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National Guard Response to Storm Builds Political Capital

Vavala, who spent Tuesday surveying storm damage in his own state, said his units were prepared to send equipment and personnel to other, harder-hit states — such as a request, which was ultimately canceled, for air ambulances for the rescue effort in New Jersey. To assist in Delaware, a Pennsylvania unit had been on standby if the Guard had needed more personnel and vehicles for evacuations, Vavala said.

The storm response, meanwhile, could also help the Reserve Forces Policy Board, a Pentagon advisory committee, sell Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and members of Congress on its proposal to create a contingency fund that would set aside $100 million annually to pay for the National Guard’s response to emergencies within the United States.

Former Democratic Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, a member of the policy board, said the board briefed Panetta on the proposal in September and encouraged him to include it in his fiscal 2014 budget request. A similar fund existed more than two decades ago, when Panetta was chairman of the House Budget Committee.

“I would hope we would also pursue this legislatively. It just makes sense,” said Taylor, a longtime Guard booster whose district was devastated by Katrina. “If at the end of the year, by some strange blessing from God, there has been no disaster, it just goes back to the Treasury.”

According to the board’s minutes from the meeting, Panetta voiced support for the proposal. “We ought to build that back in” to the budget, he said.

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