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(Washington, D.C.) – The U.S. Senate this evening approved a bipartisan amendment that would create a permanent seat for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, co-sponsored the National Guard Empowerment  Act (S. 1025), which was introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and had strong bipartisan support.   The bill was included by voice vote as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, currently pending before the full Senate. 

“America’s National Guard has carried an incredible burden for our state and our country over the last decade,” Senator Shaheen said.  “They have been mobilized more often and in greater numbers than at any period since World War II.  The National Guard Empowerment Act will give our Guard Members a seat at the table with the highest levels of our military.  It is a long overdue recognition of the vital role our Guard members play around the world.  I am pleased to see this important piece of legislation pass a critical hurdle, and I hope that it will ultimately advance to the President’s desk.”

“Since 9/11, our Guard has been transformed from a rarely used strategic reserve force, to an operational force with unprecedented levels of readiness.  The progress our nation has achieved in Iraq and Afghanistan would not have been possible without the contributions of our citizen soldiers,” said Senator Ayotte, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee.  “Their unique expertise and experience in protecting our homeland, as well as their unprecedented contributions overseas since 9/11, make it clear that they deserve a seat at the table.”

While the Chief of the National Guard Bureau currently is invited to attend meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he or she is not a statutory member.  The amendment passed by the Senate would allow the National Guard Bureau Chief to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff alongside the nation’s service chiefs from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines.