April 8, 2002 | News Releases on Department of Homeland Security

National Guard Should Play Lead Role in Homeland Security, Analysts Say

WASHINGTON, Apr. 8, 2002-The National Guard should be the lead military resource for defending America from terrorist attacks at home, a new paper from The Heritage Foundation says.

"On Sept. 11, the American homeland was transformed into a theater of war-which means the citizen-soldier is required at home," says Larry Wortzel, a former U.S. Army colonel and co-author of the paper.

National Guard units are located in nearly every American town or city-the Army National Guard alone has more than 3,000 armories nationwide-and the Guard has the capabilities, legal authority and structure to respond to homeland attacks quickly and effectively, say Wortzel and Heritage security analyst Jack Spencer.

"The Guard is the logical element of the U.S. armed forces to act as the lead military agency for homeland security," they write. "Guard units must be available to react to-and help prevent-terrorist attacks on U.S. soil."

The National Guard is the oldest component of the U.S. armed forces and has contributed to every major military campaign in the nation's history. The Guard also played an important role immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, patrolling the streets of Washington and New York, as well as major airports across the nation.

But the Guard can't be the top military force at home if it continues to be sent abroad as much as it has been in the past, say Spencer and Wortzel. In 2000, Army National Guard troops were deployed to 64 countries, including the Balkans and southwest Asia, in support of regular troops. By July 2001, they were in 87 countries.

Spencer and Wortzel urge Pentagon officials to return to the "Total Force Concept" pioneered in the 1970s, where reserve units such as the National Guard support active forces abroad if needed but focus on defending Americans on U.S. soil.

The analysts also suggest that homeland service should be given the same respect as serving abroad, with soldiers serving at home receiving the appropriate benefits and resources needed to defend the nation properly.

"Changing the culture of the Guard this way will increase the morale of those serving in this important component and increase the number of recruits who want to protect the homeland," Spencer and Wortzel write.

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