Some state legislators have been introducing bills to ban their state from deploying National Guard units for undeclared foreign wars. To date, Defend the Guard bills have been introduced in some 30 states. PBS News Hour Special Correspondent Mike Cerre reported on this movement in July and spoke with Dan McKnight who is helping drive the initiative.

Defend the Guard legislation would require that a state’s National Guard Units cannot be deployed to long term combat duty overseas unless Congress has declared war, as provided by the U.S. Constitution.”

Both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts fall into the “undeclared” category. Like every conflict since WWII, they are unconstitutional actions that never received a declaration of war from Congress. Traditionally, the National Guard would be activated by their own states, usually for domestic emergencies like hurricane relief, or civil disturbances. They would act as a backup force for the military in the event of constitutionally declared war. However, over the past 20 years – since 9/11 – the National Guard has predominantly been sent to engage in foreign conflicts – even at the expense of needs at home.

According to Former National Guard Bureau Deputy Chief of Staff, Brigadier General David McGinnis;

“Once the Guard is mobilized for Federal service in the context of any law or mobilized for federal training as a reserve of the Army or Airforce, the states have no control over what the president or the Department of Defense does with those units once they are in that status.”

Perhaps the biggest impediment to States reasserting their control over the use of the National Guard, is federal funding. The federal government pours millions of dollars into states for training, equipment and maintenance of the National Guard, money that state officials don’t want to lose.

The goal of “Defend the Guard,” is “to have states reassert their Tenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution and provide a necessary check on the federal government’s use of military force as a tool of U.S. foreign policy.” They aren’t asking to get out of their obligations, but rather, that the federal government adhere to constitutional war powers, and the National Guard not to be at the mercy of sitting presidents sending them off to foreign conflicts that we have no business being in, and which don’t serve the national interest.

Amanda Bowers


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