Was the National Guard Federalized or Not?
September 7, 2005 10:08 PM   Subscribe

Did the Gov. of Louisiana ask President Bush to federalize the National Guard or not?

I hear conflicting opinoins on both sides. One the left, like for example today on Al Franken I heard that the Gov. asked the Pres to federalize the Guard and the next day he approved it. While on the right I heard that *because* the President wasn't given authority to go into New Orleans it would have been illegal for them to help those dying.

Which is the case? And please provide links. thanks!
posted by tsarfan to Law & Government (9 answers total)
Yes, on August 26th.
posted by curtm at 10:57 PM on September 7, 2005

Response by poster: so by issuing a State of Emergency, that allows Federal National Guardsmen to come in and help?

I thought it only allowed for Federal monies?
posted by tsarfan at 11:01 PM on September 7, 2005

I'm confused by your wording. It's a matter of irrefutable public record that Blanco declared a state emergency on Friday 26 Aug. 05, Bush declared a federal emergency on Saturday 27 Aug. 05 (WaMo link with sources). A federal disaster was declared on Monday 29 Aug. 05 (link). I don't think the state has a disaster declaration.

That's not partisan -- it is trivially easy to prove. I think I just did.

Now, the White House has had some anonymous source tell the WaPo and Newsweek that Blanco did not do this. But it's straight up lie, plain and simple. The WaPo retracted -- Newsweek hasn't bothered.

Now, as far as federalizing the national guard: that's something a lawyer would need to answer. But, considering that nothing on that front has changed since the Monday of the hurricane (which is when Bush declared a federal disaster, and it's my non-legal understanding that the fed. emergency declaration on Sat. gave all the legal backing needed, and that's all that was needed in the past), either the "it's illegal to for the guard to help" folks are full of shit, or there is massive, rampant illegality going on in the NOLA area right now.

What's going on here is simple: the Bush White house is lying through it's teeth to cover it's ass. Some people are going to think I'm being partisan saying that. Sadly, there is no other interpretation of the facts.
posted by teece at 11:01 PM on September 7, 2005

Response by poster: very interesting, teece, thank you!
posted by tsarfan at 11:18 PM on September 7, 2005

Regardless of the state of emergency declaration, the National Guard remains under state control. Blanco refused Bush administration demands with regard to federalization.

Do note that this is the only "delay" there is -- who gets to be commander-in-chief. In fact, it appears that Blanco chose not to accept the federalization "offer" because it would deprive her of a law-enforcement capacity. USG was already using military assets -- such as the USS Bataan -- in support of civilian rescue efforts. Federalization would actually limit what the National Guard can do. Right now the 82nd Airborne is in NOLA providing security but they have to defer to the National Guard and state/local police for arrest powers. It remains unclear to me what the federal need for federalization was. It seems perfectly clear to me what the state need for refusing it was.

The flip side of this is that Blanco, not Bush, was in command of the guard and ultimately responsible for whatever fuckups they managed (notwithstanding what she was advised by her chain of command). It's not 100% clear but I believe Blanco is also in command of any National Guard troops sent from other states, although it's possible some of them are in fact federalized -- which simply puts them in the same boat as the 82nd, the USMC, etc.

That doesn't let Bush off the hook for failures with FEMA, active-duty troops, federal authorization of intrastate requests, failures to use assets like the Bataan, failure to use available civilian assets like busses, planes, and even trains which could have been secured with a stroke of a pen, and so forth. For those who are hook-inclined, and assuming any such failures occurred.

In any case, the Blanco refusal is likely to be a winning political angle. For those who are angle-inclined.
posted by dhartung at 12:47 AM on September 8, 2005

It remains unclear to me what the federal need for federalization was.

I think the idea is to have less bifurcation in the command and control of the largest players: Guard and military. As it stands now, you have the Guard under the direction of the state and the military under the feds.

I don't know if this structure has cause any problems but I think it could lead to things like you see now at the city/state level, where you have the Mayor calling for forced evacuation and the Gov undercutting him and saying essentially "maybe later."
posted by probablysteve at 6:10 AM on September 8, 2005

dhartung: is right Blanco did not allow the president federal control, in fact it was bush who asked blanco (who refused) not the other way around. Probably a good call on her part, given the horrible federal response. Blanco actualy hired the head of FEMA under Clinton to run things from her end.

This would not affect FEMA from doing emergency rescue operations, though.
posted by delmoi at 7:23 AM on September 8, 2005

I forgot about the Bush request to remove Blanco from the loop. Oops. Dhartung fixed that up. This article talks a bit about it. It is also the article I mentioned up-thread from the WaPo which made the claim that Blanco had not declared an emergency. Interestingly, even though the WaPo has issued a retraction, the story still runs on its web page unchanged. It is blatantly wrong on the point about Blanco not declaring a state of emergency.

But I was confused a bit, I now see. Blanco asked for Bush to take up his legally mandated role, through FEMA, when she asked for and received a declaration of emergency and then a declaration of disaster. That was all that was needed to get disaster relief flowing as it normally does. The WaPo article also says that she did not do what she needed to do to get guard units from other states and regular army to help out. It's really hard to say whether that's true, especially without being a lawyer. But given that we are dealing with a source in the White House that is a known liar in this article, I'd take it with a grain of salt.

Nothing else was needed. The later request from Bush, as others have pointed out, was the request to federalize the guard, which is not a matter of course in situations like these. The reasons for that seem to be Bush wanting a unified chain of command, in part. It's also hard to deny that there seems to be a political angle to it, as well.

So while Blanco refused that, it was not normal or necessary to federalize the guard. All the authority needed for federal authorities to help in NOLA has been in place since Saturday, 27 Aug. 2005. The request for federalization has nothing to do with that. It would have only changed who was the boss of the troops.
posted by teece at 8:53 AM on September 8, 2005

I still don't have a clear picture of how the command structure worked. The Adjutant General of the LANG is Bennett Landreneau, and he's now being fingered by O'Reilly and others for whatever role the NG played in keeping aid out.

Yet articles have indicated that Landreneau is the "deputy" of Gen. Honoré, the active-duty soldier whom Bush put in charge of the aid effort. What that means in terms of where responsibility lies for the actions of the LANG remains unclear.

Bingo! Here's some great info:

As of Monday, two parallel command structures are in place. Major Gen. Bennett Landreneau, head of the Louisiana National Guard, has control of all of the guard forces massed in the state. U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore is in charge of the active-duty forces, including soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division and the 1st Cavalry.

Again, we've already answered the question -- the guard was not federalized. This isn't unprecedented; the same thing happened after Andrew, the largest prior disaster response. Florida kept control of its NG, and the 82nd helped with humanitarian relief. This time the active-duty soldiers do seem to have been given a security role; the law may have been tweaked since 1992. And the military people themselves are not complaining about the dual command or supporting the idea that federalization was strictly necessary.
posted by dhartung at 12:03 PM on September 8, 2005

« Older Safe way to clean up mouse droppings   |   Day trips in NW England for my grandmother Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.