EDITORIAL: Military restructuring bans relief effort

A slew of criticisms have assuaged the Bush administration’s handling of the humanitarian crisis that arose in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Some of them have been ridiculously unfounded, such as rapper Kanye West’s lament about the president’s lack of concern for black people. Some officials, either attempting to avert personal political catastrophe or out of pure frustration, have blamed the federal government where state or local response was necessary.

However, there is at least one area where the Bush administration cannot shrug the burden of fault, and that is with regard to the availability of troops and resources from the military’s reserve components. It is clear that if military natural disaster relief efforts are lacking from the National Guard, the Bush administration’s military restructuring program is to blame.

In theory, it was a good idea: cut the fat out of the military; make forces smaller, more modern, and more capable of responding to national security threats in a post-Cold War environment where flexibility and precision are superior to raw firepower. The first step in the implementation of this program would require significant downsizing of the armed services.

The first flaw in the plan was demonstrated in Iraq, where forces traditionally reserved for the preservation and protection of the homeland ƒ_” hence the moniker “National Guard” ƒ_” were sent on multiple overseas deployments to do a job more suited for active duty troops.

That is not to say that the president acted outside of his authority in mobilizing the National Guard for the Iraq War, or that soldiers who were assigned to duty there should be excused from the provision of their contract which states that they might be called to serve on such a mission. The decision to essentially strip the United States of its reserve forces, however, was a harmful consequence of the military restructuring program where the numbers simply are not available to do several jobs at once.

This is especially true for those who claim that increased troop strength on the ground in Iraq is necessary to accomplish the stated goals there. How is a smaller military supposed to establish stability in Iraq, rebuild the Gulf Coast, and protect the homeland from terrorism?

One also has to wonder what further strains the hurricane relief effort will place on the National Guard’s recruiting efforts, which have already suffered dramatic consequences from the Iraq War. Many young men and women who might have otherwise volunteered for service could shy away from joining the National Guard after having seen the demands that are being placed on our service members, many of whom are required to help in the hurricane relief effort, again leaving hearth and home after lengthy deployment.

The bottom line is that the administration must find a way to once again increase the size of the military, particularly the Army and the Army National Guard, so that the defense sector might have available the numbers required to provide security at home and protect our interests abroad. At every moment, terrorists are plotting their next attack, insurgents are seeking to thwart our efforts in Iraq, and the afflicted require assistance that only a sustainable military force can provide. Disaster may be around the corner if the appropriate response to the problem is ignored.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.