This is a follow on diary to the one I published earlier about Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel putting the wood to the nine states that have or are still, refusing to process requests for Federal Military Identification cards for same sex spouses and their children using Army National or Air National Guard facilities.
The Original diary is Chuck Hagel throws gauntlet down.
There has been some very good discussion there, as well as some points about possible actions the Sec Def and Guard Bureau can take to rectify this completely unnecessary situation, and there are some things I want to add to the conversation to hopefully provide some better background information about a lot of issues wrapped up in this, that can and do bear on what is happening, how we got to this point and what can happen from here on out. Follow along for a better read this time I promise.
In the Guard, each state's governor and Adjutant General has day to day operational control over the guard in their state when they are NOT activated under the authority of the President. Active US Armed Forces and Reserve units and their individual personnel are under federal operational control 365 days per year.
That being said the modern National Guard is nothing like the original Militia where soldiers brought their own weapons, powder and very little training to the defense of their country and states. Prior to about 1935 each state pretty much was self funding for all their own Militia needs up to and including having their own officer and soldier training schools. Indeed it was not until the early 1960's that Army Guard soldiers attended formal Army Boot Camps and training schools, and the equipment and weapons that the state guard units had was mostly obsolete equipment handed down from the Army, or equipment bought piecemeal by the states themselves. This changed just prior to world war two when then President Roosevelt directed the process of both rearming the regular armed services (army / Navy) as well as issuing new equipment, weapons and providing federal funding to the Guard as well.
After the war was over and continuing about until 1992, things stayed pretty much the same in the Guard, they operated on a small budget and with hand me down equipment usually a decade older than what the active Army was using on the front line units. It was not uncommon for Air Guard units to be flying aircraft that were 30 years old and for more than a couple of decades after the active service had removed them from front line service.
In the 1990's someone up in the five sided building in DC (the Pentagon) decided hey... "Our forces are a lot smaller than they were a few years ago and if we get into a serious shooting war somewhere we might just have to mobilize these Guard folks and actually use them" (which for the most part the US had NOT done during Desert Storm, which caused the DOD no end of criticism from the Guard and Congress. You see during the late 1970's and early 80's the DOD had sold Congress on the idea of a "Total Force" where Guard and Reserve soldiers would be trained using Active Component schools and standards. Another issue that affected all services both active and Guard / Reserve was the implementation of a DOD wide pay system (DFAS) and DOD healthcare system eligibility tracking system (DEERS). Neither of which would work very well unless all components of the Armed Services were using it.
Starting in about 1985 (although some states took longer to get on board) Guard and Reserve central headquarters could issue Military identification cards to the soldiers and airmen in their area of control. Issuing ID cards for spouses and children was still only done at Federal Active Military installations up until DEERS was rolled out and integrated into Guard and Reserve units as well.
By the year 2001 Guard units could issue ID cards to all solders / Airmen and their dependents in multiple locations, and each state had one or more locations where ANYONE eligible could come and have a new or replacement card issued regardless of what branch they were in, or what their reason for eligibility was. To make things easier for their own people and to make themselves standardized with all other Federal ID issuing sites the Guard agreed to comply with and use the exact same standards and systems the Active services used to issue ID Cards. Indeed the actual software and hardware used to manage and produce those cards is DOD property. The states DO NOT own this equipment, nor do they pay the wages of the soldiers and airmen that perform the work. No state has not one thing to say about how ID cards are issued, what color they are, if the design is right, or if they want to in some demented way withhold privileges from one class of citizens, for simply this fact. Those ID cards are issued from the authority of the US Federal Government and the Dept of Defense, not the states. There are no state ID Military cards.
Okay background on the guard, check. ID card background check.
Here is why this is a big effing deal.
Nine states have just hung a sign out nice and high in front of their headquarters that says "NO GAY MILITARY PEOPLE, OR YOUR WIVES, OR YOUR KIDS" and yes we don't give a damn what US law says we have to do" and no that is not hyperbole. It is simply ugly disrespect for Americans and their families that thru their service or sacrifices have earned the right to the benefits provided to our servicemen and their families, period.
That nine states would want to keep that repulsive "separate but equal" idea alive in modern times, in country that has repeatedly rejected it as unworthy and unlawful is beyond ugly and cannot be justified.
