Md. National Guard says it lacks guards for state emergency base

Iraq call-ups force need to hire private security company

May 12, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Because of deployments to Iraq, the Maryland National Guard doesn't have enough personnel to secure the military base that is home to the state's Emergency Management Agency.

Adjutant General Bruce F. Tuxill has informed top state officials that 12 of the 14 state employees who provide security at the base have been called to active duty. To replace them, he said, the state will have to enter into an emergency contract to hire private security guards.

The contract will cost $200,000 through the end of September, Tuxill wrote this week in a letter to the Board of Public Works, made up of the Gov. Martin O'Malley, state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and state Comptroller Peter Franchot.

The state can be reimbursed by the federal government, Tuxill said, but he added that the unpredictability of future deployments in Iraq makes it impossible to know how long the state will have to rely on outside help to guard the installation.

"It underscores the concerns Governor O'Malley shares with other governors that our National Guard is stretched too think because of the war in Iraq," O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said. "The governor will work through the Board of Public Works to make sure the guard has the resources it needs to complete its mission here at home."

Tuxill said the Army National Guard will provide training to the security guards, who will need to be on the job by Tuesday.

The effect of call-ups on homeland security became a national issue in the last week when Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said her state had lost its ability to respond properly to incidents such as the tornado that killed 10 people in the town of Greensburg.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski held hearings on the issue, and O'Malley said he feared Maryland would be unable to respond to disasters because so much of the state's equipment and personnel were overseas.

Quentin Banks, a spokesman for the Maryland Military Department, said the 12 employees will be going to Iraq as part of a general call-up of the state's National Guard.

"The department has never had to make an emergency procurement request like this before," Banks said.

He said the security guards will be stationed at the checkpoint at the entrance to the facility and will patrol the perimeter.

Last week, O'Malley said he worried that the imminent deployment of 1,300 Maryland National Guard troops overseas would leave the state unable to handle emergencies, such as hurricanes. In addition, O'Malley said in a memo to Mikulski that the state faces "critical equipment shortfalls to meet its domestic homeland security mission."

For example, Maryland has on hand 279 of the 781 Humvees authorized for its fleet, well short of the number it would need to respond to a Category II hurricane, the memo says.

Franchot, who, like O'Malley, has been a critic of the war, said the request from the Maryland National Guard underscores the war's many affects on the home front. He said he would write to the Department of Defense to request reimbursement for the security costs.

"Of course we're going to support the request," said Franchot, who like O'Malley and Kopp is a Democrat. "But we should be bringing troops home, not sending more there."

andy.green@baltsun.com

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