Washington, D.C. — This Saturday, the Maine Army National Guard’s (MEANG) 286th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion in Bangor will deploy to Europe in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, U.S. forces have been rotating through Europe for this vital mission to deter Russian aggression and conduct multinational training with our NATO allies and other European partners.
U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, discussed the Maine National Guard’s ongoing role in Operation Atlantic Resolve and its efforts to prepare Montenegro for accession into NATO at a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. The Subcommittee questioned the leaders of the National Guard and Reserve Components on their fiscal year 2020 budget request.
During the hearing, Senator Collins asked General Joseph Lengyel, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to describe the National Guard’s role in supporting Operation Atlantic Resolve.
“You know we play a role, first and foremost, as part of the United States Army. We deploy into Europe and into NATO… our potential adversaries, the Russians, look across and they see a United States flag… they see a well-trained, well-equipped, ready force that can deter potential aggressive activity,” said General Lengyel. “Keeping [the National Guard] ready… and making sure that we assure our allies and partners that we're there when they need us, is part of the National Defense Strategy. We have 2,000 people over there right now deployed as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.”
Senator Collins added, “Soon you'll have 70 very capable Mainers joining them.”
General Lengyel also praised the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, noting its continued growth and importance.
Senator Collins discussed the Maine National Guard’s leadership in this program and asked how inconsistent funding would impact the planning and execution of State Partnership engagements.
“I'm very proud of the role that the Maine National Guard has played in preparing Montenegro for its accession into NATO. And I know the partnership has also benefitted the Maine [National] Guard as well. I visited Montenegro, and I can't tell you how grateful they were to the United States and to the Maine National Guard, specifically, for helping them get ready for NATO membership,” said Senator Collins. “Given the growing importance of the State Partnership Program, what would be the impact of inconsistent funding as far as your ability to plan and execute those State Partnership engagements?”
General Lengyel applauded the Subcommittee for passing the fiscal year 2019 funding for the National Guard on time and explained the importance of predictable funding to National Guard and State Partnership Program operations.
“I think that the impact of not having the funding would be very harmful to the program,” said General Lengyel. “This year in the president's budget, there is a funding level requested [of] about $16 million. We need another $14 million to bring us up to the current level of funding that we have. This program now has 83 partners… And this program is still growing at a rate of two to three partnerships a year. It's doing amazing security cooperation work that is directly tied to the National Defense Strategy under the command and control and auspices of the combatant commanders… I think that [the State Partnership Program] is going to be a legacy of the National Guard.”
Senator Collins also discussed the use of Defense Environmental Restoration Funding for the clean-up of PFAS contamination at National Guard state facilities.