(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he expects that a greater number of Vermont National Guard members will be sent overseas in the coming months. Guard leaders in Washington want to equalize the percentage of guard members from each state that are assigned to overseas duty. Vermont’s share is currently one the smallest in the country.
VPRs Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) Most of the country’s governors are in Washington D.C. this week to attend the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, and a key issue being discussed involves the use of National Guard troops in Iraq. Currently, Guard and Reserve members make up roughly 22 percent of the forces in Iraq, but this number is expected to rise to 40 percent by the summer.
The percentage of Guard members serving overseas varies greatly on a state by state basis. For instance, 75 percent of Guard members in Utah have been called for service while just nine percent of Vermont’s Guard contingent has been activated. The chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lieutenant General Steven Blum, met with the governors to discuss a new policy to help reduce this disparity.
Governor Douglas says he understands the concern of some of his colleagues who have more than half of their Guard troops serving overseas because it could restrict the ability of the Guard in those states to play a key role in domestic emergencies. Douglas says the leaders of the Guard are responding to these concerns.
(Douglas) “They understand the concerns that governors as commanders in chief of their respective National Guards have raised and they’re now working to provide some better rotation and better equality of deployment around the nation.”
(Kinzel) Douglas says the new goal will be to limit the number of Guard members serving overseas to 25 percent of a state’s total troop level. Because Vermont’s percentage of Guard troops serving in Iraq is one of the lowest in the country, Douglas thinks it’s inevitable that more Vermont Guard members will be called up for duty overseas:
(Douglas) “I think that’s very possible frankly because we’re on the low side. We’re well below average. So I think it is possible that over time a higher percentage of our Guard will be asked to be deployed.”
(Kinzel) Douglas says the changes will allow all states to know that they have predictable number of Guard troops available for domestic purposes.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.