Over the past few years Americans have witnessed the inability of the federal and state governments to effectively respond to catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina and the wildfires that ravaged parts of Southern California. The systems and institutions that previously were believed capable of responding to major natural disasters and/or other mass-casualty incidents such as a terrorist attack simply lacked the human and material resources and preparedness training required to meet the needs of a large number of citizens in distress.
The U.S. National Guard – which for the past five years has been heavily supplementing the nation’s active-duty armed forces during their protracted engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan – has been transformed from its original purpose as a strategic reserve to an operational reserve. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, close to 80 percent of the 350,000 men-and-women-strong Army National Guard has been mobilized and deployed overseas, many units several times. The foreseeable future seems likely to be no different, given the myriad challenges that face the U.S. military in meeting contingencies in other areas of the world. This transformation of the National Guard to an active-duty supplemental force has greatly diminished its ability to protect Americans at home.
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