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Hagel vows support for a strong Guard

Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel vowed Thursday to maintain a strong National Guard if confirmed by the Senate.

Hagel was responding to a question from Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., who noted that Indiana is home to 14,000 Guard members.

“They have done tour after tour after tour in Iraq and in Afghanistan,” said Donnelly, a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee that was conducting Hagel’s confirmation hearing. “And as we wind down, I think it is critical to make sure that we have a strategic plan for the Guard in the future.”

Donnelly said the National Guard needs to upgrade its equipment and vehicles and “other areas as well.”

Hagel replied: “I am committed to a strong National Guard. It is an essential part of our force structure going into the future. … I think it was proven quite clearly and effectively the last 12 years. That will be maintained.”

He cited as evidence of the Guard’s importance last year’s expansion of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to include the Guard commander.

The National Guard operates two bases in Fort Wayne: the 122nd Fighter Wing and the 1st Battalion, 293rd Infantry.

In a Thursday afternoon speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., said he will vote against Hagel’s confirmation. Coats portrayed Hagel as tolerant of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and called him “a dangerous choice” for defense secretary.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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