The McCain campaign has been calling Sarah Palin the Commander-in-Chief of the Alaska National Guard as a way to give her some semblence of credibility on national security issues. It has been a claim difficult to swallow for rational human beings. Nonetheless, the Anchorage Daily News does a public service today by looking at Sarah Palin’s "national security" experience:
But the governor has no command authority overseas – or anywhere in the United States other than Alaska, says Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the service commander of the Alaska National Guard.
"When members of the National Guard are federalized, they work for the president," Campbell said today. "It’s not just overseas. They could be federalized to go to other states, or they could even be federalized in the state."
Occasions in which Palin does retain command authority over the 4,200-member Alaska National Guard are whenever the guard responds to in-state natural disasters and civic emergencies, said Campbell, who also serves as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
"We’ve deployed individuals in state service all over the state under Sarah Palin," he said. "We had defense men down in Seward for the (Mount) Marathon run doing security.
"Out west and northwest we had erosion problems and the National Guard was involved in some of the protection out there. About three days ago, the Army National Guard picked up a lady from Little Diomede … at the request of state troopers."
Did Palin directly approve each of those activities?
No, Campbell said. The governor has granted him authority to act on his own in most cases, including life-or-death emergencies when a quick response is required, or minor day-to-day operations.
"Some authorities have been given to me that she has acknowledged that I can execute," he said. "For others I have to ask her each time."
The recent decision to deploy a C-17 cargo plane from the Alaska Air National Guard to Louisiana to assist during the Hurricane Gustav response was an occasion in which he briefed the governor’s office and sought its approval, Campbell said. But in that case, Chief of Staff Mike Nizich signed off on it.
The flooding that occurred in Fairbanks in late July – in which the guard sent water trucks north to provide clean drinking water – didn’t require the governor’s approval, Campbell said.
Natural disasters are fairly sporadic, says Jeremy Zidek, public information officer for the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, which is part of Campbell’s department.
Last year, during Palin’s first year as governor, there wasn’t much action, Zidek said.