July 22, 2011

Rahall, Rockefeller, Manchin Call for White House Support of National Guard on the Joint Chiefs

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.), along with Senators Jay Rockefeller and Joe Manchin (both D-W.Va.), Friday urged the President to support the bipartisan Guardians of Freedom Act they have sponsored to provide a position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the National Guard.
“Our Guard members need a strong voice at the table when military strategies are developed,” said Rahall.  “I am pleased and proud to have introduced the bill in the House to help raise the profile and address the needs of these dedicated, loyal men and women in uniform.”

In a letter to the President, the three federal legislators called on the President to stand by his previous proposal to give the National Guard equity in the Defense Department leadership.

In May, Rahall was successful in securing passage of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that mirrors the Guardians of Freedom Act he introduced earlier in the year, elevating the Chief of the National Guard Bureau to a permanent seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  The Joint Chiefs are responsible for ensuring policy, planning, and training of their respective military services, and serve collectively and individually as military advisors to the President of the United States and Secretary of Defense.  The bill would place the Chief in a position to influence Department of Defense planning and budgetary deliberations, and advocate for troop readiness and response utilization in the home front mission. 

Senator Rockefeller is sponsoring the companion measure in the Senate, along with Senator Manchin.  

“The members of our National Guard are vital parts of our nation’s defense both at home and abroad,” said Senator Jay Rockefeller.  “The Guard deserves an equal voice because of its important role in protecting our national security, and this role, which I have been pushing for years, is long overdue.  I strongly urge the President to continue advocating to make this happen, and I will continue to push the Guardians of Freedom Act in the Senate to bring the National Guard’s voice to the front lines of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

“Our National Guard has taken on a major role in protecting this nation at home and abroad, and they deserve recognition that is equal to their commitment,” Senator Manchin said.  “Their expanded role on the front lines overseas and their steadfast service during disasters here at home has required incredible sacrifices from the men and women of the National Guard and Reserve as well as their families, and they should have representation on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” 

"Since September 11, 2001 the National Guard has demonstrated it is a vital asset to defend our Nation both overseas and in the Homeland.  Because this cost effective dual mission force is so vital to our National defense, the Guard must be considered an equal partner and have a voice on the Joint Staff," said West Virginia Adjutant General James Hoyer.  "Congressman Rahall and Senators Rockefeller and Manchin are leading the efforts to ensure the Guard is given the resources and capability needed in a state where the Guard is the most significant military presence and the opportunity to serve their effort is significant."

With House passage of the Guardian of Freedom Act as part of the Defense Authorization bill, the Senate must now approve the measure when it comes before that body later this year.

A copy of the letter to the President is attached.