Gov. Branstad urges Obama to spare National Guard in budget reduction

“We’ll see what comes out at the end of the political process”

Published: February 24 2014 | 6:55 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:06 am in

DES MOINES — Gov. Terry Branstad asked President Barack Obama to leave National Guard cuts out of the Pentagon’s planned force reductions.

“I would characterize that he was a little defensive on that issue. He talked about how they had to cut spending and all that,” Branstad said Monday during a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

Branstad was in Washington for the National Governor’s Association meeting. He had a meeting with Obama Monday.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel laid out plans to cut back personnel, close bases and eliminate some vehicle programs on Monday.

Col. Greg Hapgood, public affairs officer with the Iowa National Guard, said it was too early to say what the cuts would mean for the 7,200 Iowa Army National Guard members in Iowa.

“We’ll see what comes out at the end of the political process,” Hapgood said. “Usually, that takes at least 60 to 90 days.”

The National Guard Association of the United States released a statement from retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett, who serves as the organization’s president. He said the group was “disappointed, but hardly surprised” at the Hagel announcement.

“For the last 12-plus years, Army and Air National Guard units have been nothing less than integral to the Army and Air Force accomplishing their missions around the globe. Service and Pentagon leaders have said as much countless times. Almost all have said they can’t tell the difference between active and Guard personnel,” Hargett said. “Unfortunately, active military leaders all too often change their tune when budgets get tight, even when Guard cost-effectiveness can be the solution.”

It’s an argument Branstad made, too. He co-chairs the National Governor’s Association council advising the Pentagon and Homeland Security with Democrat Maryland Martin O’Malley.

“We feel because the buildup has been in the regular Army and the Guard is much less expensive and more efficient that the primary reduction because of the budget issues at the national level should be in the regular Army and not the National Guard,” Branstad said. “The governors are pretty much united on this.”

He added that Vice President Joe Biden was more receptive to his concerns than the president.

“The vice president came up to me personally and said ‘I’d like to follow up with you’ and ‘I’d like to call you,’” he said.

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