By Ron Jensen
NGAUS Senior Writer
(Dec. 12, 2012) Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., spoke for only 10 minutes, but needed only three words to summarize his message when he spoke Wednesday at the National Guard Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“Things look grim,” he said during his visit to the NGAUS headquarters.
Hunter was talking about the ongoing negotiations over the impending fiscal cliff and sequestration that some think will bring chaos to the economy.
“There is no deal,” he said.
In fact, he said, President Barack Obama has backed away from things he agreed to one year ago.
“I don’t think the president has a problem with cutting defense next year,” he said.
He had a rapt audience for his comments. More than 200 representatives from the defense industry were on hand, a standing-room only crowd at the 16th NGAUS Industry Day.
The annual event gives industry representatives a chance to hear from lawmakers and National Guard leadership in a relaxed setting.
“With the fiscal issues at play on Capitol Hill, this year’s Industry Day was even more important than normal,” said Glenn Ross, the NGAUS industry liaison and organizer of the event. “The National Guard is a prospective buyer of their goods and this is where they can find out what is needed by the force and what is likely to be approved by Congress.”
Attendees also heard from Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, vice chief of the National Guard Bureau, Brig. Gen. James C. Witham, the deputy director of the Air National Guard, and a representative from the Army Guard. Hunter is co-chairman of the National Guard and Reserve Caucus in the House. Joking that he was going to give his “happy speech,” he then said, “There are no happy speeches.”
The only positive nugget he delivered was that the Guard’s profile could be enhanced if sequestration and the fiscal cliff take $1 trillion out of defense spending.
“It makes the National Guard even more important,” said Hunter, a former Marine.
The outcome may result in more Title 10 duties and a restructuring of the Guard.
In answer to a question about the Guard’s cost-effectiveness, he said Congress has not seen the hard data it needs to make informed decisions.
“We know it’s a lot cheaper,” he said. “We just don’t have the numbers.”