Homeland Security: Weathering War
Homeland Security: Weathering War
On Friday, a deadly tornado hit the small town of Greensburg, KS, killing at least 10 people and obliterating 95 percent of the town.
|May 8, 2007|
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On Friday, a deadly tornado hit the small town of Greensburg, KS, killing at least 10 people and obliterating 95 percent of the town. The National Weather Service classified the tornado as an F-5, the highest categorization. But with approximately 60 percent of its equipment sent to Iraq, the Kansas National Guard’s response to this disaster will be impaired. “I don’t think there is any question if you are missing trucks, Humvees and helicopters that the response is going to be slower,” Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) said. “The real victims here will be the residents of Greensburg.” Unfortunately, the situation is Kansas is not unique. Although scientists expect global warming to intensify natural disasters, the National Guard is increasingly overstretched and like other U.S. troops, stuck in the middle of a vicious civil war in Iraq. North Carolina Gov. Michael Easley (D) notes, “We the governors rely on the Guard to respond to natural disasters, a pandemic or terrorist attack. … Currently, we don’t have the manpower or the equipment to perform that dual role” of responding to state and federal needs.
DANGEROUS SHORTAGES: The Kansas National Guard is missing approximately 50 percent of its trucks and 24 percent of its helicopters to the war in Iraq. “Not having the National Guard equipment, which used to be positioned in various parts of the state, to bring in immediately is really going to handicap this effort to rebuild,” said Sebelius. These shortages should not come as a surprise to the Bush administration. The governor has “written the Pentagon twice and spoke about the issue at great length with Bush in January 2006 when they rode together from Topeka to a lecture in Manhattan.” “He assured me that he had additional equipment in his budget a year ago. What the Defense Department said then and continues to say is that states will get about 90 percent of what they had,” Sebelius said. “Meanwhile, it doesn’t get any better. I’m at a loss.” Sebelius said she will bring up the issue again with the President when he visits Kansas on Wednesday.
OVERSTRETCHED AT HOME: “Kansas is not an isolated situation. Every state is significantly below level for equipment across the National Guard,” National Guard Association president Brig. Gen. Stephen Koper said. Ohio is the best-equipped state in the nation, with just 65 percent of its equipment available; the national average is 40 percent. According to a recent Congressional Commission report, “88 percent of National Guard units have less than half of the equipment required to perform missions at home.” A January Government Accountability Office analysis also found that the Pentagon “does not adequately track National Guard equipment needs for domestic missions” and as a consequence, “state National Guards may be hampered in their ability to plan for responding to large-scale domestic events.” Last month, National Guard head Lt. Gen. Steven Blum told the Senate Appropriations Committee, “You name it, we are short of — this is meat-and-potatoes basic items. I’m talking about ‘dozers, graders, loaders, backhoes, dump trucks.” With hurricane season approaching, Florida, too, is having difficulty figuring out how it will be able to adequately respond to disasters with just 25 percent of its equipment. Before the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, it had double that amount.
OVERSTRETCHED ABROAD: Next year, President Bush plans to send another 12,000 National Guard forces to Iraq and Afghanistan as part of his escalation plan. The National Guard and Reserve troops, like the rest of the U.S. military in Iraq, is increasingly overstretched. “I am further behind or in an even more dire situation than the active Army, but we both have the same symptoms, I just have a higher fever,” Blum said. Additionally, National Guard troops face difficulties when they return from their extended deployments abroad. The “annual number of reservists and National Guard members who say they have been reassigned, lost benefits or been fired from civilian jobs after returning from duty has increased by about 30% since 2002.” The solution to the strain is not to simply remove National Guard troops from the war, but to set a timeline and redeploy all U.S. troops out of Iraq — a proposal that the majority of Congress and Americans support, but which Bush recently vetoed. In that war funding bill rejected by the President, Congress had also requested $2 billion for a new “Strategic Reserve Readiness Fund of which $1 billion is for Army National Guard equipment shortfalls.” The Center for American Progress has a plan to strategically redeploy U.S. troops out of Iraq, and Senior Fellow Lawrence Korb recently testified before Congress about a strategy to rebuild and expand U.S. ground forces in a way that will ensure that the National Guard has the resources necessary to react to natural disasters.