Imagine turning away a disabled Iraq Veteran who needs to replace his or hers legally married same sex spouse's or child's lost or damaged ID card and telling them they have to go drive three hours away to obtain what other soldiers and veterans can obtain right there, in their that hometown. Simply because certain leaders want to make them second class citizens? How dare you, how damn dare you. Is there ANY difference between that and hanging a "Whites Only" outside the front door of your headquarters? Because you are demanding that other citizens, indeed servicemen and their families use the back entrance while the folks you culturally identify with use the front door regardless of the benefits and privileges they and their families have earned and are entitled to receive.
Now getting down to what CAN be done about this, I will point out that there are a lot of federal laws that govern how the Federal Government and States interact and can expect from each other. Under Title 32 USC force structure (the number of people and units in each state in the Guard) cannot be reduced or changed without the approval of Congress, period. Which means that No one (not even Chuck Hagel) can take away equipment or troops, OR take away pay from the State Guard without Congress approving. That being said, there ARE a lot of things that can be done quite lawfully and painfully to edge these states to comply with federal regulations and get back on being part of the team.
Hell I wouldn't send the Chief of Guard Bureau to sort his out, I would have that meeting myself and it would go something like this.
"Thank you gentlemen for coming to this meeting today, I would like you all to pay extremely close attention and I suggest you take notes on what you are about to be told.
1. First off....DOMA is dead, over, done with. It has been held Unconstitutional by the highest court in this country and it is now the DOD's official policy that every eligible person and their dependents will receive Identification cards thru the Federal systems
for doing such actions. There are Federal rules for doing this, and your states made an agreement with the DOD and Federal Government to follow Federal laws and procedures in the issuing of US Military ID Cards when we granted you the privilege of using DOD equipment and systems to serve the Military Personnel and Veterans in your state. Now for some reason you have reneged upon that promise and are no longer following the laws of this country. We don't have two separate classes of Veterans and Military personnel in this country, we have one standard, people are either eligible or they are not. And you and your elected leaders do not have the authority to change that fact, in any way shape or form.
2. I get it that some of your political leaders in your state have misguidedly decided that the laws of your state somehow supersede Federal law and and you have chosen to follow their direction. I have 41 other states and 4 territories that have no problem in following Federal laws and being part of the National Guard team. You have 48 hours to decide if your state also will honor the promises you have made and once again start to follow the laws of the United States fully and equally in your treatment of Veterans, military personnel and their families. I expect your reply in writing at the end of that time.
3. For those states that wish to maintain that they have the right to pick and choose which DOD Regulations they will follow or not, and do not wish to be part of the total National Guard force can turn in their DOD issued ID card Issuing equipment to National Guard Bureau within 5 working days. The US military will not and cannot operate with some members of the team deciding they will only follow the rules and laws that suit them personally.
4. Additionally all access by your state military personnel to DOD computer systems will be rescinded immediately, all security clearances for your state guard personnel will be revoked and Federal recognition of State Guard Commissioned Officers rank will be rescinded. Your state Military schools will have their recognition under the army school system cancelled.
5, Gentlemen it is this simple, you are either part of the team or you are not, you and your leaders have a choice to make. I hope you choose wisely.
UPDATE - Well I figured there would be some pretty strong words from a few of the states and they have been.
INDIANA - Has agreed to comply with Federal laws and DOD regulations and will issue ID cards to ALL eligible service members, their spouses and children (reported as of Late yesterday).
OK, now it is down to 8.
Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
Reuters in their report did get one thing massively wrong, there are NO state militia's in these states, there is however State National Guard.
The following is a comment from the GOP exactly as expected...
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, the Republican head of the National Governors Association, called on President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to "stop using the National Guard as a pawn in a larger social agenda," her spokesman, Alex Weintz, said in a statement on Friday.The above quote is pretty good, if reality is suspended and you just pull some crazy stuff out of your hip pocket.
"The president has made it clear he supports gay marriage. He has the legal authority to order federal agencies to recognize gay marriages. He does not have the legal authority to force state agencies to do so, or to unilaterally rewrite state laws or state constitutions," Weintz said.
ID cards are issued as AUTHORIZED under and by the Federal Government. That any state national guard has been authorized to use DOD equipment to issue DOD ID cards is a courtesy extended to states by the DOD because they promised to issue them in accordance with DOD rules and regulations. There is no way shape or form this can be pushed back onto anyone else. The DOD is just asking these states to the do the same thing they always have done, well except now when 8 states have decided to walk away and not honor their promises.