Leahy and Dubie oppose Bush Guard control plan

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(Host) In the next 10 days Congress is expected to vote on a plan that would give the President the authority to control individual state National Guard units in times of natural disasters or national emergencies.

Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie says the plan won’t increase the effectiveness of Guard and he’d like to see state governors retain control of their Guard units.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Tucked away in a massive Defense Department budget bill is a provision that allows the President to assume control of all state Guard units under certain circumstances.

The U.S. House has voted to support the plan while the Senate has gone on record in opposition to the proposal.

The issue will be now decided by a House-Senate conference committee and that decision is expected to take place by the end of the month.

Vermont Adjutant General Michael Dubie says he sees no reason to change the current system where governors are in charge of their state Guard units.

(Dubie) “My opinion is that the Constitution clearly delineates state’s rights and as articulated in the Constitution that the militias, the present day National Guards, are commanded by the commanders in chiefs of their respective states. And in all the responses we’ve demonstrated that that is a good construct.”

(Kinzel) Dubie thinks the National Guard’s response to Hurricane Katrina and its new operation assisting law enforcement officials along the Mexican border show how effective the Guard can be under the supervision of their governors.

(Dubie) “The southwest border operation is similar to the operation that we did in Katrina where the governor really retains the control of the Guard in their respective states. And as far as I’m concerned, that has been a very effective way to operate and it’s the traditional way to operate.”

(Kinzel) Senator Patrick Leahy strongly opposes the Bush plan – he describes the proposal as a “power grab” by the White House.

(Leahy) “What the president has asked to do is something no president has ever asked for – the ability to basically on his own say so, move in, take over the National Guard, use them to supplant law enforcement and everything else. I’m too much of a Vermonter and I respect too much our individual rights to turn that power over to Washington. It’s an unjustified it’s actually a nonsensical grab for power. It doesn’t improve our military. But it also means that we have less control over our own lives.”

(Kinzel) Governor Jim Douglas also opposes the president’s plan. Douglas and the nation’s other 49 governors have all signed a letter urging the White House to withdraw its proposal.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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