Bond visits here to boost National Guard funding

Friday, February 24, 2006

Senator Kit Bond stopped in Cape Girardeau Thursday during a four-city tour of Missouri National Guard installations. Bond spoke about funding for guardsmen and women and issues of national security at the armory on Independence Street. The armory is home to Cape Girardeau's 1140th Engineer Battalion.

Bond, who serves as co-chair of the Senate National Guard Caucus, said he understands the underequipped condition of many units. He said that one Missouri engineering battalion that had been sent to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was doing such a good job that FEMA requested another. But there wasn't enough equipment to outfit a second battalion.

Missouri sent 1,300 guardsmen and women -- the state's largest contingent came from the 1140th -- to the Gulf Coast in September.

Bond said he and three-quarters of the Senate joined this year to ensure the National Guard was not forced to scale back its force structure and would receive $900 million in promised funding this year.

"Just after the first of the year we got word that some of the bean counters in the Pentagon were going to save a little money, well we got together a letter signed by 75 senators," said Bond. "All we were trying to do was to make sure that the budget didn't do some bad things to the Guard. I believe there was a little rethinking, some recalculation in relation to the budget; I don't know if they saw the light as much as they felt the heat."

Flanked by a camouflage supply truck, Bond spoke along with 35th Engineer Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Michael Pace and former Missouri National Guard State Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Adams. The speakers addressed a crowd of approximately 50 guardsmen and retirees.

Bond also addressed several national issues.

He is currently opposed to the sale of a British port management company to one owned by the United Arab Emirates, but cautioned patience and cultural sensitivity as the potential security threat is examined.

"[The UAE] has been one of our early Arab allies in the war on terror and if we are going to win the war on terror we need allies in the Arab world and the greater Islamic world," he said. "We have got to be able to work with those who believe in the true peaceful nature of the Muslim religion and isolate the Islamo-fascists."

The company, Dubai Ports World, would take over security at six major U.S. ports. President George W. Bush, who authorized the sale, said he will veto any effort by Congress to block it.

Bond also took the opportunity to talk tough about security leaks in government. He specifically referenced the disclosure of executive use of NSA wire-tapping as an event that tells the rest of the world "we can't keep a secret."

"This should be treated as a serious criminal matter," he said. "I used to hear back in World War II, I think they used to shoot traitors. I'm not sure we can bring that back, but those people who knowingly, willfully and recklessly disclose highly classified information for their own personal benefit ... this has got to stop."

Bond was recently chosen to serve as the communications chair for Senate Republicans on issues concerning terrorism.

He is at work on a book on terrorism to be co-authored by Associated Press reporter Lewis Simons about the growing threat of radical Islam in Southeast Asia. The book is to be published by Simon and Schuster.

tgreaney@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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