The President, Not Governors, Could Take Control of National Guard in next Catastrophe
Should another disaster strike like Hurricane Katrina it could be President Bush, not governors, with control over the National Guard. It's a relatively new development borne of dissent in the aftermath of Katrina.
In the days following Hurricane Katrina a power struggle ensued between President Bush and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco over control of the National Guard. The governor won that round.
Just one year later in October 2006, despite objections from all 50-governors, the president signed into law the "John Warner Defense Authorization Act," allowing him to declare a "public emergency" and take control of national guard units without the consent of the governor in order to "suppress public disorder."
Retired Air Force Lt. General Howard Fish, a former war planner during Vietnam, said of the guard situation, "(the) world that we live in today where we have sweeping national problems, the guard is a back up for the regular forces. And so, federalization is a more likely event than it has been in the historic past."
Any mention of federalizing the guard comes with a lot of resistance by some people because they fear a blurring of the lines when it comes to enforcement on the local, state and federal level. But, we're told that's already happening.
One example locally is the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. That even includes training and coordinating with Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, LA, home of roughly 56 of the country's B-52 bomber fleet. "We sure do. Barksdale and all the other little military groups and stuff around here that are part of this. We all talk on a regular basis," said Shreveport Police Lt. Tony LeBlanc, in SPD's Homeland Security Division.
Giving so much power to one person, including control of the national guard, makes some in Washington very nervous. But in an office decorated with a picture of Lt. LeBlanc standing for a photo with President Bush, along with a photo from LeBlanc's service in New Orleans, he dismissed any concerns about potential abuse of that power. "We're at a point in our time in the United States, in our state, and in our city, that these things should be set down and worked out now."
Despite phone calls to the White House Friday, we are still waiting to hear back from them on exactly 'why' the Bush administration felt it necessary to make such a power grab in the often delicate balance between states and the federal government. We'll keep you posted if or when the White House returns our calls.