Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth questioned General Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard, at a House Armed Services Hearing on the impact of sequestration.
Watch the video footage here. The transcript is below:
DUCKWORTH: My next question is for General Grass. You spoke of maintaining an operational force. And I am concerned about the resources that the National Guard is going to have access to under sequestration for that -- to maintain that operational force.
You perform, for example, 95 percent of all domestic missions. And I don't think people generally are aware of the range of missions that you provide -- everything from the civil support teams that provide nuclear, biological and chemical sweeps for the inauguration, to the regular, you know, natural disaster recovery.
I, as a part of the Illinois National Guard, flew the oldest flying Black Hawk in the United States Army inventory, and it is still flying missions in Kuwait today. It was the fourth one delivered in 1978 model. I understand that 400 -- over 400 of your Black Hawks are alpha models, not set even before sequestration to be replaced until F.Y. '23 because we will do the active duty forces first before we come to the National Guard.
Could you discuss, General Grass, sort of the range of missions that you are providing? And -- and what sequestration will do for you if you are not getting the ability to modernize your equipment and train some of these very specialized mission -- troops that are performing these missions?
GRASS: Thank you for the question, Congresswoman.
Of course, being a first responder in the homeland from a military perspective, we have to always be ready to support those governors. And then surrounding states, just like today in the northeast, we have three states that have come to the aid of Connecticut to help out with the storms.
But I think the problem we're going to get into as our equipment degrades and our pilots can't get into schools and can't continue to maintain their proficiency, it will take longer and longer to respond in a time of disaster and we'll have to come from further and further.
And the other thing that I'm very concerned about is we've been working very closely with FEMA and NORTHCOM to look at responding to complex catastrophes across the Department of Defense, and how we might bring the forces of the Guard, as well as any other forces that might be available, to respond to that scenario. And even the planning we're doing now for that, that response would be at risk, no doubt.
From a National Guard perspective, I think the investment we make every day, and we work very closely with the Army and Air Force, and our procurement comes through the Army and Air Force for the most part. We do have some under the NGREA account that we do specific dual-purpose equipment, but for the most part all the training and equipment, and the procurement and investment accounts that we rely on, the Army and Air Force are just critical to be able to do the homeland mission.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you, General Grass.
And as a Democrat, I'm going to talk a little bit about states' rights and my concern that governors do maintain the ability to access the troops under state active duty in Title 32, you know, when you have to switch over to Title 32 for those troops.
Can you talk a little bit about your ability under sequestration and some of these cuts to respond quickly, especially when you have the state agreements where one state will come to the aid of another and how you'll be able to maintain the readiness of those forces?
GRASS: Yes, Congresswoman. Look at just in the last three days. I mentioned the three states that responded during Hurricane Sandy, which is more of a regionally based contingency that we responded to. If you look at all the states coming in, most of that was done in state-to-state agreement.
Even last year, your state of Illinois provided helicopters to the state of Vermont during Hurricane Irene. And we try to do at the National Guard Bureau is identify where that equipment is and facilitate the move quickly. Again, sequestration will -- will definitely degrade our ability to do that.