Wartime Shortages Hamper National Guard

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CBS
Kansas' governor says tornado cleanup efforts are being hamstrung because the state National Guard is on a mission in Iraq.

But the Kansas National Guard isn't alone with its equipment shortages. According to the chief of the National Guard, it's a national epidemic.

Listen to what he told a Senate committee last month about the state of a Guard unit that had just returned stateside from Iraq.

"He doesn't have a problem of old equipment. He has a problem of no equipment," Lt. General H. Steven Blum said. "His unit, when it came back in November, came back to two Humvees that were left because they were not good enough to go to war — not suitable to go to war — and that's the equipment that he has in his unit today."

The rest of the Humvees were either destroyed, damaged or left behind in Iraq. According to the head of the National Guard Association, which represents 500,000 Guardsmen, it's the same in every unit, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.

"Kansas is not an isolated situation. Every state is significantly below level for equipment across the National Guard," Brig. Gen. Stephen Koper said.

The best-off state, Ohio, has 65 percent of its required gear. The national average is just 40 percent.

"You name it, we are short of — this is meat-and-potatoes basic items," Blum said. "I'm talking about 'dozers, graders, loaders, backhoes, dump trucks."

As was painfully obvious in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, equipment shortages translate directly to the speed with which the National Guard can respond to a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. "The lack of equipment makes it take longer to do that job, and the lost time translates into lost lives and those lost lives are American lives," Blum said.

The Guard has been promised $21 billion worth of new equipment, but even if the money comes through it will take five years to get it all.