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General Skeptical On Home Leave Bill

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the U.S. National Guard bureau and the senior National Guard officer in the military, this morning told defense reporters that he appreciates the spirit of a proposal drafted by Sen. Jim Webb that would require U.S. troops to spend equal time resting at home, known as "dwell time," before they are sent to back to war again.

But, he added, he has reservations about the "unintended effects" of any such legislation.

"While I think it's fantastic and I really appreciate the intent ... prescribing in law the dwell time really does tie the hands of our military leadership."

Blum echoed similar comments made by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on the proposed legislation. "I think that is frankly where all the military leaders are on that," Blum said.

Blum added that the recruiting efforts of private American security firms are "creating retention problems" for the National Guard, particularly among special forces groups, and that the guard is "almost in a bidding war" against these private firms "to keep these special skills."

He said that these special forces troops are "constantly under pressure to go and work for these types of people ... and they are constantly being recruited."

Blum added that it "takes years" to train such soldiers and "when you lose even one, it's very significant."

By Anna Mulrine

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