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Senate GOP panel to evaluate National Guard

Sens. Greg Ball, left, and William Larkin speak before a hearing in the Capitol earlier this year on issues concerning veterans. Both senators have been vocal about the role of the National Guard in New York state, and Ball plans to conduct a hearing on the subject in the near future. Photo by Gazette file.
August 09, 2011
With the recent cuts to federal funding for state homeland security efforts, New York's National Guard and state government must evaluate how they will continue to provide protection from possible terrorist attacks.

Ten years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a Senate Veterans Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee hearing has been called to examine the current and future status of the New York's Army National Guard and Air National Guard.

The upcoming hearing will be led by Republican Sen. Greg Ball of Patterson, chairman of the committee and committee member Martin Golden, R-Brooklyn.. The hearing will focus in part on how much it costs to operate National Guard bases across the state, according to Ali Skinner, a spokeswoman for Ball.

Also anticipated at the hearing will be a discussion of the role the National Guard plays across the state, especially in emergencies such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks, and how the state will continue to fund it.

The Associated Press reported in May that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in the wake of a $789 million cut to federal grant funding, had notified more than 20 cities across the country that they would be seeing their anti-terror aid eliminated, including Rochester, Albany, Buffalo and Syracuse. New York City, however, was considered to be one of 31 high-threat areas and remained eligible for Urban Area Security Initiative grants in fiscal year 2011.

"Everybody is going to be sharing the pain," said Skinner.

This could pose a problem because the majority of funding for the New York Army and Air National Guard comes from the federal government. In 2010, the National Guard received $865 million in federal funding compared to $38 million from the state, according to the New York National Guard and Federal Initiatives 2012 report.

Those testifying will discuss other topics, including retirement, soldier benefits, mobilization and activation of its members.

The New York National Guard has more than 16,000 members as of 2010.

Following the hearing, the committee hopes to have a better understanding of how New York state will be affected by the federal budget cuts, according to Skinner.

The hearing titled, "New York's Army and Air National Guard: Maintaining our Commitment to our Soldiers, Airmen and Facilities for the 21st Century," does not have a definite date yet, and the committee has not released a list of those testifying. It is not known if a live stream of the hearing will be available. The Legislative Gazette will report the date of the hearing when it is announced.

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