On Wednesday, the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) adopted an amendment barring states from using private funds to pay for National Guard deployments in other states. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-El Paso) introduced the amendment during deliberations on the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that appropriates funding for the Pentagon, as a response to a Republican governor accepting private funds to deploy National Guard Troops to the border.
“I don’t believe that our National Guard should be up for auction or up for sale,” said Escobar while introducing the amendment. “I think that limits transparency. We have no idea who is funding private donations for what some could or might possibly consider political purposes.”
In addition to the use of National Guard deployments for political purposes, Escobar raised concerns that private funding could originate from foreign powers and adversaries of the United States. “We don’t know if any of those sources are foreign government sources that are being funneled through private entities,” she continued. “We don’t even know if those sources are adversaries to our interests.”
Escobar’s amendment, which prohibits privately-funded, cross-state National Guard deployments except for emergency or disaster relief purposes, comes in direct response to an incident that occurred over the summer. In June, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem used a donation from a Tennessee billionaire to fund the deployment of her state’s Guardsmen to the border in Texas. Noem is widely considered a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024.
Despite opposition from the GOP, the committee voted in favor of Escobar’s amendment. “Sadly this is not a hypothetical, this actually did happen,” said HASC chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), who previously criticized Noem’s billionaire-funded border deployment as akin to using the National Guard as a private militia. “A private person basically worked with the governor to rent out the National Guard to go perform a mission outside of that state.”
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