” Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/05/cnnsebelius.320.240.flv]

According to a recent report by a congressional commission, nearly “90 percent of Army National Guard units in the United States are rated ‘not ready,” largely “as a result of shortfalls in billions of dollars’ worth of equipment.” A January Government Accountability Office analysis found that the Pentagon “does not adequately track National Guard equipment needs for domestic missions” and as a consequence, “state National Guards may be hampered in their ability to plan for responding to large-scale domestic events.”

Transcript:

ROBERTS: We spoke with your (INAUDIBLE) general, Major General Bunting, a little while ago. You have illuminated a problem that you’ve got here in terms of the National Guard’s ability to be able to react to this crisis because of the Iraq war.

What’s going on?

SEBELIUS: Well, states all over the country are not only missing personnel, National Guard troops are — about 40 percent of the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan — but we’re missing the equipment. When the troops get deployed, the equipment goes with them.

So, here in Kansas, about 50 percent of our trucks are gone. We need trucks. We’re missing Humvees, we’re missing all kinds of equipment that can help us respond to this kind of emergency.

ROBERTS: So how is that going to hamper efforts both in the recovery and the rebuilding?

SEBELIUS: Well, as you travel around Greensburg, you’ll see that the city and county trucks were destroyed. They — the storm hit them, as well as anything…

ROBERTS: Fire trucks and everything is gone.

SEBELIUS: So we’re borrowing equipment from around, but National Guard are our first responders. They don’t have the equipment they need to come in. And it will just make it that much slower.

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