MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told the Tennessee National Guard on March 12 he would work to restore critical funding for the Guard that was not included in President Barack Obama’s proposed budget.
“Unfortunately, the president’s budget goes in exactly the wrong direction for our country’s defense. Every year, the president zeroes out the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account, and every year we in Congress put it back in,” Alexander told Guard members. “This funding is critical for the Guard, because it helps pay for the equipment you need and maintain and modernize the equipment you have. Congress restores this funding every year because we know the Guard is no longer a ‘ready reserve.’ It’s a truly operational fighting force that’s an essential part of our military.”
Speaking at the 87th annual conference of the National Guard Association of Tennessee, Alexander said the state’s residents know the men and women of the Tennessee National Guard need our country’s full support in order to carry out their missions and that he will continue to make sure meeting their needs is a top priority in Congress.
In his remarks, Alexander said, “Tennessee is the 17th largest state by population. But the Tennessee National Guard is the 4th most deployed.
“Over the last 10 years, members of the Tennessee National Guard have been all over the map protecting our nation — to Afghanistan, Iraq, parts of Africa and Europe.
“The National Guard plays a vital role in our national security and is integral to our nation’s military.
“I learned that as governor of Tennessee.
“But in January, the National Commission on the Future of the Army report put that in writing.
“This isn’t just any report — it’s a big deal. The commission was asked to look at the size and structure of the Army. And Congress is using the commission’s recommendations to make decisions about how to fund the Army and National Guard.
“The report said the three components of our nation’s army — the Reserve, the Guard and Active duty — ‘are distinct, interdependent, and essential. Combined, they form America’s Army, the best in the world, a Total Force providing land forces and strategic depth to the Joint Force for homeland defense and power projection.’
“The report also said something else everyone in this room knows: That we must continue to invest in the Guard to ensure you are properly trained and properly equipped when you are deployed overseas – and when you are deployed here at home to help friends and neighbors in times of crisis.
“The same is true for our Air National Guard … .
“Every year, the president zeroes out the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account, and every year Congress puts the funding back in. …
“Congress restores this funding every year because we know the Guard is no longer a ‘ready reserve.’ It’s a truly operational fighting force that’s an essential part of our military.
“No one can do more with less than the National Guard – but that’s not the way it should be. …
“The president and others resist increasing defense spending citing our nation’s debt, but defense spending has not gotten us into our fiscal crisis, and cutting defense spending won’t get us out of it.
“Our nation’s $19 trillion debt is caused primarily by out-of-control spending on entitlements: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. These programs are paid for through what’s called “mandatory funding” which means Congress doesn’t get to review it every year through the appropriations process.
“Spending on our national defense is what’s called ‘discretionary spending,’ and it is reviewed by Congress each year.
“Over the next decade, discretionary spending is going to go from 32 percent of the budget to 22 percent of the budget.
“In other words, mandatory spending and interest on our $19 trillion debt are going to squeeze out important discretionary spending priorities, like making sure the National Guard has the resources it needs.
“So while I’m working to fund our defense priorities this year – I’m also working to fix our bigger spending problem so we can fund our defense priorities in the future.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) may be reached via his website’s contact page at alexander.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email.