This article comes from our electronic archive and has not been reviewed. It may contain glitches.

National Guard troop strength and funding are under attack in the opening scenes of what may turn out to be a "war" against the guard. That's according to Brig. Gen. Thomas E. Whitecotton, commander of the Missouri National Guard's Engineering Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood. Whitecotton gave an impressive presentation at the monthly First Friday coffee of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce.

"The prelude to any war is disinformation, personal attacks and criticisms," Whitecotton told the chamber group. "We need to respond to any attacks on the National Guard at the federal level." National Guard programs must be funded at parity levels with reserve and full-time military levels, Whitecotton said. "We need the right share, and we're not getting that."

We agree with the general. During the floods of 1993 and 1995, Missouri and other states along the Missouri and Mississippi river valleys experienced first-hand the need for a well-trained Guard at full staff and funding levels. The Guard performs a role here that is simply indispensable, not to mention irreplaceable. Whitecotton also forecast the time when the Guard will be asked to beef up its current role in the war on drugs, moving beyond its current engineering, surveillance and military police to more active intervention efforts. Add to this the fact that Guard forces are subject to call into active duty, as in fact so many were called during Desert Storm, and it isn't hard to see the need to maintain full strength.

With a lean-and-mean budget of $223 million in Missouri, the Guard is a major contributor to Missouri's economy. In the Cape Girardeau-Jackson area alone, the Guard's payroll amounts to $3.5 million annually. Guard service is also an opportunity for young people to learn needed discipline and work skills while getting paid and making new friends and contacts.

When government budgeteers look for places to cut spending, they need to look elsewhere. A well-trained Guard is a sound investment in our nation's safety and security.