The San Francisco Chronicle reported last May that the California National Guard had been depleted and warned that severe “equipment shortages could hinder the guard’s response to a large-scale disaster,” such as a “major fire”:
In California, half of the equipment the National Guard needs is not in the state, either because it is deployed in Iraq or other parts of the world or because it hasn’t been funded, according to Lt. Col. John Siepmann. While the Guard is in good shape to handle small-scale incidents, “our concern is a catastrophic event,” he said.
“You would see a less effective response (to a major incident),” he said.
At a press conference five months ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) echoed these concerns, stating, “A lot of equipment has gone to Iraq, and it doesn’t come back when the troops come back.” The Chronicle reported that the California National Guard was missing about $1 billion worth of equipment.
Now, as 14 major wildfires rage across the state, those earlier warnings are materializing. While California currently has approximately 1,500 Guardsmen serving in Iraq, the strains on the disaster response teams are compounded by the missing personnel and equipment.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said, “Right now we are down 50 percent in terms of our National Guard equipment because they’re all in Iraq. The equipment — half of the equipment, so we really will need help.” California Lieutenant Gov. John Garamendi (D) said on Harball yesterday, “What we really need are those firefighters, we need the equipment, we need, frankly, we need those troops back from Iraq.”
When asked about California’s concerns of depleted equipment caused by the Iraq war, White House spokesman Dana Perino said yesterday, “I haven’t heard that specifically.”
(HT: Oliver Willis)