National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel cautioned against a federal National Guard activation as the Trump administration considers the move to continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think you can get everything you need from the National Guard more efficiently and more effectively if you leave them in a state status,” the Air Force general said at a news conference Thursday, according to Air Force Magazine.
As of Saturday morning, governors across 28 states had mobilized components of the Army and Air National Guard, according to the Military Times.
However, Lengyel said it “would not make sense in this situation” for President Donald Trump to call for federal activation of the National Guard.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has not committed to federal activation at this time.
“As we get requests in, we will look at activating, if we need to, at the federal level or using the reserves, whatever the case may be,” Esper said at a news conference Tuesday, the Military Times reported.
“We want to be very supportive with regard to our prioritization in terms of supporting the American people and the governors.”
This would mean the guardsmen could be deployed to another state and that deployment would be funded by the federal government, which would “cost billions and billions and billions of dollars,” according to Lengyel.
The National Guard was activated to Title 10 status when guardsmen were used to support military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, The Atlantic reported.
They were also federally activated in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Lengyel said that in the current situation, “a lot of people won’t have things to do” under Title 10 status.
“There is no need right now to have 450,000 guardsmen on duty in any given state,” he said, according to Air Force Magazine.
“As states need the National Guard to react to this kind of pandemic, governors have the authority to bring them on active duty, as there are tasks and purpose for them to be used.”
Lengyel emphasized that the control of the National Guard should remain at the state level at this time.
“The best use of the National Guard is to use the National Guard for the unique authorities that it has, and that is to remain under the command and control of the networks in the states,” he said.
As of Thursday, every state and territory in the United States had declared a state of emergency, and there were 2,050 National Guard troops on state activation to help combat COVID-19.
“Thus far, six members of the National Guard have tested positive for COVID-19,” Lengyel added. “We have force health-protection measures in place, and will continue to keep our NG members informed as the situation develops.”
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