Saturday, February 2, 2008

Study Says US Unprepared For Attack - NORTHCOM Trains National Guard

Military Unready For Homeland Attack, Says Study
Associated Press

The U.S. military isn't ready for a catastrophic attack on the country, and National Guard forces don't have the equipment or training they need for the job, according to a report.

Even fewer Army National Guard units are combat-ready today than were nearly a year ago when the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves determined that 88 percent of the units were not prepared for the fight, the panel says in a new report released Thursday.

The commission's 400-page report concludes that the nation "does not have sufficient trained, ready forces available" to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear weapons incident, "an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risk."

"Right now we don't have the forces we need, we don't have them trained, we don't have the equipment," commission Chairman Arnold Punaro said in an interview with The Associated Press. "Even though there is a lot going on in this area, we need to do a lot more. ... There's a lot of things in the pipeline, but in the world we live in -- you're either ready or you're not."

In response, Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, chief of U.S. Northern Command, said the Pentagon is putting together a specialized military team that would be designed to respond to such catastrophic events.

Over the next year, Renuart said, specific active duty, Guard and Reserve units will be trained, equipped and assigned to a three-tiered response force totaling about 4,000 troops. There would be a few hundred first responders, who would be followed by a second wave of about 1,200 troops that would include medical and logistics forces.

The third wave, with the remainder of that initial 4,000 troops, would include aircraft units, engineers, and other support forces, depending on the type of incident.

"NorthCom has got to get religion in this area," said Punaro. He said the military needs to avoid "pickup game" type responses, such as the much-criticized federal reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and put in place the kind of detailed plans that exist for virtually any international crisis.

He also underscored the commission's main finding: the Pentagon must move toward making the National Guard and Reserves an integral part of the U.S. military.

The panel, in its No. 1 recommendation, said the Defense Department must use the nation's citizen soldiers to create an operational force that would be fully trained, equipped and ready to defend the nation, respond to crises and supplement the active duty troops in combat.

Using reserves as a permanent, ready force, the commission argued, is a much more cost effective way to supplement the military since they are about 70 percent cheaper than active duty troops.

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