GLOBAL WARMING INTENSIFYING DISASTERS: The last tornado classified as an F-5 was one that hit Oklahoma in 1999, killing 36 people. This year, there have already been 600 tornados and 69 tornado-related fatalities, putting “it on track to be both the busiest and deadliest year yet.” Disasters such as these are predicted to escalate with global warming, and the country will need its National Guard to help respond. As the concentration of carbon dioxide — which contributes to manmade climate change — increases, the frequency of extreme weather events also increases. Tornado chaser and climatologist William Reid explains, “The lifeblood of severe weather systems and tornadic storms is water vapor and heat energy…it appears straightforward that global warming would favor a corresponding increase in severe weather and tornadoes on the Great Plains.” The Center for American Progress has recommendations on curbing the carbon gas emissions that cause global warming and preventing the global average temperature from rising beyond 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels– the temperature at which scientists warn a tipping point may be reached for the most severe climate impacts — here. Furthermore, American Progress has recommendations for improved global warming preparedness that will involve investing in first responders and more resilient communities, which will also require a strong and vigilant National Guard presence within our own borders.
ENVIRONMENT — HEAD OF U.N. CLIMATE CHANGE PANEL WARNS OF NATIONAL SECURITY IMPACT FROM CLIMATE CHANGE: Yesterday, The Progress Report interviewed Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Last week, the IPCC released the third part of its assessment on climate change, reporting that successful action against global warming can be undertaken at a modest cost. In our conversation with Pachauri, we sought his views on a variety of climate change issues, including what global warming’s impact is on national security, what advice he would give to a presidential candidate, and what immediate changes the United States needs to make. (Listen to the full 10-minute interview here.) Regarding the impact of global warming on national security, Pachauri said, “If the impact of climate change is going to make regions of violence poorer, then they really provide a level of fertility for inciting disaffection, resentment against the prosperous world. That’s an indirect effect that can create the conditions for terrorism.” On what advice he would give to a presidential candidate, Pachauri said, “Climate change is not something in the future. It’s already here. … The cost of inaction is going to be far higher than action. And the cost of action is really not all that high. The U.S. has made all kinds of sacrifices in the past and has always come out on top.” Pachauri also underscored the need for the United States to begin making immediate changes in its transportation sector. “The U.S. is really going to lose its place in the world of automobile production and sales if they don’t wake up and start producing more efficient vehicles,” he said. “GM and Ford Motor Company are already in pretty poor shape. We also need much better investment in public transport. I find it unthinkable that Ireland and France are testing high-speed trains which run at 574 km/hour. It takes three hours to go from New York to Washington DC. It really should not take more than 1 hour and 15 minutes. On public transportation, I think the U.S. is several years behind Europe. I think you could make these changes without any loss of jobs, comfort, or convenience.”
NATIONAL SECURITY — WITH BIN LADEN ‘STRONGER THAN EVER,’ U.S. OFFICIALS CONCEDE OVERESTIMATING DAMAGE DONE TO AL QAEDA: In the months after Sept. 11, President Bush declared victory over the man he once pledged to capture “dead or alive” and began turning his focus to Iraq. “I am deeply concerned about Iraq. … I truly am not that concerned about [bin Laden]. … He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore,” Bush said in 2002. The results have been predictable: as the U.S. has been mired in an Iraqi civil war, bin Laden has slipped away and is using his freedom to help al Qaeda resurge all over the Middle East. U.S. News reports this week that “bin Laden already has a safe haven in Pakistan — and may be stronger than ever” as al Qaeda “retains the ability to organize complex, mass-casualty attacks and inspire others. … Bin Laden and Zawahiri have been able to fill in the gaps between their megaplots with a rising stream of smaller-scale, homegrown attacks.” Now well over five years after 9/11, some administration officials are conceding they may have been too hasty in declaring victory over bin Laden: “Privately, U.S. officials concede that they had overestimated the damage they had inflicted on al Qaeda’s network. The captures of successive operational commanders, including 9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, amounted only to temporary setbacks; they were replaced with disturbing ease. ‘We understand better how al Qaeda is withstanding the offensive that was launched against it in 2001 and later,’ says a senior U.S. government official.” Bush is using the rise of al Qaeda as fodder to promote his misguided escalation plan in Iraq. He now claims that al Qaeda has made Iraq a central front in the war on terror, but terrorists view Bush’s Iraq strategy as more opportunity to launch attacks against U.S. troops. “Iraq has, of course, been an undeniable boon for al Qaeda, both as a battleground and a rallying cause,” U.S. News adds.
