What Is The Role Of The National Guard – The National Guard is an integral part of the US military, uniquely empowered to respond to both domestic crises and conflicts abroad. Over its nearly four-hundred-year history, the Guard has transformed from a loose collection of colonial militias to a well-trained and equipped force of civilian soldiers, often serving alongside active-duty military personnel.

The Guard is also distinctive in that it can be controlled by both state and federal leaders. In recent years, she has been called upon to respond to many domestic events, including natural disasters, the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-racism protests and border security challenges. As its domestic role grew, the Guard also became a more integral part of US international military operations. The Air National Guard in particular conducts critical analysis of military intelligence, including in Ukraine and the Middle East.

What Is The Role Of The National Guard

What Is The Role Of The National Guard

The National Guard is unique among the U.S. armed forces in that it can perform both state and federal functions. The Guard is usually called upon to respond to state-level emergencies such as natural disasters. But, unlike most other military forces, it can also perform a domestic law enforcement role. It can also serve missions abroad, which it has been doing more often in recent years.

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The security organization is a bit complicated. It consists of two parts: the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, both of which are considered components of the US military reserve, but are distinct from the Army and Air Force reserves. The Guard is overseen at the federal level by the National Guard Bureau, whose head is a four-star general and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Army’s highest advisory body.

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As of January 2023, there are a total of approximately 450,000 members of the Guard serving in fifty-four separate organizations in the fifty states; Washington; and three US territories: Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

Many members of the National Guard serve part-time while holding private sector jobs. Guard members commit to one weekend of training per month plus a minimum of several weeks of service per year. Most members serve in the states where they live.

The National Guard traces its origins to the militias established by the American colonies. These militias grew out of the English tradition of organizing citizen-soldiers to provide for the common defense. The Guard’s birthday was December 13, 1636, when the Massachusetts Bay Colony established the colonies’ first militia regiments. State militias were retained after the founding of the United States, reflecting the balance sought by the Constitution between state and federal authorities.

What Is The Role Of The National Guard

However, it was not until the early twentieth century, particularly after the passage of the Militia Act of 1903 and continuing through the two world wars, that the Guard was transformed from a loosely organized network of militias into the well-equipped and disciplined force it remains today. Also during this period, state-federal relations became more defined.

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Most of the time, state National Guards are activated and commanded by the governors of their respective states or territories, but presidents can federalize the Guard in certain cases. (The D.C. National Guard is solely under federal control.) For example, presidents have called units into federal service to respond to hurricanes, strengthen border security, and support U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Unlike state missions, which typically last less than three months, federal deployments typically last at least a year. On international missions, the Guard is often trained and commanded by active duty military personnel and their duties may be identical to their active duty counterparts; however, recruitment and other administrative tasks generally remain managed by state security units. The National Guard could also be federalized but remain under state control, with the federal government paying for deployment. (Nationwide operations are usually funded by the state.) This was done in response to the coronavirus pandemic in many states.

Presidents rarely federalize a state or territory’s Guard without the governor’s consent. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, President George W. Bush refused to take control of the Louisiana National Guard over the objection of Governor Kathleen Blanco. Governors have sometimes wanted the federal government to take control of their Guard units, as California Governor Pete Wilson did during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

. The guard is often called upon to respond to emergencies across the country, such as natural disasters. For example, over one hundred thousand members of the National Guard were deployed to fight wildfires in nineteen states in 2022. The Guard also prepares each year for the hurricanes that routinely strike the southeastern states. In 2019, the Guard responded to sixty-three natural disasters, including seven hurricanes or tropical storms, nineteen floods, and twelve wildfires.

. The National Guard also plays a critical role in supporting U.S. military operations [PDF] overseas. Since 9/11, more than one million members of the National Guard have been deployed to theaters including Iraq and Afghanistan. Most recently, the US-based Guard helped gather and analyze intelligence related to the war in Ukraine and helped train members of Ukraine’s armed forces. Guard members have served in nearly every U.S. conflict since the Revolutionary War, and more than twenty thousand are deployed around the world every day.

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The Air National Guard is playing an increasing role in military operations, especially drone operations and data analysis. At some United States Air Force bases, members of the Air National Guard serve alongside active duty personnel.

. Guards may be deployed by state governors for law enforcement purposes. Many states activated their National Guard in response to historic anti-racist protests in the United States after George Floyd was killed in May 2020. In January 2021, the District of Columbia National Guard was deployed in response to an attack on the US Capitol by a supportive mob President Donald Trump as lawmakers met to certify the presidential election. The Guard was later quartered in the Capitol building, prompting comparisons to the Civil War.

The National Guard is part of the complex interagency border security apparatus. As of May 2023, there are about 2,500 National Guard troops on the US-Mexico border. Some of these troops are on federal missions directed by the president; others are run by states. Sometimes borderless states like Florida and South Dakota send their own National Guardsmen to the border. These troops serve primarily in an administrative capacity, with a directive against performing “law enforcement functions.”

What Is The Role Of The National Guard

. The Guard has provided cybersecurity support in recent years to state and local governments administering elections, including the 2020 presidential contest. Due to the pandemic, Guard members have been performing additional election-related duties, including staffing polling stations in some states (although in civilian clothes to avoid the perception of military intervention in the political process).

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On several occasions, presidents and governors have clashed over the role of the military in law enforcement, particularly during periods of civil unrest. While governors can call upon members of the Guard to serve as temporary law enforcement officers, presidents cannot do so under normal circumstances. The Posse Comitatus Act generally prohibits the president from using the military in this role. However, presidents can circumvent this law by invoking the Sedition Act. For example, President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the act to federalize the Arkansas National Guard to force desegregation of the state’s schools after the governor’s refusal to comply with the Supreme Court ruling

The debate over domestic use of the military has reignited in 2020 amid national protests against racism sparked by Floyd’s death. President Trump has threatened to deploy the military to quell civil unrest in parts of the country, and some Republican lawmakers have urged him to do so using the Insurrection Act. Instead, he asked governors to send their National Guard troops to Washington, D.C., to help the federal response there, which was widely criticized as brutal and legally murky. Trump also drew criticism for sending federal agents to several US cities during the protests, including Portland, Oregon. Some Democratic lawmakers have proposed changing the law to prevent such an action.

On the other hand, the response to the breach of the Capitol by rebels in January 2021 was criticized as slow and insufficient. Because Washington, D.C., is not a state, the president or the Pentagon must issue an order to deploy the Guard. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher S. Miller eventually deployed more than a thousand Guard soldiers, but some analysts questioned why they were not preemptively deployed near the Capitol.

Meanwhile, at the border, the deployment of the National Guard has been criticized for lacking jurisdiction to enforce US immigration policy. Critics say poor working conditions for US deployments, including Texas’ so-called Operation Lone Star, are

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