House Proposes National Guard Authorization Bill

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(Host) Members of the Vermont House want the state to have more of a say in when National Guard troops are sent overseas.

Governor Jim Douglas says he doesn’t support the proposal.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) The legislation is sponsored by Lincoln Rep. Michael Fisher and the measure has 77 co-sponsors in the House.

Fisher says the 1973 federal War Powers Act requires Congressional authority before the President can mobilize state National Guard troops for an overseas military mission.

The bill would require the Governor of Vermont to certify to the Legislature that specific congressional authorization has taken place before any Vermont Guard troops are sent overseas:

(Fisher) "I think it’s not only our responsibility but our duty. I think it’s the Governor’s duty to merely assure that when the Guard is being called to fight overseas – other than an emergency situation – that Congress has authorized that call up."

(Kinzel) Roughly 1500 Vermont Guard troops are headed to Afghanistan to provide security in villages in the eastern part of the country.

While he has questions about the legality of this deployment, Fisher says his bill is aimed primarily at future presidential mobilizations: 

(Fisher) "I would argue that there may be some legal problems with the current authorization. But more importantly, I’ve introduced a bill here to say that I think we’re capable of straying from a legal standard – an important legal standard in the future."

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas says he doesn’t support the bill because he believes that when a President calls for National Guard troops to serve overseas – individual states should respond:

(Douglas) "Congress has made it quite clear that when the President of the United States orders National Guard troops into federal service that he has that authority. Frankly, I don’t think a state official ought to issue a certification that’s an interpretation of federal law."

(Kinzel) But Douglas says he does oppose recent efforts by the Pentagon to call up state Guard troops for domestic emergencies without the express approval of a governor:

(Douglas) "There have been proposals in the Congress over the years to give the President the power to mobilize and assume command outside of gubernatorial authority and there the governors feel strongly that we don’t want to see any change."

(Kinzel) The legislation will now be reviewed by the House General and Military Affairs committee.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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