MILITARY CUTS: Calls To Protect National Guard

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Iowa leaders in Washington are fighting to protect funding for the men and women who protect us at home and abroad. Their message is simple - don't cut the National Guard.

Under a plan released Monday, "significant cuts" are coming. The new Pentagon budget includes a drawdown of National Guard troops across the country. By 2017, the number of soldiers would be reduced by 20,000.

In Washington, Governor Branstad is leading the charge to leave troop levels alone.

“The National Guard has not only a state mission, but also been deployed again and again in Iraq and Afghanistan and they`ve done a phenomenal job,” Gov. Branstad said. “We think they are very important to the national defense of this country.”

Branstad pleaded his case to the White House. He argues that since the regular Army saw the biggest build-up of troops post 9/11, any cuts should come from there.

The likelihood of reduced troop levels comes as no surprise to the Iowa National Guard. Officials say a drawdown of soldiers has followed every US war and the biggest question is not if, but how many troops will be cut.

Right now, they are preparing for whatever number Washington decides on.

“We're at a really good size - 7,200 in the Army Guard, 2,000 in the Air Guard,” Colonel Greg Hapgood said. “Depending on what the cuts are, it could range from zero to up somewhere around 10 percent.  We've made plans in various areas of that range to make sure we have the capabilities that we need.”

The cuts are only on the Army National Guard side. If it is as high as 10-percent, around 700 Iowa soldiers would be affected.

Currently, there is no clear timeline for the cuts.  The budget needs to be approved by Congress.