ETHICS — FORMER MISSOURI U.S. ATTORNEY CALLED TO TESTIFY BEFORE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Yesterday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking member Arlen Specter (R-PA) sent a letter to former Missouri U.S Attorney Bradley Schlozman, asking that he appear before the committee in order to help them “gain a better understanding of the role voter fraud may have played in the Administration’s decisions to retain or remove certain U.S. Attorneys.” Schlozman, who previously had no prosecutorial experience, was appointed interim U.S. attorney for Western Missouri in March 2006 without Senate confirmation, after previous U.S. Attorney Todd Graves resigned “without having his next job lined up.” Leahy and Specter believe that Graves “may have been on a list for replacement because of his refusal to endorse a lawsuit against the State of Missouri alleging voter fraud before the 2006 election.” The same lawsuit had been approved by Schlozman when he was Acting Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and was then filed soon after he was appointed as Graves’s successor by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. “Several weeks ago, a federal judge ruled in favor of Missouri in that case, finding ‘no evidence’ of major voter fraud in the state.” Controversially, Schlozman also brought “felony indictments of four workers for a liberal activist group on voter registration fraud charges less than a week before the 2006 election,” a move that ran counter to a longstanding standing policy in the Justice Department about exercising caution in bringing indictments in election law or voter fraud cases close to election because they can potentially influence the result of the election. Congressional investigators are also looking into Schlozman’s purported role in politicizing the hiring practices of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.
“The Air Force’s fleet of warplanes is older than ever and wearing out faster because of heavy use in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the service’s top combat commander.”
“The chance that an Iraqi child will live beyond age 5 has plummeted faster than anywhere else in the world since 1990,” according to the group Save the Children, which “placed the country last in its child survival rankings. One in eight Iraqi children died of disease or violence before reaching their fifth birthday in 2005.”
Senate conservatives “effectively killed a measure that would have let Americans buy prescription medicines from foreign suppliers, which sponsors said could have saved consumers billions of dollars.” A ‘poison pill’ amendment from Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) passed 49-40 in a “major victory for the pharmaceutical industry.”
“Leading governments of Europe, mounting a new campaign to push Paul D. Wolfowitz from his job as World Bank president, signaled Monday that they were willing to let the United States choose the bankâ€™s next chief, but only if Mr. Wolfowitz stepped down soon.”
“Patricia Roe, Rep. Rick Renzi’s (R-AZ) chief of staff, has quit her fundraising duties for the lawmaker to spend more time concentrating on her Congressional job while her boss is engulfed in legal troubles.” Roe’s husband, Jason, who was formerly the chief of staff to Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), also recently resigned from the campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
“Congressional leaders from both political parties are giving President Bush a matter of months to prove that the Iraq war effort has turned a corner, with September looking increasingly like a decisive deadline.” Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) said, “I do think this fall we have to see some significant changes on the ground.”
And finally: On Sunday night’s episode of “The Sopranos,” Carmela Soprano is seen reading a peculiar book in bed: Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes’s “Rebel in Chief,” an admiring character study of President Bush. Asked about what lessons a mafia wife might take away from his book, Barnes replied that “there is a theory that the mafia represents a certain conservatism — unrestricted capitalism and traditionalism.”
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