The commander of the Pentagon's National Guard Bureau said on Thursday that it must replace equipment destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan so that units would have enough equipment to also use at home in emergencies.

"Otherwise, the Guard will be broken and not ready the next time it's needed, either here at home or for war," Lieutenant-General Steven Blum said of the huge financial request to pay for replenishing arms and equipment over the next three years.

Blum said the army guard had fallen short of recruiting to retain its 360,000 members over the past two months due in large measure to strains caused by Iraq.

Cash incentive

According to Blum, the re-enlistment cash bonus would immediately be tripled from $5000 to $15,000 to sign up for six years. The bonus for new enlistees will be boosted from $6000 to $10,000 to join for six years.

"There's no question that when you have a sustained ground combat operation going that the guard's participating in, that makes recruiting more difficult"

Lieutenant-General Steven Blum,
US National Guard

"I think we're in a more difficult recruiting environment," Blum said. "There's no question that when you have a sustained ground combat operation going that the guard's participating in, that makes recruiting more difficult."

"We are putting our money where our mouth is," the general said, adding that in addition to seeking the arms funds as part of planned future military supplemental funding requests the guard was increasing recruiters by 1400 to a total of 4100 to entice new members from secondary schools and colleges.

More than one third of the 148,000 US troops now in Iraq are National Guard or army reserve members.

Guard members and their families have complained that they are operating with older equipment and that too many troops are called on repeatedly to go to Iraq and Afghanistan for at least a year of duty.

He said he was sure that that the recruiting effort would succeed and that goals would be met by August of next year.

"But we're going to have to provide them incentive packages on a level playing field with the army and marines and the army reserve," Blum said.