During a visit to the Niagara Falls Air and Reserve Station, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised the soldiers and airmen of the Reserve and National Guard for their service safeguarding the nation. He warned, however, that the looming defense sequestration threatened to jeopardize the National Guard’s capacity to protect the nation and respond to a crisis.

Panelists at Heritage’s discussion echoed Panetta’s concerns that sequestration will impact the National Guard’s ability to respond to crisis both at home and abroad. The Honorable Paul McHale, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense, stated that the National Guard is already facing budget cuts.

If sequestration goes into effect, Title 32 funding, which allocates federal money to the National Guard but gives the state command and control, will be almost eliminated. Domestic security will be placed at risk as the cuts will decimate both equipment and personnel. There will not only be fewer Guardsmen to enact missions but less efficient equipment to work with and fewer dollars to support them.

Building on these points, Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum (Ret.) argued that the National Guard cannot afford to be under-resourced. Blum commented that the newest piece of Heritage research by McHale shows that the U.S. is not prepared and in desperate need of resources. “It will shake that confidence in the nation,” he added, “when the American military cannot properly respond at home.”

The National Guard is critical in both responding to domestic disaster and protecting against attacks on the nation’s critical infrastructure. There is no question that sequestration will have a dire impact on security here at home as it will disproportionately cut the reserve components.

Sequestration is not the answer. It will gut the National Guard, rendering it ill-equipped, less trained, and less prepared to respond to crisis. Furthermore, it is morally irresponsible to send our troops into danger without proper training or resources. America cannot afford to have an under-resourced and unprepared National Guard.

The unintended consequences of sequestration on the National Guard will hit each and every community in America and, if nothing is done now, it will sadly be realized when disaster strikes.