Feb. 24, 2007 — -- More than 14,000 National Guard troops are on notice that they'll be heading to Iraq for a second or third tour, but they're scrambling to find the equipment they need to train on.
That's got the nation's governors concerned as they meet in Washington this week.
"The National Guard is hurting -- and as a result of that, people are not as safe in the United States as they were before this poorly planned operation started in Iraq," said North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley, a Democrat. "We the governors are not going to have anyone to call on if we're attacked here."
Governors rely on the National Guard for emergencies. In Colorado, they helped during December's blizzard. In Florida, they came to the rescue after devastating tornadoes. And in Arizona, they're supporting border patrol agents.
For now, the governors say they are making do, but they're worried.
Easley was relieved his state was spared a hurricane this year.
"We don't have the helicopters we need," he said. "We don't have the high-water clearance vehicles we need. We don't have a lot of the instruments we need."
That's because up to 40 percent of the Guard's equipment is in Iraq. According to the National Guard Bureau, that leaves 88 percent of the force here poorly equipped.
The Army has set aside $21 billion over the next four years for new equipment, but much of that could also wind up going to Iraq as part of the surge.
The governors are taking their case to President Bush and putting pressure on Congress to make sure they get their equipment.
"We've gotten verbal commitments from the federal officials that the Guard units, when they return, will get equipment that's as good in quality and as large in number as the equipment they left with," said Minnesota's Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty. "It remains to be seen whether that promise will be fulfilled."
"All of them are talking supportively, but I don't think they get it," said Easley. "We're being heard by some people, but there's no action that's being taken that's effective."
"We intend to be heard about this," added Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat.
In the meantime, states are swapping equipment to make sure deploying troops can train.