November 10, 2011

Manchin Pushes Top Military Brass to Elevate National Guard

**Audio and Video Available**

Washington, D.C. – In a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) encouraged the nation’s top military brass to welcome the National Guard to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

Military leaders have opposed adding the Chair of the National Guard to the highest levels of the nation’s armed services, but Senator Manchin has strongly pushed for the Guard’s elevation and is a cosponsor of Senator Jay Rockefeller’s “Guardians of Freedom Act of 2011.”  

“I think you have to be as frustrated as myself and other people around this country as they look at the functions of Congress right now. We can’t come to an agreement on anything,” Senator Manchin said in the hearing. “This is one thing I think we are agreeing on. Please don’t deny us the moment to come together as Democrats and Republicans for the sake of this great country, and put America first. And that’s what we’re asking. So with that, I might respectfully disagree, but we sure do respect you at the highest levels. I want to thank you and we would hope that you consider this legislation.” 

Senator Manchin, the former commander-in-chief of the West Virginia National Guard, also praised the performance of the Guard, which has taken on a significant role in two wars abroad.  

“I can assure you that watching the performance of my Guard and the Guards I’ve met all over this country is unparalleled to anything I’ve been witness to,” Senator Manchin said. “I had a chance to travel with other governors to Afghanistan and Iraq. And every one of the commanders of every base that we attended and visited, they’d make a point to come up to me and say: ‘I want to tell you of the expertise and professionalism and commitment that your Guardsmen have and the asset they are to our command.’” 

Senator Manchin told the military commanders that he knows that sometimes change can be hard for the armed services, but that he believes that they could adapt to giving the National Guard a voice on the Joint Chiefs. 

“I have the utmost confidence in all of you,” Senator Manchin said. “The Guard is the fabric of our whole defense system. I think that’s why some of us are so passionate about this piece of legislation to have an equal footing.”

Witnesses at the hearing included: 

  • Honorable Jeh C. Johnson, General Counsel, Department of Defense
  • General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • Admiral James A. Winnefeld Jr., USN, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
  • General Raymond T. Odierno, USA, Chief of Staff of the Army
  • Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, USN, Chief of Naval Operations
  • General James F. Amos, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps
  • General Norton A. Schwartz, USAF, Chief of Staff of the Air Force
  • General Craig R. McKinley, USAF, Chief, National Guard Bureau 

Audio footage is available here: manchin 111011.mp3 

Video footage is available here: