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Whose National Guard Is It, Anyway?

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This story about two thirds of National Guard units not being combat ready seems to have come and gone fairly quickly. As I understand it, 40% of U.S. units deployed in Iraq are National Guard Units in some form. When those units return home, they either leave equipment behind in the Middle East or much of what they have is damaged. We’re not providing the funding to replace or refurbish that equipment when the units return. The Department of Defense is quick to point out that units actually in combat have a C1 rating, but it does raise the question of how this impacts homeland security. A year ago when Katrina hit, the Administration insisted that the National Guard’s capacity to respond had not been affected by deployment to Iraq. Katrina wasn’t a combat situation nor is “guarding the border”, but how much is this war costing the United States and which accounts are we drawing down on?

For those of us on the Oprah Debt Diet, leaving National Guard units at less than ready condition is not exactly the same thing as say giving up going to the movies every Saturday or buying a cheaper car. This is a bit more like not buying the extra smoke detector in the kids’ bedroom or not child-proofing the kitchen for the baby. It’s unlikely to matter, but if it ever does….

I did look online to see how a C1 vs. a C4 readiness rating is defined and didn’t have a lot of luck (compared this to Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq). I do know the issue of National Guard readiness came up during the Clinton administration and that the Guard’s own website is quick to point out that the old notion of the Guard never deploying units for more than six months overseas went away after 9/11.

I figured my next best bet was to go to football analogies since football coaches are fond of combat metaphors despite the fact that Pat Tillman remains the only active NFL player I know of to have actually joined the army to fight in the War on Terrorism (funny thing that. Not to cast aspersions on the actual courage and patriotism of NFL football players, but has anyone done it since?) Anyway, there’s a whole lot more online about football strategy and training than there is about the details of military readiness (maybe rightfully so).

Most football defenses spend most of their time in a balanced defense. Players are positioned and deployed to defend at any moment against either the run or the pass, either inside or outside. There are times, however, say when the other team is on your one yard line when you do things differently. The coach would then put virtually his entire defense at the line of scrimmage and give up the possibility that the other team will throw to the back of the end zone. Similarly if you don’t have great pass coverage, you blitz which means that you take players who would seem to be in pass coverage and surprise the other team by having them rush the quarterback instead. Most consider the blitz to be a very high risk defensive call in that it trades off a quarterback sack or hurry for the possibility of a big play up the middle or into the zone emptied by your extra pass rusher. (some would say that we’re blitzing the tailback in this case instead of the quarterback who just threw long to the wide receiver)

For the last three years, the US military has been blitzing. So far, no one other than Mother Nature has run up the middle on our system of homeland security, but how vulnerable are we? Second, why would anyone call a defensive coordinator who blitzed on every play any kind of conservative?

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