Governor criticizes use of Maryland Guard

O'Malley says state security is hurt by deployments

May 08, 2007|By Jennifer Skalka | Jennifer Skalka,Sun reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley lamented yesterday that the ongoing deployment of 1,300 Maryland National Guardsmen this year to Iraq has left the state short on reserves and equipment.

His staff also circulated a memo that an aide said was prepared by the Guard at the request of Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, indicating that the state is facing "critical equipment shortfalls to meet its domestic homeland security mission."

Pointing to tornado-ravaged Kansas as evidence of the need to maintain state resources, the governor said that the equipment and troop shortage at home because of the war has "made our country more vulnerable instead of more safe."

"They're just simply not there to do their homeland security job because they've been deployed to do the job in Iraq, and it's a big problem," the governor said.

The eight-page memo states that Maryland, following mobilization of the latest round of guardsmen, will have a third of its authorized fleet of Humvees, 279 instead of 781. It notes, for example, that a Category II hurricane would prompt a need for 335 Humvees to provide essential services across the state. Maryland is short other tools as well, from power generators to radio and communications equipment, according to the memo.

"With the imminent deployment of more than 1,300 Maryland National Guardsmen overseas, the Guard will lose almost a fifth of its most important resource, the men and women of the Guard themselves," the document states.

The Guard has mobilized more than 5,200 members since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks; about 380 members are currently deployed on assignments, in addition to the 1,300 being called up through early June.

O'Malley's remarks followed the announcement in Annapolis of his new secretary of the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs and the head of the Office of Minority Affairs.

James A. Adkins, a former deputy of Veterans Affairs, takes over for Secretary George W. Owings III, a Democrat who was appointed by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Owings said that he had applied anew for the job in O'Malley's Cabinet, but that he backs the selection of Adkins.

"My presence here today is evidence I agree with that choice," Owings said after the State House announcement. "The governor could not have made a better selection."

O'Malley, with Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown by his side, thanked the state Senate for confirming all of his Cabinet appointments unanimously so far. He said Adkins, a Cambridge resident who served in the Army and the Maryland National Guard, will be a welcome addition to his team.

"He has an incredible understanding of the needs of our veterans because he has the heart of a soldier," the governor said.

Adkins noted that there are more than 460,000 veterans living in Maryland and that a generation of servicemen and women are facing "trying times."

The governor also appointed a department deputy: Wilbert B. Forbes Sr., a Fort Washington resident and graduate of Morgan State University who currently serves on the 6th District National Executive Committee for the Disabled American Veterans organization.

O'Malley also introduced Luwanda W. Jenkins, his pick for special secretary of the Governor's Office of Minority Affairs. Jenkins, an Owings Mills resident, served as director of the agency from 1994 to 1997, when Democrat Parris N. Glendening was governor. Jenkins said that she is committed to helping the state expand business opportunities through the Minority Business Enterprise program.

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