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|Guard unable to deal with 2 hurricanes
By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
Thu Aug 17, 6:17 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Strapped by war and equipment shortages, the National Guard will find it difficult to deal with two or more major hurricanes if they sweep ashore in different regions around the same time, Guard leaders say.
To counter equipment shortfalls caused largely by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Guard has borrowed more than $500 million worth of equipment from the active duty military to restock its units. Thousands of trucks, Humvees and other supplies have been shifted mostly from inland states' Guard units closer to where storms are more likely to strike.
Army and Air Guard officials also are spending at least $900 million on new communications equipment and hundreds of tractors and trucks.
But that may be too little, too late, for states warily watching the weather reports as the nation enters peak hurricane season.
If a hurricane hits North Carolina and another one spins toward Texas, "we would have to make some very difficult decisions," Col. Pat Tennis, the National Guard's director of operations, told the Associated Press.
"Have we thinned the lines? Yes we have. Could we deal with the consequences of another hurricane like Katrina? Yes. Could we deal with two? That would be very challenging," Tennis said.
Guard officials, he said, would have to "look at population densities, what states could volunteer their equipment ... and we would have to travel equipment longer distances in order to meet the emergency."
Tennis' comments come nearly a year after more than 50,000 Guard members from across the country raced to the Gulf Coast to assist in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which destroyed wide swaths of the Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas coasts.
Similar concerns were expressed by Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard. Blum said the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have taken a toll on the Guard's equipment.
"We have to be able to respond even faster here at home than they have to overseas," said Blum, adding that because of agreements between state adjutants general, "we are able to move equipment from other states, to make up for the shortfalls in some states. We have to do that every single day to make the mission work."
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