Kansas is currently missing approximately 60 percent of its National Guard equipment because of the war in Iraq, hampering its ability to respond to the recent tornadoes.
In a “spat reminiscent of White House finger-pointing at Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco after the federal government’s botched response to Hurricane Katrina,” White House Press Secretary Tony Snow this morning blamed Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) for the shortages, saying he was “not aware of any prior complaints” by the governor about the equipment:
If you don’t request it, you’re not going to get it. … As far as we know, the only thing the governor has requested are FM radios. There have been no requests to the National Guard for heavy equipment. … We are eager to provide what Kansas needs. But again there are also — you also have to go through the process of making the request first.
Snow’s statements are incorrect. On repeated occasions, Sebelius made clear to the White House that Kansas was dangerously low on National Guard equipment:
— Dec. 30, 2005: Sebelius writes to Rumsfeld requesting new equipment. “The Guard was critical to responding to recent blizzards and floods in Kansas, yet its ability to respond to similar situations is being diminished by a lack of equipment,” wrote Sebelius. Included with her letter was a list of equipment Kansas had lost to the Iraq war. [Kansas City Star, 1/21/06; Topeka Capital-Journal, 6/29/06]
— Jan. 23, 2006: Sebelius personally urges Bush to increase National Guard funding. In an one-hour motorcade ride in Kansas with Bush, Sebelius expressed concern about “a reduction of National Guard troop strength in its next budget.” Bush assured her he was “dealing” with the shortages. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 1/24/06; Kansas City Star, 3/11/06]
— June 28, 2006: Sebelius sends Army Secretary list of equipment lost in war. In a meeting with Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey, Sebelius told Harvey that the state had lost about $140 million in National Guard equipment to the Iraq war. Her office then sent him a list of the lost equipment. [Topeka Capital-Journal, 6/29/06]
— Sept. 2006: Sebelius lobbies for replacement of National Guard equipment sent to Iraq. “Kansas’ congressional delegation, Sebelius and governors from around the country have been lobbying the Pentagon for increased funding to replace National Guard equipment that has been left in Iraq or damaged beyond repair after repeated use in war.” [AP, 9/5/06]
— Feb. 27, 2007: Sebelius pushes White House and Congress for more funding. “Now the Guard needs Washington’s help,” Sebelius said in press conference on Capitol Hill. “The President and Congress need to step up to the plate and give our Guard members the support they deserve.” [Press Release, 2/27/07]
At today’s White House press briefing, a reporter confronted Snow about Sebelius’s past requests. Snow simply replied, “And what happened was, she actually did get — there was not a formal request. But they’d had conversations.” He also admitted that Sebelius did request more than FM Radios.
The Mahablog has more.