Kanawha County commissioners unanimously came out today against the “Defend the Guard Act,” even before any legislative committee has considered it.
“This bill is misleading – if passed, it will defund, not defend, the West Virginia National Guard. As in past years, I urge our legislators to soundly reject this legislation,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper, a Democrat, stated today.
He was joined by his fellow commissioners, a Democrat and a Republican.
The bill in the state Legislature would require Congress to make an official declaration of war — or an action to call forth the state militia — before members of the West Virginia National Guard may be released from state control to participate in active duty combat.
The bill introduced annually by Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, was referred Feb. 10 to the Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security Committee, which hasn’t taken up the bill yet. It’s also referenced to the House Judiciary Committee, where McGeehan is a member.
Supporters of the legislation say it would put pressure on Congress to perform its constitutional duty to declare war when American troops are sent into combat overseas.
The concern is whether such a bill would interfere with federal law — or if it could result in financial penalties against the states.
Part of the concern is the effect of National Guard operations in West Virginia, particularly the state’s airlift wings in Charleston and Martinsburg. The Guard is a major employer too.
“The West Virginia National Guard is one of our largest employers – the West Virginia Air Guard (130th and 167th Airlift Wing) employs more than 2,100 full and part-time time personnel in West Virginia,” stated Commissioner Ben Salango, a Democrat.
“The legislature should refrain from any action that would be detrimental to the National Guard and the livelihood of our brave servicemen and women.”
Commissioner Lance Wheeler, a Republican, agreed.
“I recognize the intent of the bill is to prevent endless conflicts and foreign wars; however, the Defend the Guard act is not the proper means to accomplish this goal. I believe this bill, if passed, would impede the ability of our National Guard to act during times of local emergency.”
McGeehan, a former Air Force captain who served in Afghanistan, has pushed his own version of the bill for years.
Last year, the effort lost — on a tie vote — a motion on the House floor to discharge the bill from committee.
But that did secure a promise that the bill would be considered in committee. The bill was then voted out of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, but finally was voted down in House Judiciary.
This year, he said national sentiment to push Congress toward accepting it constitutional responsibility is growing.
“I think it’s extremely necessary to go this route because the people in Washington have been compromised by the warfare state,” McGeehan said. “There’s really no hope that anyone there, whether it be in the Congress or in the White House is going to reverse course on our disastrous foreign policy of endless wars for the past two decades.
“If we don’t have an objective standard such as formal declaration of war from the Congress as mandated by the Constitution then there’s no more meaning to the oath of office that we take, and that’s very troubling. We need to put the brakes on.”